Let’s talk about one of my favourite subjects in the writing world – shelved stories. Those writing projects which used to make your heart beat faster when you sat down to write them but are now gathering dust in boxes in the loft, in notebooks, drawers or are languishing in your electronic writing folders.
Writing a story is like starting a relationship. We have all experienced those first heady stages of story love where we have a goofy smile spread across our face, we have sleepless nights thinking about our amazing story and there is a golden aura around our laptop / notebook.
Our relationships with stories can last weeks, months and even years. You and your story endure both good times and bad times.
Not all story relationships work. There will be characters who we care too much about and don’t want to let go. We will spend hours writing the story that works better in our minds than on paper. Sometimes we need to develop our craft more in order to write a certain story.
Sadly in story world there comes a time when you find yourself tearfully shelving your story, eating a lot of cake to mend your broken writer heart and wandering about a lost ghost…until a new shiny story idea starts flirting with you.
Time passes (undefined period of time – can be years in some cases) and then one day your old story reappears just like an old flame.
Here’s why I think shelved stories are like old flames:
- Your writing history together will never disappear.
- Time does heal in writer / story relationships. It is amazing how after a few years you begin to view your shelved stories in a different light. Those characters who you were reluctant to let go of years ago mean nothing to you now and you can spot the weaknesses of your story structure.
- The memory of your shelved story will reappear in a matter of seconds after hearing a song on the radio, looking at a photo or flicking through an old notebook. Those old feelings you had whilst writing it will bubble up to the surface.
- Somedays it might feel like an old shelved story is trying to contact you. During the washing up, ironing or something unrelated to writing you might experience a sudden longing for your shelved story. This will come out of nowhere.
- When you are reminded of your shelved story you might already be in a happy and secure relationship with another story. You will be able to ignore those memories and tell yourself there was a reason why you and your ex-story were not meant to be together.
- Sometimes you will not be able to resist the advances of your old shelved story.
I used to cringe at the sight of my shelved stories but now I read them with fond memories…and struggle to resist the advances of one or two ❤️ They are my old story flames and we will always have history together.
Sometimes you have to give story love a second chance.
Here’s a tweet you might find interesting. Writer Victor Lavalle. Check out his old flame from 1997.