What to do with old/unfinished/unpublished manuscripts? not in the physical sense, but artistically? Sometimes my work fails – either because I wasn’t the writer I needed to be to get it done; or because the idea was, in some fundamental way, not for me, no matter how much I tried to make it so; sometimes the thing never comes to full fruition, sometimes it’s finished but not done, not the book I meant for it to be. The writer isn’t always the best judge of a book’s success – one really needs that first, honest reader (hello, Chris) to make sure some weird scruple isn’t running the show – but to offer my work to potential readers, I need to have confidence in it myself.
So if that success, that confidence, is lacking, then what? Reuse the characters? Rework the idea? I rarely do either; in fact I don’t think I’ve ever done the first. They are who they are, where they are, not dolls whose costumes I can change and send back into the fictional fray. And there’s an engine to each piece of work that is, somehow, its own; that energy is not interchangeable, or at least not so for me.
So – the old mss – are they stepping stones, then? little milestones, to show where experiments were tried, attempts made? Maybe that’s their function. Maybe that’s enough.