Sunday, July 27, 2014

Failed Novels

Posted by: Nicole Luiken

I’m feeling nostalgic today. According to my diary, I started writing my first novel almost exactly thirty years ago. I’ve written thirty-four novels—someday I aspire to catch up to my age! Not all of those books are published. In fact, *cough*, less than half are.  

Why so many unpublished? Most can be chalked up to learning my craft, some are from genres or subgenres that I had a yen to try but didn’t quite fit my style and so were abandoned. And then there are the ones where became distracted by a bright, shiny new idea and simply never got back to the old one.

So, for the amusement value, here are my failed novels, and some that are languishing in a trunk somewhere:

1/ Picture from the Past – On the advice of my older cousin I took some fantasy princesses and transplanted them into a romantic suspense tale. I was thirteen and a nerd. My idea of a big romance scene was “She thought he would kiss her. He did.” Enough said. Status: abandoned
2/ Ribbons Red – Can you tell I was big into alliteration? Another stab at YA romantic suspense, though I couldn’t resist putting in a few psychic bits in the rewrite. Amazingly, I actually got an offer on this one, but it was never published because I made the mistake of submitting a different, stronger novel, which they decided to take instead. I’m still quite proud of the opening hook: I was the only who cried at Vincent’s funeral. Ironic, isn’t it, that I should be the one to cry? I, who had hated Vincent since childhood and had often wished him dead. Status: abandoned
3/ Mirror, Mirror. YA fantasy with a dab of historical fiction (the main character had several reincarnated lives). My first fantasy novel and a sufferer of 'kitchen sink' syndrome. I must have rewritten this one eight times because I loved it so. Alas, it never sold. Status: abandoned and cannibalized for parts
9/ Beyond the Barrier. YA SF, dystopian. Status: abandoned, also cannibalized for parts, the best bits going into Jayne’s Keeper and my favorite character Lance transplanted into the sickly hero of Gate to Kandrith
10/ The Wallies Are Waiting. YA paranormal. Originally, the middle book between Dreamfire and Dreamline, featuring the middle sister, who didn't have any paranormal powers. What was I thinking? Status: abandoned and cannibalized for parts
12/ Missing Time: YA SF, featuring aliens and the Bermuda Triangle and so very, very cliched. Status: Abandoned, though the prologue did inspire a scene in Obsidian and Ice
13/ Shadowfall: SF, my first attempt at writing for adults. (I was 18 and so not ready.) Dreadful, dreadful, dreadful, featuring twins with reversible names who lived on opposite sides of a weird platform world. Status: abandoned
15/ Jayne’s Keeper: YA SF, or possibly New Adult, definitely dystopian. My only male first person point of view novel. Status: in the trunk, but not abandoned. Why didn't I pitch this one when Hunger Games was hot?
18/ Cross My Heart and Hope to Die. My attempt to follow up on Running on Instinct with a similar thriller. An editor liked this one, but it didn't pass Acquisitions. Status: in the trunk but not yet abandoned
19/ Finding Faerie. YA fantasy. Status: first draft, in the trunk for two decades now and may soon by abandoned
20/ Four-month Husband. Contemporary romance. My first stab at a romance novel, a la the Harlequin Presents novels my mother loved. Terrible. Status: abandoned. If I’m clever I will delete this so no one ever reads it.
21/ Besieged by Demons. SF, alternate history. My what-if-aliens-invaded-in-1210 AD novel. This one languished in a trunk for years, but will soon see the light of day due to my lovely editor Stacy Boyd. Just received the copyedits and it will be coming out this fall. Huzzah! Status: forthcoming
22/ Distant Beating of Wings. Paranormal romance featuring a telepathic heroine in a wheelchair, angels and a serial killer. My second stab at a romance is better, but still problematic as one third of the text is flashbacks to their childhood. Status: in the trunk
23/ Overdue: SF, aliens invade and a librarian saves the day. (Why, yes, I do have a library background, however did you guess?) Status: first draft, in the trunk
25/ Path of Power. Fantasy, featuring a Queen who is pretending to be simple-minded. Status: 2nd draft, in the trunk, but closer to the top. (I also have some notes on a sequel)
28/ Where Lost Things Go. Paranormal romance (or possibly urban fantasy), based on an idea I cannibilized from Mirror, Mirror. Status: finished ad quite pleased with it, will shop around once I have more breathing room as there is also a planned sequel
29/ Ear-Wax Prince. Middle-grade fantasy. I wrote this for my son when he was deep into reading Magic Tree House and Secrets of Droon. By now of course he is a hulking teenager, and I've decided I much prefer YA. Status: first draft, near the bottom of the trunk
33/ Unscripted. Science fiction romance novella. Status: first draft, not sure if this is a direction I want to pursue
34/ Feral. YA fantasy, werewolves this time, an expansion of my published short story of the same title in Tesseracts Fifteen. Status: first draft, awaiting its turn for revision

So that’s twelve books published, three forthcoming, eight abandoned, and eleven in the trunk—some of them much dustier than others. What’s hiding in your trunk? Do you ever put the best bits of abandoned novels into later ones?


  1. "She thought he would kiss her. He did." I must have written three "novels" before high school that were derivative of books or movies I loved and everything remotely resembling a love scene read like that. :D

    This is a great rundown, Nicole, both in showing your growth as a creator, and the importance of persistence and timing. Thanks!

  2. Oh god yes I have some trunk stuff.

    Most notably, two different things that were called The Starblade of Radmynn--stuff I wrote way back in middle school and early high school. The setting of both of those novels has turned out to be backstory for the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy. I'm never going to formally publish them, but I may amuse myself by making them available to read just to show folks what middle-school-age writing looks like. ;)

    Stuff that's still viable and eventually coming off the queue, though:

    1. Mirror's Gate. Set in the same universe as Rebels of Adalonia, but in a different country. Part murder mystery, part fantasy. When the people of the city of Istra start seeing the faces of the dead in mirrors, a noblewoman discovers a man with her dead husband's face wandering the streets--and with him, must uncover what exactly killed her husband.

    2. Queen of Souls. Urban fantasy with Greek mythology background. This is a followup to the Persephone/Hades myth and tells what happens when Demeter decides to take matters into her own hands and get her daughter out of Hades' grasp--by turning her and Persephone mortal.

    3. Child of Ocean, Child of Stars. SF. A young telepath on an ocean world where humanity is negotiating with the native aquatic, shapeshifting species grows up with a mysterious guardian watching over her from the waves--and she discovers that he holds secrets that may threaten the fragile peace humanity has won on the planet.

    4. Bone Walker. Book 2 in the Free Court of Seattle. Owed to Kickstarter backers.

    5. Untitled as of yet--Book 3 in the Free Court of Seattle.

    6. Untitled as of yet--three novellas set in the world of the Free Court of Seattle. Owed to Kickstarter backers.

  3. Glad to hear I'm not the only one with old/failed/trunk novels. Often the ideas were good and deserve a second chance, but the execution was bad.


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