Every writer has one, the metaphoric trunk, the place where we hide all of the projects that didn’t work out, the ones we think will never see the light of day. At least, we hope.
When I first started writing (I think I was 8) I was obsessed with Raiders of the Lost Ark and I wrote a story about Indiana Jones fighting a mummy in the middle of a tornado. I didn’t know much about Egypt, but tornadoes were a near-weekly terror in the summers in Indiana, and I could think of nothing scarier. I don’t think I actually finished this story and it has been, fortunately, lost to history. But it was the first time I ever tried to write a story of my own. Now I know I was writing fanfic, which a lot of beginning writers do, as they try to learn the craft using borrowed characters and settings.
I know I kept writing after that, but for the life of me I cannot think of what any of the stories were about. I think I tried to write a series of mysteries about teenage sleuths, making myself the main character. They were terrible and I don’t think I ever showed them to anybody, thank god.
As I got older I embraced fanfic again and wrote a bunch of stories about my own versions of the X-Men. These days you would call it an alternate Universe fic. I had fun, showed no one, and drew a lot of terrible art to go along with the stories. I actually saved most of this stuff for a long time, not throwing it away until I finally moved out of Indiana when I was 23.
I had entered High School while I was writing all of the fanfic, and wrote some original stories for school assignments, and got the attention of my English Teachers, who told me I had talent and should continue writing, thus ruining my life. (jk) One of my teachers felt so strongly about my potential that she had me enter a novel-writing contest for young writers, and even helped me book an hour in the school computer lab every day during my senior year. It was my attempt at epic fantasy, and kind of started out as king arthur fanfic before I filed the serial numbers off. It was stunningly unoriginal, about a young knight who finds out he’s actually the hidden heir to the kingdom. He fights sorcerers and mercenaries, falls in love, and eventually regains his throne. It was also aggressively Christian, as I was back then. It did not win the contest. But I did show this to my best friend, who was supportive.
Then came college and I started a bunch of stuff I never finished. I studied English and education, and wrote some short stories, one of which got published in the student literary review at the college I attended my first two years. There were more encounters with my professors, some of whom were encouraging, others less so.
I didn’t finish another novel for a long time. I started many, but couldn’t follow any idea through any sort of long process to completion. When I was diagnosed with adhd in 2005, all of the stop and start progress started to make sense. AT this point, I took a few years off writing, because I didn’t see the point anymore. I wasn’t the type of person that could do this, I even had a doctor’s note, so it was best to stop wasting my time. I had a teaching job, and kids to raise, it was time to give up.
But stories did not let go of me. And finally, in 2007, I decided to try again. It was a YA novel about a sixteen-year-old kid who finds out he’s the human avatar of a lovecraftian monster. I actually finished it, and I was happy with the effort, but knew it had problems. So, it went in the trunk, but it proved to me that I could do it.
The next year brought a lot of pain, with the end of my teaching career. But it coincided with my first actual sale of a short story, which appeared in 2008’s Barren Worlds, published by Hadley-Rille books. I would go on to sell that editor two more stories over the course of the next couple of years.
In 2008, I started working on a space opera that had been in my head about ten years at that point. It became my first Nanowrimo project, and I won that year with it. I ended up finishing it in February of 2009. And immediately broke out into hives about how terrible it was. I would re-start this novel from scratch several more times, finally completing another version of it from 2019-2020. I finished it last August. It is way too long and still needs a great deal of work, but I’m still working on it and plan to publish it when I finally whip it into satisfactory shape. But before I finished that, there were several other books I attempted and did not complete. One a super-hero novel, and one a post-apocalyptic fantasy. Right now they’re in the trunk, but I may revisit them someday.
So All the Promised Stars may be my first published book, but it’s actually the sixth or seventh book I wrote, or attempted to write. It came to me while I was developing a stronger writing habit, and had just finished the space opera, so was feeling good about where all of this was going. I let my momentum carry me over the finish line, and immediately wrote its sequel, Among the Captive Stars and I’m about 2/3 of the way through the third book of the series as we speak.
It is my hope that I don’t have to put any more books in the trunk, but that might be wishful thinking. There are a couple in there right now that I want to dust off and revisit, and some I feel I have to grow into if I’m ever going to make them work.
So, that’s my trunk. It is full of projects that will never see the light of day.