Monday, August 30, 2010

That Thing You Dread

It’s such a common phenomenon that we’ve even got a name for it. Of course, not every writer has one, but I’m willing to bet that those folks are few and far between.

My trunk novel—which I saw crumble into unpublishability before my very eyes as the joy of finishing it faded—was an eighteen-year-old’s attempt at emotional, literary Southern Gothic.

And it was crap.

But it’s the best crap in the world. You can read all you want about novel-writing and structure and plot and character. Go for it. That’s what I did, and it really does help. But there’s nothing quite like writing a novel for teaching you how.

And, at least for me, this is where I can’t tell you much more; because what did I learn from writing this glorious piece of trash? Nothing you’d be able to find without taking the plunge into novel-writing-dom.

I can tell you this: Don’t be afraid of the trunk novel. Embrace it. Hold on to the lessons you learn from it. I’m not saying your first novel will have to be trunked, but the fear that goes along with embarking on such a perilous quest can be debilitating. Don’t let that happen.

My trunk novel actually has a place on my bookshelf. Once I resigned myself to the nature of the beast, I made my way over to and published the novel privately. It’s not for sale. It doesn’t have an ISBN, it doesn’t have a list price, and it will never be seen by eyes other than mine.

But it’s in hardback, wrapped lovingly with a shiny dust jacket, and every once in a while, I’ll pull it down from my shelves and lose myself in it.

Trunk novels are alright. And, let’s be honest—you could do worse, right?

You could just sit there and not write anything at all.

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