The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Me

Or How Story Ideas Unexpectedly Evolve

My short story, Someday Will Be Too Late, is about 95% complete. The cover is waiting, the tags have been chosen, and it was scheduled to publish on Smashwords and Amazon this month. Instead, it fell “victim” to a cleanup of my Scrivener Stories project.

The Stories project (folder, to you Scrivenerless writers) is where I collect and begin the development of story ideas, and it had reached the point where there were simply too many titles to keep track of. So I set out to delete or combine titles that were either duplicates, given my obsession with a few themes, or were different aspects of the same story.

One title was barely an idea, just a suggestion that it be combined with others in the chronological development of a theme: the restoration of indentured servitude in the United States, and its expansion into slavery. Since indentured servitude is the subject of Someday Will Be Too Late, the lightbulb went on in one of those “Ah hah!” moments.

What I now have is a plan for a collection of short stories. That means that I have to work out just how each story will develop the theme and where it will belong in the chronological arrangement. The only one that’s more than a bare idea is Someday, so I’m going to have to work out at least the basics for the others in order to decide where that story goes and what changes it will require. I’ll still publish it as a standalone, but it will be delayed for another month or so.

Am I happy about this? Yes and no. Yes, because it’s a fascinating idea. No, because I haven’t published anything for quite a while and now that will be delayed. Alas, the woes and tribulations of a writer never end.

A little note regarding theft of ideas. So many beginning writers say that they’re afraid to publish excerpts from their ongoing work because they’re afraid their idea will be stolen. The chances are very good that they themselves have “stolen” their own idea from something they’ve read. This isn’t really theft because we are all unconsciously influenced by what we read, and if there’s one common characteristic of first novels it’s a lack of original ideas.

If anyone who reads this post wants to write about the restoration of indentured servitude in the US, go for it. I’m the only one who knows how I’m going to develop it, the only one who knows what real-life sources have been my inspiration. It would be fascinating to see what someone else came up with, using the same idea.

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