Writing from Your Stock Room

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Have you ever had one of those days when you need to write something, but nothing appeals? Or you have plenty to work on but you’d rather work on something for immediate submission instead?

I think we’ve all had those days. If you’re like me, you have tons of stories, poems, short articles and the like that sit on your hard drive blinking at you like taunting flies a bit too far away to swat.

Here’s something to think about. That hard drive is actually your literary stock room. It holds all sorts of wares: some long, some short, some in progress, others tucked in back corners since the beginning of time.
If you choose to be efficient first (which is highly recommended), begin by going through a market list. Find at least ten markets that want something like what you have in stock.

With that stock room of yours in mind, how about this scenario for your next unsatisfied/itchy day? Go into your stock. Find a story that you like and that you’ve done nothing with. Bring it up. Really look at it. Do you like the premise? Does it fit a market that’s seeking new material?

If it’s suitable, rip it apart. Do a complete revision on it and make it sing or die.

Drastic, you say? Hmmm… Let’s play the what if game. What if you took the characters and switched them around? What if all the females were male, and vice versa? What if they were all a few years older? What about a few years younger? What if you traded an urban setting for rural, or the other way round.

Hands on ComputerDo you have the same story now compared to the one you started with? I’d be willing to bet you’ve just seen potential that wasn’t there before.

You can breathe new life into a story by simply being willing to exact change.

You’ve seen a call for submissions that needs a piece of a certain length. Your story isn’t quite right for the genre, but it’s about the right word count. Dive in and begin conversion mode. Print it out. Get yourself a highlighter and begin marking chunks that can remain. Look over the characters. Are there any that don’t work the way they need to? Dump them or make use of them with modifications.

By the time you’ve done a complete re-think on the story, its slant, and the possible markets for it, you’re well on your way to a marketable piece of fiction. Of course, the same can be done for non-fiction pieces, memoir, or even poetry.

The change in perspective is the key to making a shift in writing emphasis. Here’s an example of how perspective can gain a market.

In your past, an event took place that left an indelible imprint on your heart and mind. You don’t write memoir, though you could, especially if you’ve kept journals. But what if a magazine or MG/YA anthology had a call out for a dramatic coming of age piece, one with plenty of action or plenty of emotional turmoil?

Could you take that memory, couch it in terms relevant to a young person, fictionalize it, and present it to that market? I suppose it comes down to whether you’re willing to let go of that memory on those terms. Nonetheless, that scenario gets played out by writers every day, to some extent.

Are you eager yet to do an inventory of your store room with fresh eyes? You have buried treasure there, more than enough to keep you occupied in those spare moments between current projects.

Think about this. If you chose to do only one such story refurbishment per week, and submit it on your designated day, you’d have four pieces out in the world each month. That’s a good number. For many, it’s a fantastic number.

Remember, your submissions could be poems, flash fiction, longer short stories, anything. One piece every week from the store room could head out to be tried on by a customer. That’s a terrific goal, one that can be fairly easily accomplished if your work is short.

If you’re working long, you could set a goal of a feature article or a 5-10K word short story per month. That, too, is both an ambitious and worthy goal.

However you choose to mine your hard drive, make the most of it. You could surprise yourself with how many new submissions you can generate without going too far afield. Happy digging, writers!

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