Cash in the Attic

Mmm. Cash is a nice word, but not one I asso­ci­ate with writ­ing 🙂

Sometimes it’s good to go over old stor­ies and take a hard look at them. If, as a writer, you have improved stead­ily over the years, look­ing at an old story will prob­ably be as much an exer­cise in fore­head-slap­ping as any­thing else, but occa­sion­ally you come across a dia­mond in the rough.

When I was sev­en­teen — or per­haps just after my eight­eenth birth­day — I sub­mit­ted a story called ‘Miss Tanner’s Old School’ to a magazine entitled ‘Cornwall Today’. I remem­ber the story well. It was the first that seemed to write itself, the first story that wasn’t just a slog to write. The char­ac­ters came alive and wres­ted the end­ing from me. In the event, it was a much bet­ter end­ing, but it was a sur­prise to see the fig­ments of my ima­gin­a­tion turn on me and take con­trol of the story. To my delight, ‘Cornwall Today’ accep­ted the story for pub­lic­a­tion. I rushed off to embark upon a nov­el called ‘Whirlwind’ (unpub­lished and deserves to remain so) and almost for­got about the magazine. Then, a few months after receiv­ing my ori­gin­al let­ter, I wrote back. I asked, very politely, when my story might be pub­lished.

I received no reply imme­di­ately. I had to wait anoth­er six months before a let­ter arrived from the magazine. It had a new let­ter­head and new man­age­ment to go with it. Alas, the new edit­or explained, ‘Cornwall Today’ would be re-launched on a com­pletely dif­fer­ent foot­ing. The would have no use for my story.

Naturally, I was gobsmacked. I tucked the story away as some­thing that might have been. Around 1994, when I was sev­en­teen and lack­ing Internet access, I had no con­cep­tion of the short fic­tion mar­ket and had no idea where to send the story next. So I shelved it.

Only to dis­cov­er the manu­script a few weeks ago. I re-read it — with much fore­head-slap­ping — but felt that I had let these life-like char­ac­ters down. I resolved to re-write the story from scratch.

It’s a task I’ve been doing over the past two weeks. I do find it hard to write a story when I know the end­ing. This takes away the ele­ment of dis­cov­ery that gives me the motiv­a­tion to con­tin­ue. But I think that I’ll finally do justice to these char­ac­ters if I find them a home some­where in a magazine or on the Internet. I’ll let you know what finally hap­pens to the story.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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