Either polish them up and send off to publishers, and start something new in the meantime, or chuck 'em out. It's liberating either way. Spending your life wondering if they will ever reach a reader is a recipe for unhappiness, I think. I think work in progress needs movement, otherwise it can die on the vine.
Either show it to people or store it so it doesn't fall apart in case you want to show it to someone in the future.
|Read them again, as if they were by someone else and absolutely new to you.
Some of them will probably be better than you thought they were, and you may find that you've moved on from others, or that changes in the meantime have just made them out of date.
Even in those, you may find things that are of use to you - ideas, snippets, scenes, characters, etc., which might inspire you to something new, and better.
The one thing I'd suggest you might want to be careful of is using anything that's intensely personal to you. I read a good quote yesterday from Allen Ginsberg - something to the effect that some things you should write only for yourself. If it's something that would deeply hurt to have rejected, you might want to keep it as a personal treasure rather than let the public get their hands on it (or, worse still, risk someone that you really love misunderstanding it).
That's not meant to imply any lack of quality about it - just that an audience is generally looking for some form of entertainment from a writer, not to empathise with them, and no matter how great your writing is, they may simply not have the capacity to appreciate it.
If the things you've written aren't all that deeply personal, though, and the reason that you haven't been able to bring yourself to show anyone is simply shyness and not being sure that someone would be interested, I suggest you take a deep breath and go for it! You can't possibly feel those things any worse than I did, and if I can do it, you can.
You might want to send them (or an updated version of them) to a publisher, or put them online, enter them in a competition, or get a trusted friend to comment on them for you... whatever satisfies your vision and your dream.
The one thing not to do is leave them lying there, just haunting you. You won't be satisfied till you decide on them, one way or the other.
Of course, the great thing is that even if you decide to scrap the lot, there are incredible numbers of ideas out there, just waiting for you...
I recommend you revisit them to help you realize how you've matured and to help you embrace your inner child again. With a renewed interest you might find your older work fits a new project or you can mold it into something relevant today!
Show them to a close friend. Ask for their honest opinion, and don't be afraid of criticism. It's a learning process, and the greatest teacher is your audience.
For me the answer is, if its good share it. If its a good story, but not great writing (every year my writing improves), find the time to rewrite it, and then share it.
If it's a really good story, and a really good interpretation into words, put it forward for publishing.
I'm a hypocrite I know, but I love to see other writers going forward and doing well, and will always encourage them. Even as I hide my stuff for fear of its inferiority.
Reread them, as they transform you back to that moment and time. Then and only then will you be able to share them. Then share them with some one you trust, who will give you constructive criticism, or will embrace them as you have written them.
To quote Andrew Lytle, "Burn it. Burn it all. If it is any good, it will come back." If you do not have the confidence to show it to people, then you have an issue that needs to be resolved. Half the fun is finding out what that issue is. By the time you've figured it out, your writing will have changed. The old writing will not be reflective of you as you are now.
When I write something, I put it away for awhile. After weeks, months or more I am more objective about what was written. That helps me to know whether to change anything or completely start over. Sometimes I've found that I like it just the way it is after thinking it was hopeless!
So, edit it again and share! Be sure to share with someone who won't just pat you on the back and tell you how fantastic you are. You need objectivity from someone who knows what they're talking about. That can be hard to take, so be prepared and unoffended. But remember that a good percentage of popular books were rejected repeatedly before becoming huge hits.
First, review and re-evaluate those dusty stories. If they still seem to hold some power--some magic--be brave and find someone to read one for you. Don't rely on the opinion of anyone who depends on you for food, shelter or love (they are most frequently biased) but find a critique partner who understands the definition of constructive criticism. Have them sign a non-disclosure agreement if you want to be careful (and I recommend being careful). Then let them read; be open to their comments and return the favor. And remember, the biggest difference between a published and unpublished author is most often the unpublished author never finished their manuscript or submitted it. Getting published often equates to persevering.
Firstly, evaluate them. Perhaps, do some re-writing. Are any suitable for articles? If so, research 'journals' on your theme. Compare them with the other articles in the journal. If you feel they are comparable in quality, look at the Writers' Guidelines. Format them etc. and send them to the Journal.
I have found that friends don't like to hurt your feelings, and so the reply they give you is biased. You may be blessed to know a professional writer and that feedback would be worth having.
Joining a writers' group is important.
1) Keep them hidden and try something else.
2) Post them somewhere and see what happens.
I'd suggest number two but it is your writing, do what you will with it.
Pull them out, dust them off, read them again and again to improve anything you didn't think of before (ask someone you trust to edit in the process) and then SUBMIT!
go through them again, and update them if needed. Or use them for inspiration for new materials. If you think they're still viable, write some query letters to magazine editors and see if anyone bites.
First get them out and check them over. No doubt you will have learned a thing or two since you last stashed them away. Edit them ruthlessly, then when you think you have them as good as you are ever going to get them, join an on-line critiquing group like the one I mentioned earlier: www.internetwritingworkshop.org/
and start sending your pieces in for your peers to critique. It's a fantastic exercise! You will learn heaps more, and you will learn not to be so shy in showing your work!