Before I went to bed last night I was thinking about my post. Because like any TRUE pantser, I didn't do this ahead of time like I'd wanted to. :-) And it all worked out because I got thinking about a show that I've discovered on the History Channel, called American Pickers. These guys travel all across America looking for great finds, or what us old folks would call: Antiques. It just amazes me how out in the middle of nowhere, upon acres and acres of land, they will find people who have been collecting things either on purpose (with a plan to see but never do) or without knowing it because they just can't part with their things. The very sad part is, this beautiful, interesting stuff (that no doubt has a story or sometimes a significant historical value) just keeps piling up. Year after year, these people keep collecting and holding on. Sometimes the stuff is in their garage, but other times it's out somewhere on the property covered in tarps or shoved into sheds. All the while collecting dust and just rotting away.
Then along come the American Pickers. They amaze me with their knowledge, and quite honestly I think what they offer people for their antiques is decently fair. Now here's the killer. Even after having someone come to their place, dig through towers of stufff (for hours even!) to find pieces they want.....The owners STILL don't want to part with their stuff!!!!! It's crazy! There was a man, probably in his 70's who had acres of land, and throughout the land there were sheds just crammed from top to bottom with antiques. I mean, the AP guys were jumping over streams and walking through woods to get to some of this stuff! And they found some wonderful antiques. I think when all was said and done, they offered the man like $10,000 and the man hesitated. Really??? It's been sitting out in the middle of nowhere, not being enjoyed by anyone, and you're being offered $10K (which is $10K more than you currently have) and you don't know if you can let that stuff go? I stared in shock at the TV. I couldn't believe it. But then, the old hawk played the game! He told the AP guys if they could make it a little sweeter, he'd make the deal! And would you believe after going back and forth at least 3 more times, he got another couple thousand out of them! Just amazing.
So what, pray tell, does this have to do with writing? (ha! I'm sounding like Liz!) Well, let me tell you. We all start with that first book, that if you're lucky will sell - as I know some people this has happened to. Or it's always going to be your baby, your learning book - and maybe a book you've reworked so many times you could recite it page by page. But the stories that come after that baby are the ones who are going to leave the nest. But only if we let them. As we know, writing is a process that unfortunately in today's economy can take a while to see publication. But we keep writing. We keep creating stories (our own little gems). Now, we can keep them tucked away because maybe we dont' think they are good enough or worth much. Or we can get advice from an agent, editor or trusted CP on how to make it strong enough with plot and characters, find that unique hook so it won't collect dust and fade away.
But WE have to be willing to take that advice. Be open minded to change (even if it changes a character we love - because he/she may have a place in a different story, just not this one) so that when an editor comes along (sometimes unexpectedly) and wants to make a deal on that story - you can take the deal and let the story go. I know writers who have great ideas, even great execution. But they can't or won't change parts of their story. They could be missing out on selling their little gem. Yes, it's your story and no, you don't have to change it for anyone. But think of that old guy and all his stuff....What good was it doing him sitting miles away in a storage shed covers in dirt, dust, and other antiques (not to mention all the critters residing there)? So what good is your story just sitting on your computer hard drive or printed off in a binder? In my own search for a new story idea, I've come across older stories I'd started. And me? I'm open to anything. I will do what it takes to get my words out there. Ca'ching! I'm not in it for the money (although it would be a wonderful thing), I write because I love it and I want my words to entertain people. So yeah, I will change it to anything it needs to be in order to work. And many a time, I've used those little gems to be the start of a fantastic story - whether it's the characters I've loved or the plot. I've taken something from those stories and turned it into something new.
So do you have any little gems hidding on your hard drive or in a notebook? If you do, now you have the weekend to dig them out, dust them off and polish them up and prepare them for the NYT Best Seller List!