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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The story of a story

Stories don’t occur in a vacuum. They may begin with an idea, then some gestation is often necessary for the back-brain to formulate a storyline and create suitable characters. I’m always telling new writers never to throw away work, it can always be rejuvenated; the idea may be sound, but maybe the execution or timing are wrong. My story published in BTAP, ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ is a case in point.

Intent on extrapolating the drink driving laws of the time, I wrote the first draft in 1972, one of several science fiction stories I put into a collection that failed to find a publisher. Undaunted, I sent it out as an individual tale, and, due to its content, targeted Penthouse and Mayfair. It was rejected, the comments from Mayfair on January 22, 1973 stating, ‘I regret that it is not for me because it pretty nearly covers all the sub-conscious male fears there are.’ I was quite pleased with that, even if it was a rejection! I’d evoked a response from a reader…

I guess life got in the way, because the next target magazine was not approached until 1976. This went to Men Only and was accepted by letter of commission dated October 26, 1976 for the sum of 90GBP, which was a quite a bit of money in those days: ‘We do have a lot of fiction in stock at the moment, so I cannot give you any idea when the story will appear.’ By 1980 it still hadn’t appeared, along with another Men Only acceptance entitled ‘Legacy’, so they both ended up in some kind of limbo and never emerged and naturally I never got paid.

Inevitably, since that time, things have moved on. Originally, the radio announcement was about the ‘latest Concord disaster’ and the reigning monarch was Charles. Maybe I was a little impatient after four years of waiting: in 1980 I was aware of impending changes to the breathalyzer tests and pointed this out to Men Only’s editor, suggesting revisions before publication, but didn’t get a reply.

Considerable gestation time ensued for this story; that is, it gathered dust in a drawer: it wasn’t even on a computer disc, it was that old!

Finally, in 2008, at last having successfully had three novels published, I started putting together a collection of sci-fi/horror/ghost tales – many of them published – and revisited ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’. And the truth is that in UK it’s presently 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; for a dystopian future, I guess it should be even lower than I suggest, maybe even 20mg – if allowed at all! I imagine zero tolerance isn’t too far off, in fact.

That’s roughly 30 years of gestation time. So I’m very pleased that David Cranmer liked it enough for his webzine. It was always a favorite of mine and now, after so long, it has found a readership.

So: never throw that story away. Never give up. And check your facts. Oh, and don’t drink and drive…

3 comments:

David Barber said...

That's a great post, Nik. I've thrown away so much writng in the past. I've only rekindled my love of writing within the past 15 months or so. Hopefully my brain will spill out my "lost" stories one day.

You have a new follower.

Kind regards, David.

Paul D. Brazill said...

That's a beaut of an anecdote. Cracking story, too.

Nik said...

Glad to have you onboard, David. And thanks, Paul.