NaNoWriMo2023, Woe is Richard

On the Trunkening

I’ve been thinking about novels I’ve written and abandoned over the years, just as a sort of exercise in self-torture. I’ve written most of these for National Novel-Writing Month, but not all. Here is a list, probably somewhat incomplete:

2001: Unfallen. This was a novelization of a World of Darkness game I ran in late 1999/early 2000. Status: Trunked.

2003: The Outer Darkness. A space opera. Status: Trunked.

2004: The Road to Gilead. A post-apocalyptic cowboy novel. Status: Trunked.

2005: Fred Again. Some sort of contemporary fantasy with elements of cosmic horror and humor. I’ve worked and worked on this one, but I haven’t touched it for a couple of years. I did retitle it The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, though. Status: In progress. Sort of.

2006: Code Monkey! A Love Story with Occasional Monsters. Another contemporary fantasy. Status: Trunked.

2007: The Return of Deacon Dread. Not sure how to describe this one. Contemporary fantasy with horror elements. Status: Trunked.

2008: The Lord of Nightmares. A sequel to The Return of Deacon Dread. Never finished. Status: Trunked.

2009: Iron Horse Apocalypse. A cosmic horror western set entirely on a moving train. Status: Trunked.

2010: Brought to Life. I felt like writing a modern-day Frankenstein novel set in America, with supernatural elements. Status: Trunked.

2011: Toymaker, Part One. A story about a Boston mage in the 18th century. Status: Trunked.

2012: Toymaker, Part Two: A sequel to Toymaker, Part One. Status: Trunked.

2013: Love in the Time in Cthulhu. A contemporary fantasy love story set in a world where Cthulhu has risen up and the world has fallen to the Old Ones. Status: Trunked.

2014: The Book of Jonah. A retelling of the Biblical story of Jonah, set in modern day America. Status: Trunked.

2015: Hashtag M for Murder. A sequel to Fred Again. Status: Trunked.

2016: Padma. A horror/fantasy/sci fi novel about a medical student facing the end of the world. Status: Trunked. For now.

2017: And the Devil Will Drag You Under. Status: In Progress.

2019: A Plague of Ghosts. A space opera historical novel, set in both a distant galaxy and on Earth during the First World War. Status: Trunked.

2021: The Afghan Code. A spoof of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Status: Trunked.

2022: The Outer Darkness I: Genesis. A re-envisioning of The Outer Darkness from 2003. Status: Trunked.

There are more, but those are the ones I wrote for National Novel Writing Month events. And even though I haven’t “won” NaNoWriMo since 2016, it still holds a place in my heart.

So why the trunkening? Why do I end up giving up on so many of my novels? I don’t know, but it is frustrating. Now, there’s nothing wrong with putting a project on “pause”, as several of my writer friends have pointed out to me, while you regroup and put together some more ideas for the project. So some of these projects might show up, emerge from the trunk like ghosts, but I somehow doubt it. Each time I finish something but don’t revisit it to revise/submit, I feel like a failure somehow. And if I give up on my current projects — Witness to the Scourge and And the Devil Will Drag You Under — I’ll feel like even more of a failure.

There’s certainly a part of me, that I can’t seem to shut up, that tells me I have to complete something before I die. I wanted to have a lot of completed, published novels under my belt by this point in my life, but that hasn’t happened, despite me wanting to be a writer and novelist pretty much all my life. So what’s the deal? Fear of failure? Of success? Laziness? I don’t think I’m a lazy person, for reasons I won’t go into here, so maybe it’s one of the other two reasons. Or maybe something altogether else.

Probably fear of failure, though. Each of these novels represented the best that I could write at the time I wrote them — this is important, because most of them were written during November, during National Novel Writing Month. But whenever I looked back at them, I saw nothing but imperfections and annoyances, and I got too overwhelmed to rework them and submit them. I didn’t want to face the fact that I could rework and rewrite them, only to end up with them still being imperfect and bad.

So for accountability’s sake, here’s what I plan on doing for the next few months:

  • Finish revisions to And the Devil Will Drag You Under. Then maybe shoot it off to some beta readers, and then query it.
  • Write and finish Witness to the Scourge. That’s my NaNo project for this year, as I’ve mentioned before.

Maybe after November is done, I will revisit some of the trunked novels I’ve listed above and see whether I can salvage them.

If you’ve read any of the novels I’ve listed here as part of one of my critique groups in the past or because I posted it online while writing it, let me know and tell me what you thought!

Today I recommend Wonderbook, a book on the craft of writing by Jeff VanderMeer. It’s got plenty of tips and ideas and essays and examples, is lavishly illustrated, and contains sidebars and essays by writers such as Neil Gaiman, Tobias Buckell, and more! I love this book, and I am always inspired whenever I read it.

Cover of "Wonderbook" by Jaff VanderMeer
THE best writing book I’ve found, bar none!

You can buy it here, or from Amazon.