Writer’s Notes: That New Story Smell

Last week, we got rear-ended (in case you hadn’t heard – I’ve been
whining loudly enough). This week, the insurance company informed us
that our beloved Subaru is considered a “total loss” (because they don’t
want to pay to have it fixed, an issue I could rant about for days, but
no point in digressing now, eh?). So this Friday night, we’re
Unlike every other vehicle we’ve
ever bought, we’ve decided to bite the bullet and get a brand new
Subaru to replace the old one, since we’re being forced into a new car
payment no matter what. It’s the car we drive daily to work and back,
and we’ve decided the extra cost will be a good investment, considering
it will last very close to “forever” with the amount we drive. I have to
say, I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around the whole thing (“new
car” has always meant “new-to-me” before), but I’m sure once the first
payment hits it will all sink in. And probably hurt a little. Or a lot.
Anyways, every time I think “new car” – as in
“brand new”, it’s impossible not to think “new car smell”. Obviously, my
experience with that particular scent is limited, and I abhor air
“fresheners” and such that claim to smell like a new car. To me, the
“new” scent of most things is chemical laden, and thus something to be
gotten rid of as quickly as possible so as to limit exposure. It’s not
usually something I want to be around for very long – I equate it with
poor health.
Stories, however, are a
completely different animal (and thank goodness for that). Thinking
about that “new car smell” most people seem to love as I’m on the cusp
of starting a few new stories, I couldn’t help but wonder what a new
story “smells” like. Is there a new story smell? Something people might
want to package up and reproduce to get the creativity flowing?
In times past, it probably was a mixture of a
fresh typewriter ribbon, newly sharpened pencils, and a fresh ream of
gleaming white paper. Heck, maybe even clean clothes and a shower
(considering what the end of a story smells like, eh?). I suppose
working at a typewriter with loose leaf paper, one might have wanted a
binder or folder too, and possibly some blank index cards…
I’m hard pressed to come up with anything other than the aforementioned
clean clothing and shower soap/gel, to be honest. It’s not like I buy a
new computer or keyboard every time I start a story, and since I’m not a
planner, there’s no need for paper in my writing world (for the little I
do plan/plot, I do it digitally). I rarely print anything out anymore
(which is why I didn’t realize our printer doesn’t work at the moment
until I tried to print a note to the auto body shop last weekend), and
I’ve always hated pencils, so pens are more my speed. When I need them.
understand that I’m nostalgic, but not with any real desire to write
the way it “used to be”. I have a history degree, which means you can
safely assume I’m interested in how things used to be, but I also really
appreciate the modern comforts of a keyboard that doesn’t require
super-human strength to use, automatic line spacing and not worrying
about losing page 76 underneath the couch along with 76a, 76b and 76c –
then trying to remember which one was the version of that scene I
actually decided to go with (no, that’s never happened to me, but I can
easily imagine it would). I love the digital world.
any case, I have to concede that for me, there is no bonefide “new
story smell”. Which makes me wonder – should I create one? Not
necessarily a real one, but perhaps a fictional one? My main character
could experience one in each book to mark the occasion. That could
actually be a fun challenge for me…

do you still love that “new book” smell when you crack open a new
paperback? Or do you miss it with the advent of ebooks?

Writers, do you experience a “new story smell” when you start a new draft?

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3 comments on “Writer’s Notes: That New Story Smell

  1. Carol

    Aww, sorry about your car. RIP Subaru.

    I love the idea of a new smell for each story. Hmm, you could maybe start a whole new series with this idea . . . 🙂

    While, as a reader, I enjoy the “new book” smell, I enjoy an “old book” smell even more. My daughter bought a set of readlly philosophy books at a book sale and her father built a special shelf for them above her closet. When she moved she had to leave them behind, and every time I go into her old room I get that “old book” smell that reminds me of old fashioned used bookstores and libraries.

  2. Eoghan

    For me, ‘new story smell’ is more a metaphor for a feeling than an actual smell. It’s that feeling you get at the start of something where everything feels new and exciting, that anything is possible. It’s that fresh feeling that’s so hard to pin down, and you often find yourself chasing deep into Act 4 in that lull before the climax (I’m largely an adventure writer).

  3. Jamie D.

    Thanks for stopping in – good to meet you.  And I agree…it is largely a feeling – I like your description of that “anything is possible” stage. Best part of the story, bar none.

    Adventure writer, eh? I love adventure (most of my romantic suspense includes a heavy dose of adventure). I’ll have to check out your books…