You remember that untitled novella I was writing at the same time I was writing The Timeless Man? The one that was so insistent on being written that I decided to humor it and write it? Yeah, well, I didn’t finish it. I only wrote about seventeen pages, then made notes on what the rest of the first draft was about, and then shelved it.
I shelved the first draft of a short story I wrote earlier this year, too.
I’ve got plenty of stories on the shelf.
It’s not an easy decision for me to shelve a story. Usually, it’s a finished draft of something that I look at and go “no”. Rarely is the draft unfinished, but that happens on occasion. I don’t like to do it it, but it’s usually for the best.
When stories end up on the shelf, it’s usually because of how I feel about the story. There’s something about it that makes me realize the story isn’t meant to be worked on. It’s not to be done. I don’t hate the story. Worse than that. I don’t feel anything for it. Whatever burning need I had to get it out of my head and down on paper is long gone and I’m left with nothing but a sense of meh. That apathy is pretty much what dooms a story to the shelf. I can get past hating a story to get it done to completion. But if I have no feelings at all then I’m not going to force it. No good story comes from no feeling.
It’s not necessarily the end of the story, though. It’s on the shelf, not in the trash.
There’s always a chance that I might need that story later, that the initial feeling of urgency and NEED to write that story can return. And when it does, it’ll be right where I left it and I’ll be ready. It’s a win.
Sometimes being a pack rat can have its advantages.