Things Forgotten and Best Forgot

January 14th, 2009 • Kate

Just went through another pile of queries and it sometimes amazes me the simple things that queriers don’t do. Is it that hard to personalize your email? To make sure your book’s title actually appears in your query? I know I throw a lot of information up here on the blog, and I don’t expect people who are querying me to read every word I’ve ever written (some of them — like that Sweet Valley High rip-off novel I wrote in middle grade, about a dancer and the guy she liked named Lance — are totally stink-o), but don’t blithely ignore the easy-to-find submission guidelines and list of genres I’m looking for, ok?
Sorry — rant over. But to run off on my little tangent there, I know I’ve spoken in the past about teen writers, and have advised them to keep writing and keep practicing your craft — it’ll only get better. My own earnest teen flailings can speak to that. But what do YOU have stuffed in a drawer in your desk? Or on an old floppy disk? Remember those? (Man, I feel old.)
My little dancer novel — I want to say it was called “To Whisper Dreams” or something similarly swiffy — actually got all typed out somewhere, but there’s loads more in a couple of black-and-white composition notebooks. What do you have hidden, and would you ever consider taking another stab at it with the benefit of the intervening years?

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16 Responses to “Things Forgotten and Best Forgot”

  1. kikihamilton Says:

    Ahhh….you bring up fond memories. I remember a "book" I wrote when I was about 8 that was entitled something extremely clever like "Smiley and his Funny Friends." You can just imagine the jokes Smiley told. And I regret the notebooks and notebooks of teenage angst..er…I mean POETRY that have disappeared from my high school years. Probably better lost than found, actually. 🙂 And then there's that adult murder mystery called "Simple Obsession". I might actually dust that one off someday when I have spare time. Kate, do you have plans to write any more books?

  2. Kathleen Peacock Says:

    From fifteen to seventeen, I wrote a number of short stories all surrounding the same character – a slightly incompetent minor deity who (his followers having died out long ago) was trying to adjust to life in the modern world.
    This was long before American Gods and a handful of years after The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul.
    I wanted (rather desperately) to write a novel around him but, as a character, he had major commitment issues. He would never sit still and would wander off after a few pages only to show up six months later complaining that I never paid him enough attention.
    I'd still love to do something with him.

  3. Trish Doller Says:

    When I was just out of college I wrote a short story about a sorority girl who gets ghostly assistance from the founder of her sisterhood in choosing the right guy for her. Truly awful stuff.
    However, I also once tried my hand at a Civil War-era historical romance that has morphed itself into a YA historical that just might have some potential.

  4. Michelle Pendergrass Says:

    OMG I totally used to love the Sweet Valley High books. I remember I used to ride my bike to the library and come home with stacks of them and read one a day. The librarian used to save the news ones for me so I'd get to be the first one to read them!
    Memories. 🙂

  5. Sandy Williams Says:

    lol I started a high school vampire story that was a total rip off of L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries series. I still have it in a file somewhere. God, I bet it's horrible.

  6. Joe Iriarte Says:

    Heehee!
    My first begun-and-not-finished novel, as I recall, was from when I was in sixth grade. It was about a boy superhero named Karate Boy. (This was well before that Ralph Machio movie that all-but plagiarized me while getting it all wrong. 😉 ) Then I started one based on a Top Secret RPG campaign called "Cairo Smugglers." Then there was the angsty high school book about . . . well, let me just say it was angsty and mary-sue-y and leave it at that. That was followed by the angsty college book about . . . well, about nothing, really, which was the problem with it. Ooh, and the YA/MG mystery I started writing because I thought the market might be easier to crack. It suffered from a basically insipid plot. I'm sure there were others, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind. None of them will ever be worth a second look.
    My first trunk novel with some potential was a science fiction book about a girl who wakes up on a colony ship, the last survivor when the cryogenics malfunction. The basic concept was a good one, I just didn't know what to do with it. The plot was insipid, and it involved aliens, which I wasn't up to writing in anything like an intelligent way. (I'm still not; I've learned to avoid aliens until I get more grown up.) I plan to revisit that basic premise, but come up with a new plot from the ground up, discarding everything I ever did with it.
    My first completed trunk novel was another space-based YA, a bildungsroman about a teenage boy trying to get to the bottom of a mysterious ship nobody will believe he saw. That book suffered from my still-immature writing style, and from a lame cop-out of an ending. Some day I may try to come up with a better ending and see what I can salvage from that one. It was not a horrible bit of Heinlein-inspired juvenilia.
    After completing that book, I returned to my natural genre of Incomple Masterpiece (I see the typo, but I'll leave it because it works there) with a big, sci-fi epic in the vein of David Brin's Uplift series. Again, I think I had a good premise. I just didn't have the chops yet to pull off something so ambitious. That book may be worth returning to some day.
    Which brings me more or less to the book I'm almost ready to start shopping around. I'll have to wait a year or two to add that to the narrative, at which point I'll either tell you that it was my breakthrough work, or explain why I still didn't get it.
    One thing I've learned about myself is that I gravitate toward writing young characters. Not out of some mistaken notion that YA is easier to break into, but because I identify so strongly with adolescents. I also gravitate toward speculative fiction, because it's what has always thrilled me as a reader.

  7. lotusloquax Says:

    I wrote memoirs of childhood. Nothing too fancy–just attempts to be funny. Some of them actually achieved their goal–not many.

  8. Kiersten White Says:

    I, too, have a whole diary filled with incredibly deep poetry from high school.
    It's sparkly. Rainbow sparkly, with Tinkerbell. I thought it was deliciously ironic. Now I just think it's funny.

  9. Keris Says:

    I used to write what I guess was slightly risque New Kids on the Block fan fiction for my friends!
    They'd request the "kid" and the romantic situation and I'd do the rest.
    I must've been good at it, because I got a lot of requests. Perhaps I should be writing erotica now…!

  10. Julia Says:

    Poetry was my thing in high school – that and uber-long letters to friends.
    I do, however, have things tucked away from many years ago. Two picture books, a chapbook of poetry, 2 almost-complete adult mysteries, and two partially complete screenplays – I bet there's more, too. Those are the "old" things… I won't go into the "partials" from the last five years!

  11. Stephanie Perkins Says:

    To Whisper Dreams — Mwahahaha! Love it! Maybe you can whip it out again during the next NaNoWriMo. Maybe Lance can be SIR Lance, and it can be Sweet Valley meets Avalon.
    With dancing, of course.
    Way back when I used to tell these very lurid soap operas of me and my friends and our celebrity boyfriends.
    (Wait. I still do that. I should probably be embarrassed. Why am I not embarrassed?)
    Thankfully, no hard copies survived!

  12. Jen Says:

    When I was an angst-filled teenager, I wrote poetry inspired by Nirvana/Metallica/Megadeth (ah, rebellious youth!) and angry, my-characters-against-the-world short stories. They've been vaporized somehow. *looks innocent*
    I did start writing a book about King Arthur which I thought was terribly clever, though. I no longer have a hard copy, but I still remember what I wrote. Would I take another stab at it?
    I.Don't.Think.So.
    One Luke Skywalker is enough.

  13. Sarah Says:

    When I was 13, I wrote a novel about a magical land filled with horses. My main character and nine of her friends could slip back and forth between the real world and the horse world, and they were charged with finding the horses from the horse world in the real world and caring for them. (If that makes sense. Which, it doesn't.)
    As if that weren't enough, when I was 14, I wrote the sequel.
    I sincerely hope those notebooks got lost or water damaged and that they're not still haunting my mother's storage unit.

  14. Alex Says:

    I wrote a long-ish story of 79 pages when I was a sophomore in high school. A story about love with supernatural characters in high school – horrible, horrible stuff. But I actually kind of think it does have potential, and am revising it right now.

  15. Celsie Says:

    Strangely enough, someone stole a composition notebook of horror stories I wrote in fourth grade. I don't remember them being that amazing, but it's kind of cool someone liked them that much to never return them.
    Or maybe they burned the thing, since they hated my cliffhangers so much. Hmm.

  16. MG Says:

    I know this is an old blog but I just ran across it and it looks like too much fun to resist. I wrote a novel when I was thirteen (I wish I could say I was just 11 or 12, but no…13) that I wouldn’t revisit today for a lifetime supply of jelly-filled donuts. It started out with a young boy “walking” home from school (in his wheelchair, mind you) and finding that his house had burned down while he was away. His parents were killed, but his older sister managed to escape unscathed. The boy and his sister were sent away to live with their rich aunt and uncle…and here’s where the story somehow leaves the main characters behind and morphs into a cross between a bad episode of Knots Landing (scratch that, there were no bad episodes of Knots Landing, only complete genuine awesomeness)…let’s just say a bad soap opera with beautiful characters who spent their days lounging at pools, driving zippy sports cars and getting intimate in both (oh how my cheeks burn at the naivety of the detail, not to mention action verbs, used in those scenes.) I only got to page 150 or so, ten of which were detailed character profiles complete with magazine clip-outs, before I abandoned it. I can’t remember why. Maybe it had something to do with Skateland.