Never throw your stories away. You never know what you can resurrect from the back of the file cabinet years after you tucked it away as a failed project. Quite a few years ago, I wrote a short story about a woman who has lived an itinerant life and decides to settle down on Cape Cod in the later years of her life. I liked the character. She is complex and has an interesting backstory. I came up with some really great metaphors to show the progression of her character arc. But, the short story didn’t work. There was no middle to the protagonist’s story arc and “Irene” was relegated to the file cabinet.
Fast forward to 2016. I was working on the first book in my Falmouth series, which involves a young woman buying a bed and breakfast on a whim when Irene showed up at the door of the bed and breakfast. You better bet I ran over to the file cabinet and found my notes from that short story. Irene was the perfect character to step into that first book and be the minor character that moves the plot forward. As I worked through the draft of that book, I took notes about what could be happening in Irene’s life beyond the confines of that novel. Once I put that book aside to macerate for a few months, I am now writing a novel about Irene and a handsome young boat builder. She now has a middle and all that work I did years ago was not all for naught.
Sometimes a good idea can simply come at the wrong time in your writing life. Write it down. Put it somewhere safe. You might need it later.