Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Book Under the Bed

Time and time again, we read of writers who have early, book-length attempts that they keep securely locked away like a dirty secret. Kick it under the bed. Don't tell anyone. Ever.
The Failed First Novel.
The vow of silence about its existence is usually broken only in an attempt to encourage other writers to keep at it, to not give up trying.
Sometimes they mention, with an air of reluctant distaste, the existence of rancid Novel Two and Three. Too precious with hope and heartache to be discarded. Too embarrassing in terms of construction or cliche to ever see the light of day.
In a futile attempt to bring some order to this pig pen of squalor I call an office, I found three or four chapters of one of those a little while ago, aged and wrinkled, hiding and shivering in the bottom of a filing cabinet.
It was written a long time ago, sometime in the years B.I., circa S.C. - before internet, Smith-Corona.
I fell on the ragged manuscript with the same delight one discovers old school photographs. Heehee. Did we really wear those clothes? Look at that hair style. What a stupid expression.

You know, it wasn't so bad. Oh, the major characters were conventional, the plot read like a ten-cent Mary Stewart, and the adverbial conversation tags made me cringe, but there was some good stuff there.
Some of the secondary characters surprised me, they were individuals. They were funny, interesting, and well-drawn. They were good. Some lines I suspect I'll re-use, and some descriptions. They worked.
If memory serves, I actually send it out a few times in the long ago. In those days one was restricted to publishers found in the yellow pages. And if memory is not entirely rose-colored retro, one sweet old gentleman publisher actually liked it, but he was bound in servitude to Mills and Boone. They thought adventure dominated and overwhelmed the romantic conflict and that would not do, and that the writing was "too slick." I think the setting was not considered exotic enough either.
The Intrigue imprint had not yet seen the light of day. It was more that type. Without sex.

Now I am tempted, providing I can find the rest of the manuscript - which may be lurking in the attic somewhere - to post the thing, in all its amateur glory, with all its (now) obvious mistakes, as a demonstration of What First Fiction Looks Like; so we can have the fun of critiquing its flaws and generally eviserating the carcass.
I am sorely tempted.

18 comments:

Sela Carsen said...

I don't actually have an entire ms under a bed somewhere. I have a collection of "first 4 chapters." Lots and lots of "first 4 chapters."

Bernita said...

You got that FAR? Most of mine - with the exception like the one above - died after the first five pages

Robyn said...

You're a brave, brave woman, Bernita. My first attempts have a sign above the first chapter- INFO DUMP.

AE Rought said...

Deny temptation's seductive pain. Post away! I have a first novel, too; even had it agented and submitted to publishers. Good parts, bad parts, more fantasy, less romance, no sex. I intend to rewrite the thing in my current voice, when I get the time.

Bernita said...

I have to find the rest of it first.
Some things in it are sooo bad. Made me laugh.
The voice, whatever it may be, hasn't changed much though.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, my first attempt is a bathetic cryfest in some parts. I'm definitely listening to opera a lot.

But I did start with action, and I got some 120K before it triggered out. I've already cut an entire subplot and some other stuff, so it's down to 75K by now, still sucky and still without an ending. But I like it enough to not have pushed it under the bed. :-)

ali said...

I admire your bravery - I cringe to think about my first attempts!

But then, I think I was 9 when I wrote my first chapter. Unfortunately, I didn't really understand the concept of characters. I put my friends in it, a few characters from Sweet Valley High and the Babysitter's Club, and just to make it interesting, Darth Vader was the villain.

Bernita said...

Ali, I don't have the forgiving excuse that I was only nine.
I bet yours was a hoot and interesting, just the same.
Not sure mine is salvageable, Gabriele, however, what shoved it "under the bed" was life partly, and a switch to non-fiction.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I'd love to see how you wrote before you got so good. It will give me hope.

I've always had an adversion to throwing things away. The novel I have completed now, was in the 80's, first a science fiction(with aliens), then in the 90's, a tribulation novel, and now in 05, it's an action adventure with a female protagonist. :-)

Bernita said...

Oh Bonnie, what a lovely thing to say!
But you're increasing temptation.
Maybe the first chapter?
I liked the sound of your novel, sort of plot I like. I didn't see anything particularly wrong with the short excerpt either, began with the right type of action.(I'd still like her to be a colonel, though)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I halfta wait to see if the publisher that has it wants it, before i start messing around!

I'm serious, like your post in Snarkland out historical fiction...OMG..it makes my eyes roll, and it all just rolls off your tongue!!

Bernita said...

Hey, Bonnie, everyone has a topic or two, it's just something that interests me. There's topics you could roll off and I'd be sitting with my mouth open.
Fingers crossed for you with the publisher.

Bernita said...

Hey, Robyn, wait until you read mine!

Gabriele C. said...

Hehe, should I ever get a plotbunny involving the Normans, I know who's going to be my reality check reader. *grin*

Bernita said...

Doubt if you would need one, Gabriele, but you'd be welcome.

Bonnie Ferguson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bonnie Ferguson said...

Hehehehe, Sela and Bernita }:)

Bernita said...

Hi, Bonnie 2, thank you for stopping by. Please be amused?