I was in my forties when I decided I wanted to be a writer. Not that I was totally inexperienced. After all, I’d written quite a few songs (which is a kind of storytelling – or can be) and I’d been making up stories to tell my young son on the way to school pretty much every day for quite a while, so I figured, how hard can it be?
That was just the first of a great many mistakes I’ve made. I soon learned that it’s one thing to come up with a story idea which I thought folks might enjoy, and quite another to turn that idea into a saleable piece of writing.
The smart move for any new writer is to begin with short stories, right? That way, you get to hone those writerly skills until you’re ready to take on (what to many writers is) the ultimate challenge of writing a book, so naturally, I decided to start on a novel.
I had two book ideas: One was Fur-Face, which, after dozens of rewrites and quite a few story changes, went on to find a home at Echelon Press. The other was called Die Laughing. It’s about a comic/magician named Mickey McGee who’s about to break into the big time, with scheduled appearances on TV talk shows etc. Sadly for him, everything starts falling apart. It starts after he picks on a guy in the audience for being the only one not laughing, only to find that the man died of heart attack ten minutes earlier, then a dead woman turns up inside his ‘Box of Death’ prop. Now someone’s trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Jay Leno just cancelled the magician’s appearance and booked Mickey’s most hated rival in his place.
The outline (if you can call it that) and first draft of the opening chapter currently gather dust at the very bottom of the writing trunk in my basement, along with the rough outlines, one-para summaries and partial drafts/opening chapters of a great many other stories which never quite made it past the ‘Ooh, this is going to be great!’ stage.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not worried that my unfinished story pile is so high. If there’s one thing I learned from my songwriting days (aside from ‘Use the whole stage, it’s harder to hit a moving target.’) it’s that most ideas really aren’t worth seeing through to the bitter end, and that’s perfectly okay.
I might get back to Die Laughing one day, but for now it stays at the bottom of the ‘Good idea, but…’ pile.
How about you?
What was the first story you ever trunked?