Challenge,  Fun Stuff,  publishing

Finding Stories

Not to Write… But Already Written…

When you are as prolific as I am, and combine that with just enjoying the writing, not caring about the publishing that much, you end up with strange things happening. I know that those writers who think everything they write is golden have trouble understanding this concept, but I flat lose stories.

Smith’s Monthly Magazine, when I started it, was supposed to be a place where I could slowly, over years, gather all my stories together, one novel and four or five short stories per issue. And I did that for 44 issues just fine until life roles stopped the process. Now I am putting together new issues of Smith’s Monthly Magazine to restart this winter, so I am paying attention to my stories. I even have spread sheets of the stories in the magazine. And a list of stories that I can put into an issue.

Now, I am also trying to get some exercise by unpacking boxes of books for an hour every day down in the new WMG Office here in Vegas. The books I am unpacking are extra copies of Kris and my published books and stories. About 140 banker boxes full. Maybe more.

This afternoon I unpacked a few boxes of books that had our short stories in them in Daw or Baen or Tor anthologies. One anthology, edited by Martin H. Greenberg in 1999 had Kris’s name on the cover with Robert Silverberg and a few others. I didn’t recognize the book and wondered why we had four copies of it, so I glanced at the table of contents to see if Kris had forgotten the story and there under Kris’s story I had a story as well. No memory of the story. (No surprise on the memory.)

So I took a copy back up here to my office and it was not on my brag shelf either, so I looked it up in my spread sheet and I did not have it in Smith’s Monthly. 

So for the first time in a long time, I actually read one of my own stories. I have no memory of writing the story, but it is a science fiction nursing home story with just a few trappings of a shared game world that the book was about that will be easy to switch out. Pages and pages of depth with a focus on smell to start it as well.

In essence, I found a really good story that had been lost in an anthology for 21 years.

I did a quick search for the Word file, no luck finding it yet. But the story is worth putting in Smith’s Monthly coming up, even if it has to be typed back in.

So a day of discovery.

For writers like me, really fun. Although to have this kind of fun, you have to be scary prolific year-after-year-after-year, have a bad memory, and a tracking system that sucks.

But still a thrill. Wonder what else I’m going to find as I unpack all those boxes of books?


  • Connor Caple

    I have lost several stories over the years. I remember I wrote them, I remember what they were about and usually have a clue where they were printed, but I cannot find the files any more. I even lost one that I really enjoyed writing and never got published – that was sad when I realised it had gone. I know I can write it again, but my writing brain isn’t wired that way. It’ll lose interest because it knows it wrote it before. (Which is why I never did ‘rough drafts’, even in school!)
    I am planning on learning to do covers and publishing a lot of my back catalog next year.

    • dwsmith

      Oh, I have everything backed up multiple times so I never actually lose a story that way. I lose it because I have 500 plus short stories and can’t seem to track where they are at. And also, I had to update a ton of files from my early days of computers (1980s) and those updates on updates are buried in files as well. Only stories actually lost was from my first five years of writing a story a week when my house burnt down. I was writing on a typewriter. I managed to find copies of all the stories I had sold up to the fire.

      But since then never actually lost a file of a story, just “lost” it in the filing and memory issues.

    • julie

      Connor, can you remember a distinctive word that you used in any of your missing stories, or even the titles? Sorry if this seems obvious but you can search for invididual words in files across your computer, and I’ve found long-lost files in this way.

  • Sheila

    I wish there had been better ways to back stuff up all those decades ago. Unlike Dean, most of my stuff just got lost because we moved a lot. Then, when I moved out of my parent’s house (later joining the USAF), I didn’t take stuff like that, so it probably got thrown away. I remember doing stuff, but only bits and pieces.

    My brain also won’t let me rewrite, I never did drafts or outlines, either. Oh, well. It’s not like there aren’t more ideas coming in. LOL

  • Dawn

    Thanks to a friend who was giving away a computer that actually had a flash drive and a floppy drive on it, I managed to spend a couple days converting all my old Smith Corona disks to Word Perfect files, which I can now open in Word. All my writings from the early ’90’s were on about 40 disks. Some of them were corrupt, so I did lose a few stories.

    Now I have to ask myself if it’s worth me trying to copy/paste all those old, fragmented files into a Word document. I’m just not certain I want to drudge all that up, especially considering I was in a critique group at the time and had given into the myth that a story couldn’t be told in one draft (at that point, I’d already been writing one drafts and loathing rewriting for 20 years, so these found stories are in multiple drafts, many uncompleted, and just in tattered remains like 30 year old, moth-eaten curtains). I’m glad to have the files accessible in the modern age, but I may just chalk all these up to practice.

    However, it was fun looking at the multitude of stories I had written, yet had very little recollection of.

    It reminded me that I really am a prolific writer. I’d just gotten lost in the dark of the forest for a while and couldn’t see the trees. Yes those days of discovery, of looking back to see how far you’ve come, are indeed fun.