Nothing you write is ever truly wasted. A case in point…
Many, many years ago, when I was building the world of Ontyre, I envisioned medieval-like stories. The Tolkien influence was strong in those days (still there, but not quite as strong now). High, epic fantasy. Yeah, that’s what I was going to write.
Out of the starting gate I wrote some wonderfully terrible stories.
Along the way, I became bored with the world or I change as a writer or something I can’t identify happened. Maybe it was having one foot in the world of science fiction. Maybe it was Jules Verne. Maybe it was Wild Wild West. Maybe I don’t know.
What I knew at the time was I wanted to head in a different direction, write stories that were more steampunk. Fantasy steampunk, but still more steampunk. I wanted to meld technology and the magic system I’d created and see what happened.
But, ah, what about all that I’d developed? Toss it all out? The present-day Carrdia I’d developed had nothing to do with technology.
Okay, that was a problem, maybe not a huge problem and not impossible to fix—
Wait a minute … rapid fire what ifs pounded me.
What if the Old Empire that collapsed a thousand years before had been technologically advanced, but during its collapse much of that was lost? What if Carrdia was itself on the brink of technological advancements? What if those advancements were cut short when the country was overthrown by evil sorcerers. What if those sorcerers played to the fears and superstitions of an influential segment of the populous and outlawed magic.
Sorcerers outlawing magic? You bet. The world can be a strange place and people can be hypocritical, as well as self-serving.
So, some of that early Carrdia technology would still be hanging around. Perhaps the wealthy still had access to certain technological luxuries via corrupt officials. Could be some of the more advanced secrets from the Old Empire were still buried in ruins and sealed chambers waiting to be found.
Underground markets. Secret research. Archeologists on a quest to find the past so they could help create the future. A long-lost Codex explaining magic/technology melding.
Oh, what a moment. It would have tipped my chair backwards, but it was on wheels so I just rolled a bit.
Okay, much of this didn’t occur in a single moment, but it felt like it. Since then it’s continued to evolve as I explored how the technology and magic would work together. Initially I explored my new world by going backwards via short stories taking place during the time of the Old Empire. It’s was (and continues to be) exciting.
Eighteen months ago I began adapting the new world to novel form.
Like I said at the outset, nothing you write is truly wasted. In this case, my world and its magic. There was a period during which I was fretting about all this and nothing was getting done because all I was thinking about was what I was losing.
What ifs are about gains.
When the idea came and I saw my problem as an opportunity it not only solved the problem, but provided me a more original foundation off of which to work.
Opportunities disguised as problems. It happens all the time. Watch for it. It’s seldom straight ahead, but slightly to the side, visible out of the corner of your eye as a hazy image. Easy to dismiss. Worthy of your attention if you just turn your head a bit.