Wednesday, November 23, 2011


In my bookcase, on the shelf reserved for only the best writing manuals and magazines, lurks a copy of Writer's Digest from a very long time ago--1981.  The first in a gift subscription from my amazing grandmother Rachel Runge (who taught me some of the best lessons of my life, both in writing and in general), it contains an article on creating the ideal home office setting. One of the luminaries interviewed for the article is the brilliant Ray Bradbury.  Mister Bradbury mentions the number of short stories and novels he's published, then says that he easily has three times that number of failed and stalled attempts moldering in piles around his office.  I loved and still love that article, but then and to this day my heart goes out to all those partial, forsaken Works-in-Progress.  I think reading that article at such a formative time affected me to the marrow--for my entire writing life, some thirty-one years now all totaled, I've had this fierce impetus to finish everything I start.

(My card catalog of as-yet unwritten story ideas--some have been lurking in that box patiently awaiting their day in the spotlight for a long time; my lists of completed and as-yet uncompleted tales, a portable idea box--red lines indicate stories written to completion in 2011).

As a teenager just starting to write, I had six distinct unwritten stories, fan fiction and a few original ideas, as I remember.  Smartly listening to the advice of my grandmother, who had written for Highlights For Children, I didn't trust those ideas only to memory and committed them to note cards stored in a card catalog box, as she did with her bare bone concepts.  I also made a portable list that I took with me to school, where I did far more writing and dreaming about writing than focus on curriculum.  Within a few months, all six of those stories, some of them quite long (two topping the hundred-page mark), were completed.  Twelve more rose up to replace them.  The twelve were then written and, as has been my life for the past three-plus decades, new ideas appear when least expected.  I write and complete each as though my life depends upon it, spurred on by the long belief that if my creativity and Muse have given me the idea, I should make the effort to at least write out a first draft.  At present count, I've got 137 as-yet-unfinished short stories, novellas, scripts, and novels in the card file.  I am fast approaching my 1,000th completed fiction project.

(Top Right: present novel, two novellas, and a handful of short stories awaiting finishing in divider atop file cabinet; Lower Left: the 'Drawer of Shame'--shorts, novellas, and novels waiting to be completed, sharing space with old writing journals and notebooks; mercifully, there are far fewer unfinished projects in the drawer than there were two years ago)

I am presently working on one novel's longhand draft, computer edits on The Duke and the Deadbeat, my Rock & Roll romance novel for Ravenous Romance, two novellas and an equal number of short stories to augment the bigger, badder new version of my collection, The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse (EJP), and a bunch of edits on other project deadlines.  Tomorrow, a tradition dating back to 1981, I'll write my annual Thanksgiving short story, not judging it as good, bad, mediocre, or brilliant before it is given it's The End.


  1. Brilliant post as always, my awesome friend! I love your file cabnets. I have two-double drawer file cabs, and a four-drawer one. And half of them store things I don't have room for. I think when the day comes where I have the extra money, I am getting me set of cabs like yours. I love those long drawer sets.

    And though I use a computer, I have old drafts of partial stories as well printed out and filed. Though I need update them. I want my system to be able to thrive even if my computer dies. And I like your card holder. I need to redo my office, and have a desk area for something like that. And for each story, have the drawer it is in labeled.

  2. Dale, thanks! One day, I'll write a post about my filing cabinets...and the strange circumstances in which I found them. They're from a used office supply warehouse hidden deep in the woods in the town of Jaffrey, NH. To find it, you take a left at the red squirrel, another right at the birch tree with five branches...not the one with four...and at the little meandering stream... I kid you not, that's how we found it! They were a lovely birthday present, though, I must say.

  3. Excellent post, yet again. You continue to be an inspiration and top mentor type fella ;) Love your blog!

  4. Ah the files of unfinished works....I have a USB drive full of them.

    My grandmother always tells me to keep something inspirational on my desk so that when I need some, whatever I chose is right there.