Repurposing Stories by J J Dare

I’m in the midst of going through junk in my house and either trashing it, giving it away, or keeping it. I’m classifying junk as those things I have no immediate use for, things I haven’t used in years or have no idea why I kept them to begin with. I gave the cats an escape clause because they’re just too darn cute to put in the junk category. They’re useless, like a number of stories I’ve written, but I can’t seem to toss either the cats or the stories.

I’ve had some very good advice given to me the last time I bemoaned my many unfinished writings. One that kept coming up was for me to toss everything and start fresh. It sounds so good but it’s so hard to trash the stories I’ve given birth to. It’s like getting rid of a half-finished painting or musical score. I don’t have it in me to do it. I keep telling myself, I’ll finish this . . . one day.

I’ve come up with a solution. I was wondering what I could do with some of my incompletes and I hit upon an idea: I’ll quickly finish the stories that are at least halfway completed and combine two or three of these novellas into a novel. Sounds good on paper. A little harder to do in practice.

I started with three unfinished romances. I’m not a romance writer. I wrote these romances because I wanted to try my hand at every genre. I reread what I’d written and it occurred to me that these stories would be better classified as science fiction or horror.

I’m not a comfortable romance writer. Not because I have been denied romance in my own life, but because I’ve always viewed romance as a very private interaction between two people. To put that on paper unnerves me. When things unnerve me, I get weird. Hence, my romances are all off-beat and quirky. For the most part, though, the violence is low level and not too many characters die.

My comfort zone is action and suspense. I like to be on the go in my writing. For me, romance is a lot of faint female hearts, strong rescuing men and pining on both sides. That’s well and fine because fictional romance should be high illusion and a way to escape into a pleasant dream world where the male and female characters end up happily-ever-after after a reasonable amount of conflict.

For my type of writing, though, I pull from the quirky side of life (sometimes, my life). I love weird. I adore off-beat. Bizarre is a close personal friend of mine. Happy endings annoy me because I want to believe what I’m reading and happiness is a fleeting occurrence for all of us. I want a real-life ending.

I identify with strong male characters and equally strong female characters. I like no-nonsense and have a hard time writing fluff. Lately, my short stories and contributions to online collaborations have been my saving grace. I’m able to write quickly and decisively as long as I don’t have to think too hard about it.

But, I always come back to those things I have hanging around on my laptop. Trash them, give them away or keep them – I need to decide something because it’s gotten to the point where seeing them just sitting there accusingly has become depressing. The best hope, I guess, is to salvage what is salvageable and compile them as a collection.

One day I might broaden these novellas into full-length novels. But today, they will have to be Frankensteined into a patchwork monster of a book.

When you get stuck in a story, what do you do? How many unfinished stories do you have taking up space?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Repurposing Stories by J J Dare

  1. I love your definition of your romances: “the violence is low level and not too many characters die.” That cracked me up.

    What could be a challenge is to combine three of them into a full length novel. Figure out some way to make each story a substory, and find a way to bring them together into a cohesive whole.

  2. You have a great sense of humor!

    I have a suitcase full of partially written books. I wrote a couple of romance novels going on 30 years ago that are pretty bad. I haven’t thrown them away because there may be some redeeming qualities in them–like the character’s names :)

  3. I found it harder than I expected when I tried to combine stories into a novel. But maybe I’ll lengthen some of my novellas one day.

  4. JJ, another great post. I am slowly working my way through my backlist of folders and even some of my 20-year-old magazine published pieces and am finding that most are salvageable at some level. My brother (publisher) has actually begun shopping for artwork to publish some of my early picture book texts, only a couple of which even made it to the national magazine level. I like your idea of repurposing and might even dig a little deeper in the archives! Thanks for posting :-)

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