I think it’s commonly known that the first novel you publish is usually not the first novel you wrote. Therefore one can conclude that there are many abandoned novels out there, from writers at all levels of success. Some of these novels were finished and submitted to dozens of agents or publishers and then abandoned, probably because they had a fatal flaw (or several fatal flaws.) Even more of these abandoned novels were likely never finished because they infuriated their authors with their impossibility and their insistence on being full of bad sentences. The “hand of dread” rising higher and higher as the author tried to slash, skewer, beat and seduce the novel into working and the novel only ran like spilled mercury or grew into an ever-taller stack of blocks that leaned and swayed, ugly architecture poking out everywhere.
This fun and thought provoking essay by Dan Kois points out another angle to the abandoned novel, the dead novel…they can come back to life! You’ve even read a zombie novel without knowing it! Read his essay to see how many ways almost every author has either nailed the coffin and/or crow-barred it open again. It’s all perfectly natural.
Last year I set aside a novel. My twins (one an enlightened bodhisattva and one perpetually suicidal), Tibet, Dalai Lama, love square, turning 30 in a post 9/11 New York novel. It was set aside for its fatal flaws and its inability to inspire my agent.
It rested, alive, but sound asleep and I spent a year getting a new novel out of its infancy and into pre-school. Now that novel is being parked in its stroller, and with the motivation and inspiration of a new advocate, I’m re-writing and wrangling my previous novel. So far, so good. I feel it’s all very worth it. I have something new to say through that story and I have some better ways to say it. Ask me again in 2015, the year of its re-birth.
(The novelist, Julia Fierro, a new friend, brought Kois’ 2011 essay to my attention.)