To avoid becoming the star-of-the-week on the show Hoarders, every year I go through each of my closets, cupboards, and drawers to organize my goodies and get rid of things I don’t need. Because it’s perpetually messy, I figured my office should be the first to get the once over this year. I even bothered to tidy up some paperwork on my cleaning journey, and that’s when I discovered the number nine.
I Can’t Believe I Have Nine Kids!
Because I’m a bit old school and like to handwrite my first drafts, I have a pile of notebooks and journals chock full of my horrible penmanship. And because I’ve made several false starts on novels, I also have second draft print outs, piles of notes, and a huge mess inside the Manuscript Drawer.
Usually, I just make sure this mess gets straightened up well enough that the drawer can close all the way, but this year I thought I should organize the forest-worth of paper. I quickly lost floor space as I sorted each first draft and matched it to its research notes and any print outs I’d made. Once I made it to the bottom of the drawer I made my count: I had nine damn manuscript babies in first or second draft form.
That’s a lot of babies.
How This Happened
Basically, this pile up happened because I wanted the first novel I put out to be a strong and engaging story with some kick ass characters. I also wanted it to be something that was a bit unique. Since I’m my own very harsh critic, it took me many manuscripts to create the book I wanted to put out to the world.
Meet My Babies Before I Cram Them Back Into the Drawer They Came From
The first novel I wrote was completed soon after reading Stephen King’s The Stand. Although mine is a much shorter version than the 800-or-so-page tome of Mr. King, in essence, it was a very similar story. At the time, although I really liked what I had written, I had no idea how to make the story my own. And so, we have Number One.
Number Two was a book that I have tried and tried (and tried again) to cobble into something publishable. It’s a story of two friends, one who happens to be a werewolf (the other friend doesn’t realize this until a couple murders down the road into a summer excursion). Again, I love this story, but so much of it is a bit hokey and needs oodles of work to de-hokify (yes. that is now a word).
Numbers Three & Four & Five were spawned by ideas I had in my head for a while. One is a modern re-telling of Hamlet (already I was on the road to adding new life to old stories) which isn’t too shabby. Five didn’t have enough complexity work as a novel, but did become one of my favorite short stories in 13th Hour. And with its poking fun at religion, Five might have forced me into hiding, and since I don’t have as many powerful friends as Salman Rushdie did when he got into trouble, I thought it best to hide that child away.
I abandoned Number Six because my protagonist just let too much stuff happen to her without fighting back. If I can get this woman a backbone, it’s going to a great tale of very creepy aliens.
Already we’re up to Seven, my favorite of all my abandoned kids. This story could not have come easily enough. Outlined in a single hour, first draft completed in only a few weeks. The story and characters just burst from my pen. Because it was set in the early 1900s I needed to do a little research on clothes, manners, and that sort of detail work. I’d heard of this show called Downton Abbey that was set in the same time period. I got the first season on DVD from the library…and then I wanted to kill someone. My story isn’t the exact same, but many aspects are similar and I didn’t want to seem like I was riding Juilan Fellowes’s coattails. Into the drawer with you, my dear Number Seven!
Number Eight is another historical novel (set in Ancient Rome) that is quite close to being publishable…I just hope someone doesn’t start a TV show about Caligula and his mother in the meantime.
And finally we are to Number Nine, which is the third book in the Osteria Chronicles series. It’s never made it to the drawer and if this second draft keeps going as well as it has been, it never will.
At this point I have John Lennon going, “Number Nine. Number Nine,” stuck in my head.
Where to Go From Here?
With nine children that need tending to, I almost don’t want to make any more. After all, I’m not Mrs. Duggar! Still, to feel a sense of completion I will have to finish the rest of the Osteria Chronicles series (six books in total, which means creating three more manuscript babies).
After that, even if I didn’t write another another book, and if I set a goal to complete one novel a year, and if I ditched Numbers Four & Five, I would still have enough to keep me cracking out books until 2025 (I got bored the other day and did the calculations).
And, if you add up the numbers in 2025…you get the Number Nine!
So, got any abandoned kids hiding in the back of your closet? Tell me all about it.