Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Friday, October 7, 2011

Shelving Books--Not in the Librarian Way

So, yesterday, I stopped writing the WIP I was working on, closed the document, and walked away from it. It was a novella, and I was only about 7K into it, but I just knew it wasn't working.  I had parts of it set in a lab, and I just didn't know enough about the setting or protocol.  I could have done a lot of research and so on but, in the end, it wasn't worth it to me and the story felt forced.  On the other hand, I immediately opened up another document and started another novella, and some of the aspects from the previously closed document were helpful in this new WIP already.

I've read a lot about trunk novels or shelved novels lately on the internet--most of it conflicting--which is common on the internet.

There is this post: Trunk Novels are an Endangered Species.   (Quote: But the world has changed, and now, not to put too fine a point on it, keeping a completed and coherent trunk novel (or short story) in the trunk is a mistake. It’s bad business. It’s simply…well…dumb.)  It's a very interesting take on it.  I don't entirely agree, but his reasoning is sound, if aggressively business-like.

Then, there was a post this week on Kidlit.com which somewhat addressed the subject of "other works" from a querying perspective: What to Query With.  (Quote: Every time you sit down to write, you are getting better. You’re learning. Sometimes it takes writing an entire novel-length manuscript to teach you a valuable lesson about your own craft. And sometimes, that lesson won’t get published. Sometimes, in fact, it takes five manuscripts, ten manuscripts, twenty, for you to feel your way around the novel form.)   (And Quote: I think it’s more reasonable to see your early work and your early, prolific output as more of an exercise rather than a finished product. As such, I don’t want to see all of your exercises in my inbox. Some practice is better left for your eyes only.) 

Which is mostly in line with something Kiersten White said on her blog: New! Books! Or, Writing is Never a Waste  (Quote: In the end, these are two entirely new books. But they are two entirely new books that would be impossible without all of the books that came before them. So if you are a writer, and you're sad that you might have to leave an early manuscript behind, please know that it's never a waste. You learned. You grew as a writer. You wrote what you could when you could, and what you write in the future will always, always benefit from what you wrote in the past.)

Some of you have probably noticed I'm a very prolific writer... or I was anyway.  I think I might only complete four novels this year--which is a lot for most people, but much fewer than normal for me.  I have a lot of novels I've shelved, and I don't regret any of them.  I learned so much about writing FROM writing.  There are just so many things that can only be learned from practice.  I know it makes some of my beta readers sad that I might not ever try to get some of my past writing published, but I feel like I'm stealing from and incorporating those books into every new story I write.  My writing is a product of everything I've ever written.  

Anyway, so yesterday... it was a little hard to close down that document because of how far along I was, but then I sat down and wrote 9K on the new story... the one that I couldn't write until I'd tried and failed at this other. 

I'm not sure how other writers feel about trunked/shelved books, but I like the thought of only my best work making the cut.  I might revise and eventually revisit some of those earlier books, but I'm satisfied if they were just really good books to practice on. 


  1. I need to read this. I sometimes give up on writing and then feel like I gave up too easily. I think you make a great point ... practice is practice and it builds up your later work.

  2. Even doctors "practice". Right?