Going all cannibal in the name of fiction

 

Anyone who’s ever seen my desk (at right, on a relatively clean day) knows I never throw anything out.

That applies to fiction, too. I write a ton of crap on my way to writing something better. Most of it, I cut – at least, I hope I do. But I don’t toss it. I file it away for possible future use. Which actually happens. 

Years and years ago – nearly fifteen, to be exact – I wrote a short story about wildland firefighters that I really liked. Unfortunately, none of the magazines to which I submitted it were equally enamored, so into the throwaway file it went. But every couple of years, I’d pull it out and rework it, and send it around again. More rejections. Finally, in 2010, I revised it yet again and this time, the Delmarva Review published “On Fire” – and nominated it for a Pushcart.

All of which brings me to Novel No. 3. Montana comes out in October and I sent the sequel, Dakota, off to an editor last week. It’s an awful thing to send a book that you’ve babied for more than a year out into the world all by its lonesome, and I always feel bereft. The solution, of course, is to create a new baby.

My publisher, The Permanent Press, handed me a wonderful gift by naming my first novel Montana. That gave me a 50-book (!) theme, although I reduced that by a couple by leaving the “North” or “South” off Dakota. Next up, Wyoming.

It just so happens that many years ago I wrote a perfectly dreadful novel set in Wyoming. It didn’t go anywhere, and thank God for that. But I liked parts of it, and now am happily going all Hannibal Lecter on those parts for this new novel. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is proof positive of the wisdom of never throwing anything away.


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