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 I rushed off to embark upon a novel called ‘Whirlwind’ (unpublished and deserves to remain so) and almost forgot about the magazine.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.

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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