I finished a new story about five minutes ago, a story I’d begun several months earlier and put aside, mostly because I had no clue what it was about or where it was going. This time I understood it a little better, I think. This happens a fair bit; the only unusual thing about the whole thing was that the story had only stewed for a few months. I’ve had fragments that eventually morphed into workable stories after several years. Many, decades later, are still waiting.

If there’s a working writer who doesn’t produce a significant percentage of fragments (pieces of scenes, opening pages, an image or two, even partial novels) I’ve never met them. Most of us are smart enough to hang onto and cherish those fragments. Not everything turns into a finished piece, from opening page to –the End-, in a linear fashion. In fact, a great many do not. Stories die on the page. Stories do not reveal themselves, or make you think they’re about one thing or other until you realize that you simply cannot get there from where you are. This tends to happen more to those of us who do not plot everything out before we start. I sometimes envy those who can, since the way I and others I know work is not efficient by any means. Most of the time we get the job done anyway, but at other times we just leave the wreckage of stories.

That is not to say that any of it is abandoned, at least not permanently. None of it is wasted material even when, by all appearances, you’ve crashed your vehicle into a rock all you’ve left is a hot mess. Maybe that scene or character fits into something else you’re working on. Maybe there’s a theme you can salvage. Or maybe, sometimes, the wreckage can be repaired completely, transformed into something you never knew it was meant to be, which is why you wrecked it in the first place, you goofball. We’re impatient creatures; it is our nature. Fortunately for us, story is very patient. If it was in there when we started, it will wait until we’re smart enough to find it.

However long that takes.