The power of a trunk novel

I have two trunk novels that no one will ever see. The first one is a futuristic steampunk story. It involves a world coming back from a medical disaster. It also involved genetic research gone wild, because two back stories are better than one. The second one is a sequel of the first. Neither one of them is any good.

They still have value though – to me. I managed to work in kings and queens, cowboys, and even a new chapter of the Bible (To explain the backstory). They are filled with backstory, ly adverbs, head hopping, and a multitude of other shortcomings.

The very idea that it would be a “save the princess” story didn’t even occur to me until twelve chapters in. I even changed it into a “save the prince” story, because I’m clever that way.

So where’s the value? They taught me a lot. None of us are ready for prime time, until we are. We only get there by putting words on paper. There are dues to pay in writing, just like anywhere else.

My sequel involved a Pope vs an Anti-Pope, and a group of nuns who kicked ass like a team of Angelina Jolies. My main characters deviated from the story to go on side missions, and by God they even made stew. Stew has become a bad cliche in fantasy, because someone usually whips it up like opening a package of Pop Tarts. I know how to make stew, and can produce a pretty good one if called upon.

These two stories also brought me a lot of joy. I absolutely loved writing them. I didn’t know anything about plotting, character arch, and never even heard of the hero’s journey. It was all similar to giving my grandchildren a new toy, then watching them play with it the wrong way. They don’t care that a toy car isn’t supposed to fly.

I love and respect my trunk novels. I bound the trunk in chains and placed in a cave near the Writing Cabin. Then I set a hydra to guard it from prying eyes. I still know where it is if I ever need them. They helped make me who I am today as a writer. Years from now, I wonder how I’ll look back at my current projects.

All writers have at least one. What’s hidden in your closet? Do you love them or hate them? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you look back at them? Are your trunk novels just a paving stone on your journey?

I’ve let you look up my skirt, now spill the goods and tell me about your early works.

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “The power of a trunk novel

  1. I have one of those! I started it when I was 16 and never finished it. It is a standard fantasy 12 unlikely characters go on a quest together to save the world from an evil overlord, written by hand in various scrapbooks, hardback if I could afford one! There is a chapter of it on my blog called Dragonslayer.

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  2. Your posts make me smile. I was wondering what a trunk novel was, and now I know! No, I don’t have any. I had some truly awful stories and poems I wrote as a teen, but they’re long gone, and I have research for projects that I might return to some day.

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  3. Hmm, does a script for the old tv series The Streets of San Francisco count?

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  4. I have this ongoing obsession with a queer little story which I suppose is fantasy. I’ve been fussing over it and adding to it for years. Not quite sure what it will be, or if it will ever be done, but I’ve not quit, have I?

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  5. Sounds like my very first book, written in sixth grade. Today I suppose it would be considered YA fantasy, and I occasionally wonder about digging out from the sedimentary layers of dust in that dark corner of the drawer. It does, however, remind me how long I’ve been practicing my writing, and I’m sure if I worked up the courage to open that book I’d get a sense of just how much I’ve learned since.

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  6. Oh, yeah. The novel I wrote while learning the craft. It’s a suspense/mystery filled with head-hopping. Ha! I have stolen pieces from it, because there are some really good scenes in it. But, alas, it will probably never see the light of day. Not, at least, until I go over it ONE MORE TIME– if that day ever comes. I also have several half-books that I started and then got bored with. Those too I might steal scenes from someday. Never say never, right? And I wrote a dozen children stories years ago for friends’ kids. They’re cute, but certainly not good enough for publication.

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  7. I have one I wrote in first person POV, a gothic romance that I actually redid into a second draft and made WORSE (is that possible?). A confusing plot arc that has a cliche ending. Ugh! But I also have a fantasy trilogy that despite the awkwardness of the writing, has a decent plot and characters I love. If I sat down and paid it some attention, that one might actually levitate out of the trunk and see the light of day. And then there are the handwritten novels I did as a teen–all fantasy or young adult (before I knew what YA was), all of which got ditched a long time ago 🙂

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  8. I don’t think I have mind any more. It was something very derivative of Katharine Kurtz. You might take another stab at that one with the nuns, though. It sounded pretty awesome.

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  9. I sadly got in a cleaning frenzy and threw away a good bit of my old short stories (from college days) a few years back. I regret that now. As far as trunk novels, as you well know, I’m trying my damnedest to revive some old life into them there books. 😉 Having written them wrong the first time around is a lot harder to correct than stuff I’ve written after I learned what’s expected now. I daresay, I don’t think I’ll have nearly the problems (you’ve seen firsthand) in my most recent MS and my current WIP. But thanks for letting us peek up your skirt! Where do I leave the quarter?

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