While transferring hard copy files from the dinky cabinet to the new, shiny monster occupying the corner of my office, I came across a draft pitch sheet with some old novel ideas, like this one:

Hell on Wheels

Paraplegic Mike Anderson becomes stranded during a vacation rafting expedition for the handicapped on the American River. His only help is a newly-blind woman, former neurosurgeon Rebecca Stark. [Stuff happens, they survive.] Back in Florida Keys, Mike helps Becca accept the disability that ended her career, while she secretly arranges for an operation that may restore the use of Mike’s legs [twist: Becca’s eyesight is restored, Mike remains in the chair.] ECD: mid-2002

In those days I always took a pitch sheet with me to any publisher event (something I made a habit of after being cornered by Gina Centrello at a national conference and going completely blank-headed.) At the bottom of this particular sheet I wrote: “Polish, keep in purse.” That came in handy later, when my editor took me out to dinner and asked me what else I was thinking about writing next. I made her laugh when I took the polished version out of my purse and simply handed it to her.

Hell on Wheels was my favorite of the eight premises I pitched to her that night. I had wanted to do a book featuring Mike Anderson, a wheelchair-bound secondary character from my first romance, Paradise Island. I was advised by a RWA friend that the idea it would not fly because both of the main characters were not beautiful, perfect, abled people. I figured that was its strong point.

But my friend was right — my editor didn’t like handicapped heroes or heroines, or the idea that the ending was (in her view) less than happy for one of them. She nixed all seven of the other premises, too. Some were better (as in more mainstream, less risky) than Mike’s story, so it puzzled me.

I found out why when the editor told me the publisher only wanted me to continue the storyline from the trilogy I’d just wrapped up that June. Wrapped up as in finished, done, over, no more stories. Being the cooperative soul that I am, I went home, filed away all my new ideas in my unwritten archives and wrote up what they wanted. Those books became the Jessica Hall novels, which made my publisher happy and added greatly to the savings account.

Stuff happens. You adapt, you compromise, you keep working. Or you don’t. Those are the choices we sometimes have to make between creating art and making a living.

What’s in your unwritten archives?