History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Trunking a Story

Previously, I talked about what I do when a story isn’t working. This week, I’m talking about trunking stories.

First off, an explanation of this term. A trunked story, is, in simple terms, one you’ve stopped sending out to markets. I suspect the terminology comes from a point when you actually typed (on a typewriter) (or printed out, once you got a computer and printer) your stories and mailed them to markets with a self-addressed stamped envelope so they could return (probably the only copy of) your story. Once you were no longer sending it to markets, you threw it into your trunk to keep a copy of it. Even though these days, most of us are submitting electronically (and even if we have to print something to mail, that’s not as onerous as it once was), the term has still stuck around.

So. When do you trunk a story? For some people, it’s when they’ve run out of markets where they’d like to see that story published. Different authors have different levels of tolerance for markets and payments. Some authors don’t want to sell their stories for anything less than pro-rates, while others are happy if a sale is enough to buy themself a coffee. I’m closer to that latter school of thought, though I definitely exhaust all the higher paying markets before I start sending stories to the coffee-paying markets.

The other reason to trunk a story is if your submissions have led you to realize that there’s a fundamental flaw in the story, one you’re not able or willing to fix. I’ve got one story that went to many markets before I had some folks sit down and look at it critically, at which point they pointed out that the title and the story didn’t mesh well, and that the protagonist made some bad decisions. In this case, trying to fix those things would have fundamentally changed the nature of the story. It would probably require rewriting it entirely. And so I trunked that story.

Remember what I said before, though. Much like the concept of putting a story into a trunk, don’t get rid of trunked stories. Keep them around, because you never know if you might be able to resurrect them later!


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