B&N Week 162: How Often Do You Set Stories Aside?

| January 28, 2014

BoltsNutsFeatured-idea aside

Another Tuesday is upon us! While the northeast part of the country gets snow, here in Tucson it’s sunny and getting into the mid 70s during the day. The days are getting longer, too! I’m loving it. Know what I’m also loving? Some Bolts & Nuts.

This week’s question is simple: how often do you put stories away for later? Let’s talk about that for a while.

When I was in the Marine Corps, I overheard some of my superiors talking about guns. Bullets, specifically: how to make them, how much they cost, and so on. I was also reading Roger Zelazny’s Amber series for the umpteenth time, and he gave me information about bullets as well. I then had a vision of a guy being killed, cremated, and his ashes put into bullets so he could have revenge on the people who killed him. I wrote that idea on a post it, put that post it in my wallet, and literally sat on it for about 10 years.

Why? A few reasons, to be honest. The first was because while I had the vague idea, I didn’t have a story to go with it. The second was because I was just thinking about getting into comics, and didn’t really know much of anything yet. The third was because I didn’t feel I had the storytelling chops to tell this particular story. Not the way I wanted it to come out. So I put it aside for a while, and would bring it out every so often, turn it around, look at it from a couple of angles, and then put it away again. It hadn’t finished cooking.

Then, one day I was having a chat with a friend of mine, and she asked me about a story, and I told her that I had this story I had been sitting on for a while. She asked me what it was about, and then it came pouring out of me in a rush. I wrote out the frame in the chat, and then broke it down by issues later, and wrote the entire story in a couple of days. That story should be getting published this year.

I’ve put a lot of stories to the side. Some because I don’t yet have the personal development to pursue, others because they aren’t yet ready for the marketplace [or because they won’t do well in it], and still others are due to lack of money.

These are all valid reasons to put stories to the side. But how often do you do it? And when is a good time to revisit them and think about putting them into production?

Well, the second part of that second question is the easiest to answer: when you’re ready. When you feel you have the acumen to tell the tale, or the money to put it into production. Simple.

The reverse of that answers the first question, too. You put a story aside when you feel you don’t have the tools you need in order to tell it well, or don’t have the funds in order to put a project into production. That’s relatively simple, too. But it can definitely get more complicated.

There are market factors to consider. Remember the zombie craze? [We’re still kinda in it.] A lot of that is off the back of The Walking Dead, and it’s doing so well that Image basically doesn’t want to see any more zombie books. And why should they? They have TWD. But while zombies are a thing, and some readers will buy anything zombie related, they are also starting to cool off a bit. You don’t find zombies everywhere you turn anymore.

Vampires have had their heyday [and are still doing it in some sectors—Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, anyone?], and for whatever reason, werewolves never seem to gain much traction. But there are market factors beyond whether or not your book is good that will come into play as to whether or not you should put your story to the side for a while. Sometimes you can be at the forefront of the zeitgeist, and sometimes you can ride one. Each will be project specific.

How often should you review an idea that you put aside?

The simple answer to that is I don’t know. This will be very personal. The one story I took out and reviewed once every couple of years. Another story I put aside I’d think about either once a year to every few months. I’m looking to bring that to market this year, too. I’ve thought of other stories between these two, and I pull them out and review them as necessary.

One of the things you can do to keep all of these ideas together is to create a folder for each. Write down everything you can, take it as far as possible, and then put it away. Come back to it at your leisure. You’ll find you’re either still in love with it, or you’ve cooled off from it.

Personally, I have maybe a dozen stories put aside, in various states. Some have scripts that would need to be retouched or rewritten, others have some concept art attached, and still others are little more than rough ideas. I have character names, histories, relationships, and more, written down somewhere. Don’t try to commit these to memory. You have better things to conserve your brainpower for.

When the time is right, I’m going to pull out the story I feel strongest about for the time and reevaluate it from there. But I could literally create a story a week, explore it, and put it away for a later time. I could literally have more stories than I would ever have time to write, provided the stories were all able to go into production.

Putting stories aside also gives you longevity. You could stagger releases so that you’re always visible. It’s an option.

And that’s all I have. See you in seven.

Click here to discuss in the ComixTribe forum at Digital Webbing.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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