Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Unfinished Stories

“Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes, work never begun.” –Christina G. Rossetti

I have come up with ideas that I think will make brilliant short stories or books only to realize after the few sentences, paragraphs or pages that the plot simply won't work. It dies a natural death and I move on to something else. I recently read an article in the Independent, Greatest stories never told: Ten famous writers reveal their works that never made it to print. I learned that unfinished, dead-end projects were not an uncommon problem.

According to the article, “Herman Melville, finding he was making no headway with a novel called Agatha, passed the manuscript to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who tried his best with it before sending it back – and the two authors passed it back and forth, issuelessly, for years.”

Will Self talks of a project he worked on about four average people that gained superpowers but then said the TV show Heroes came out and he figured this undertaking was now pointless. The idea had been done. Obviously, timing can mean everything to the success or failure of a book.

According to Amanda Craig, her never published space opera was, “A mixture of magniloquent philosophy and stilted pornography, its climax involved a lot of intergalactic explosions and a hermaphroditic elopement. Really, I just needed to live longer, calm down and get out more.”

Joseph Connolly said of his first book that he never wrote, “After a few awful stabs at weather and lambing and reddlemen and strong, independent women in long rustly dresses, I had to admit that my grasp of 19th-century rural life and romance was less than total.”

Have you started something that you couldn’t finish? For you readers out there, have you read anything you thought should have been stuck in a drawer somewhere and never published?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Rossetti, Melville, Hawthorne, Will Self, Heroes, Amanda Craig, Connolly,


Anonymous said...

Good topic today. I've got a couple manuscripts right now that I just don't really know where to take them to "finish" them. Fortunately I have 4 WIP's so I can keep working on the other two and hope that at some point I get epiphanies that will open up the "dead ends." I also wrote a book length manuscript ten years ago that I decided not to seek publishing with because I just didn't think it was good enough - especially for a FIRST book to come out with.

Helen Ginger said...

I imagine all writers have books they either realized weren't going anywhere or ones they finished and came to realize shouldn't have been written. I know I'm one of them.

Helen Ginger

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've got stories from many years back that were started but never finished - and got a huge pile of short stories, too.

Ironically, something I started when I was a teen I recently picked up again and after scrapping the initial storyline, I wrote a new outline around the basic premise - and now feel I have something good!

L. Diane Wolfe

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jane- nice post. I have several that I've written that should have just been left in the "idea" notebook.

Ian said...

Graham Greene never published his first novel. My agent told me, "You can publish the first one on the back of the second." But, most people don't.

Ann Parker said...

I have little scraps and bits of sticky notes with tidbbits of history I find interesting. "Germs" of stories, I suppose. Sometimes I work them into whatever I'm writing at the time. I don't have piles of manuscripts hidden in drawers, though. If I did, I'd be tempted to raid them for material...

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