Talk to just about any published writer, and they’ll be able to regale you with all their novels-that-never-came-to-be. Maybe they’ll call them their “practice” novels. Or their “trunked” novels. Or simply novels they’ve “set aside for now.”
Maybe they’ll only have one or two of them. Maybe they’ll have twenty.
But very rarely will a writer publish the very first book they write—and then go on to publish every story they write afterward.
These can be a lot of fun to look back on. If nothing else, they chart your learning progress. It can be pretty heartening to look back on something you wrote three years ago—something that at the time you thought was the best thing you’d ever written—and realize that you can do a hell of a better job now.
Writing is one of those things where it can sometimes be hard to feel like you’re making any progress. It’s not like drawing, where you “see” your progress more easily, or sports, where there can be clearer markers of improvement. You just write and write and sometimes, you wonder if you’re just turning the wheels in place.
And who knows—maybe one day in the future, these “trunk” novels will get reworked and become published! But in the mean time, they live in slightly dusty notebooks and deep in the crevices of our hard drives.
I asked the Pub Crawl crew to share a few lines from some of their never-published works. I don’t know about you, but after reading them, I’m dying for the rest of these books!
S. Jae-Jones (JJ)
From an unpublished adult literary novel
It had been years since she knelt on the hard wooden pews of the Giraffes’ church, years since she had been asked to absorb, to translate, to understand the abstract. She had always been concerned with the tangible, the practical, the mundane; she had no use for God or metaphysics. She was a scholar of the corporeal, not of philosophy or, heaven forbid, poetry.
From an unpublished space opera
I went over the most recent list of tragic things I’d experienced:
Captured by a blood solider.
Kidnapped by a fake pirate.
Fitted with a deadly collar.
Stranded on a planet full of cannibals.
Locked in room with a giant nest.
I chuckled inappropriately at the last ill thought. A nest. I laughed harder the more I thought of it. There was hardly anything terrible about a nest. Uncomfortable? Yes. Itchy? Absolutely. Terrible and frightening? Not quite.
Jared Noble stops when he sees me, the elastic mouth that always seems to be chewing on something swinging open. He points his fishing pole at me, and his muddy eyes grow gleeful. “What are you doing here, Teat Daniels?”
“It’s Tate,” I grumble. “And I got the same right to be here as you.”
“You ain’t fishing. I don’t see no pole. Unless you’re playing a different kind of pole?” He makes an obscene gesture with his fishing rod.
“Get stuffed,” I growl.
From an unpublished young adult novel
Laura pushed her way between me and Donny and flounced against the wall.
“Did you hear that?” she said. “She called it ‘processing.’ Like students are…”
“Cheese?” Donny asked.
She smiled. “Exactly. Individually wrapped slices of American cheese, mechanically separated.”
She grabbed Donny’s stray earbud and poked it into her left ear, covering her right with one hand.
“I love these guys,” she said.
I felt a stab of jealousy, envying that white wire.
“I feel more like Squeasy Cheeze,” I said in a low voice.
I didn’t think she’d heard me, but she turned. “Soft and squeezable? Bad for you, but addictive?” She plucked the earbud out and tossed it back to Donny.
“No… I go with everything but I’m also fine by myself.” Truthfully, I was still working on that last part.
She nodded solemnly. “Sometimes the cheese stands alone.”
From an unpublished young adult sci-fi
As I force my eyes back to my breakfast, I wonder how these soldiers feel about this assignment to protect a bunch of electra kids from potentially hostile humans as they escort them into the human-only high school for the first time.
Well, the previously human-only high school. Human-only until today.
These soldiers, two boys and one girl, look like they couldn’t be more than a year out of high school themselves. I wonder if any of them went to Black Rock High. Maybe they all did. Maybe they side with the people who think we have no business going to the human school, polluting their pure environment with our genetically engineered blood.
If they feel that way, they don’t show it. They don’t show anything. They simply wait.
Kelly Van Sant
From an unpublished literary novel
Oh, he loved her. Loved her without thinking about it, or caring. And he would miss her, probably, if she were gone, but absent-mindedly, and without a sense of urgency. After all these years she had become a part of his routine, and he loved her the way all people love their daily rituals. But that was all she’d ever been to him, even—she now knew—in the beginning. She had always loved him presently, preciously. And he had always loved her loosely. By default. In lieu of loving Amy.
She cleared her throat and began to hum, slow and soft, her vocal chords warming with the vibration. Already she felt it working, rippling through her body and calming every part of her. When she was ready, she opened her mouth and let the hum become a sweet, solid sound. She formed the song into words, shaping it, molding it like clay. Though the song was in a language she didn’t understand, she knew it had power, could feel the force of it working its way up, up, through her throat and sizzling behind her teeth. She’d sung these words a hundred times before Emily’s death, but only now that she was Keeper did they feel powerful coming from her, her voice the only vehicle for an old, old magic.
She would only have a moment to stare at them, at their porcelain faces—literally porcelain, with gleaming skin and painted-on features, their lips blood red and curved in perfect cupid bow pouts, their eyes unnaturally wide and blue under a fringe of dark lashes. They had nubs for noses, and their heads only tapered a little at the chin. They wore simple purple dresses, their black hair pinned up in lazy buns. They did not blink.
They were her porcelain handmaidens. Their jointed fingers, when they grabbed her—not violently, but firmly—were cold and stiff. They never spoke. They performed their jobs with silent efficiently, and it took exactly the same time each night.
Hope you guys enjoyed that peak at our unpublished stories! Anyone care to share a snippet of their own writing in the comments? 🙂