... they just get rewritten.
At least, that's what happened with my current release, Gilt. I wrote the first draft of this book in 2005 or 06, back when I was learning how to write. At that time, I wanted to write what is now called "Women's Fiction" -- something about a woman's struggle with her marriage, her desire to get a divorce for no really "good" reason but that she just wasn't particularly happy.
Well, it just got messy after that. I had a lot of misunderstandings between the two, very little external tension, the plot sort of meandered -- remember, this was back when I was learning the basics of writing, so eventually I shelved that book and moved on to other projects. In fact, I moved on to 25 other ones (that's my current count of released books).
But that story stuck with me. A year or so ago I got it out, dusted it off, and started to think how I wanted to rework it. And that's when it hit me: guilt. Genny (the heroine) feels guilty because her husband, a firefighter, died, right after they had a fight. Did her words to him distract him? She can't shake the guilt she feels about his death.
Enter Dan Steele, a man whose wife died in the same fire that killed Genny's husband. Dan and his wife were separated, and Dan never had a chance to understand just what it was that drove his wife away. These two team up when an investigation into the arson fire is reopened. Along the way, Genny discovers how little she really knew her husband, and Dan discovers how complex his late wife's emotions were.
So you see -- an old story gets a twist (a visit from the ghost of Genny's husband) and that reworked everything in my mind. The characters found new motivations, I found a new villain, and I was able to give an old book a new life.
The moral of the story? Stay open to possibilities -- you never know what might be lurking around the next paragraph!