I am wondering if you have any stories of the One That Got Away variety, that is the stories that you couldn't make work for whatever reason (overdrink, dead-ends, attack by zombies) and had to abandon. --CAAF
Tons. I really have an island of misfit stories on my hard drive. Sometimes it's a story that has to just germinate/marinate for a while before something pops up, as a way to finish it. Sometimes the impulse to finish a story comes completely out of left field. I also have notebooks of fiction; up until I got my ibook about a year ago, I wrote nearly all my first drafts in longhand. So even now I flip through those notebooks every once in awhile, parsing through half-finished narratives and seeing if anything can be salvaged into something fuller. Oftentimes, the fragments are authentic--that is, coming from an authentic emotional place--that just need a little prodding.
Here's an example, and I thought it might be interesting to bring up since the story ("Plight of the Sycophant") has just been published, in Logorrhea, an anthology that just came out from Bantam Spectra, edited by John Klima (who's been seen here in these here parts!). It's an anthology of stories based on words that have won national spelling bees. Very cool idea. John had sent to potential contributors a list of spelling bee-winning words. Fumbled around with a couple of ideas (which--surprise!--elicited a few unfinished early stabs o' fiction on my part, including a giant robot story set in Iowa, which I'd love to get back to at some point. Anyway...). Then flipped and flopped through my notebooks. Came across a draft of a story which I had forgotten about, which was technically "finished" but had a half-assed ending that I really wasn't happy about. But there was something there in the story, even still. Read it again. Read the list of words. And "sycophant" jumped out at me. Because it really was a story about a sycophant, even though I didn't know it at the time.
So one weekend I pulled out the notebook and my laptop and started getting at it, with the word SYCOPHANT like a neon sign in my head...which would hopefully illuminate nearly every part of the revision process. It really was a total overhaul of the story. That word gave a platform for exploration, to dig deeper in what the character was dealing with, and allowed for an ending that I was much, much happier with (the last few scenes weren't in the little notebook at all).
So how much of the misfit-toys version of the story made it into the final version? I'm not sure. It was a foundation, but a very porous foundation. But sometimes those are the kinds of drafts that let you become surprised down the road.
I just got a copy of the anthology a short while ago, and it is very wicked cool. Do check it out if you get the chance. Especially if you are a word freak of some sort. Which, I'm guessing, a lot of you are.