Saturday, May 21, 2022

Proposal: Tales from the Trunk

There is a question that is of tremendous interest to writers, but I wonder whether it’s of any interest at all to readers. The question is: What separates a story that is well-written and finished from being a story that is published? 

Let’s face it. Most stories are fated to be trunk stories. The numbers are merciless. Every day there are far more new stories being written than there are new slots opening up in which those stories could be published.

The situation has improved somewhat in recent years, with the advent of e-books and online publishing. A tremendous number of newer but much smaller markets have arisen, although much of what they’re doing is picking up the slack left behind by the failure of older and larger-circulation markets. It is easier to get published now than it used to be, albeit harder to get noticed by a large audience.

Still, more stories are being written now than could ever possibly be published. What is that je ne sais quoi that makes the difference between one story’s going out into the world to make friends and influence people, while another seemingly equally well-written story gets submitted dozen of times but never finds a forever home? 

We have had a lot of back-channel discussion of this question, here at Stupefying Stories. It’s even been proposed that we make it a point to publish the seemingly unpublishable, and to invite readers to comment and critique. I think this is a lose/lose proposition. “Hey, Readers! Look what we have here for you: a story that’s been rejected by everyone! Why don’t you invest your time in reading it and telling the author what’s wrong with it?” Yeah, that will attract a lot of non-writing readers. 

Besides, isn’t that what writing groups are for?

So instead, I’d like to float a different proposition; call it Tales from the Trunk. I think people would be interested in hearing from writers who had a story that seemed to be unsalable, but then figured out how to fix it and make it a published story. Specifically, I think people would be interested in hearing from writers who are willing to analyze their own work, and to explain how they figured out what they were doing wrong and how they corrected it.

At least, I think that’s an interesting idea for a regular feature on this site. The real question is: do you?

The lines are now open. I look forward to your thoughts and comments.