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What’s in your novel drawer?

I have a new manuscript on submission this week. (Hold me.) I won’t get into that except to say that the process got me thinking about the other manuscripts, the ones that I wrote before starting Save Me, Kurt Cobain (coming out next year) and this new one, which is a suspense novel aimed at adults. There were novels before these, oh yes. When I was a Creative Writing student at the University of Victoria one of my profs made the category of putting work “in a drawer to await a happier fate.” That phrase stuck with me (as you can see). These days the drawer is more figurative, since it is really a hard drive in most cases–but the notion holds true.

What’s in my drawer? Well, after writing fiction for most of my early life I became quite consumed with being a journalist, then drawn into the chaotic, Cheerio-covered vortex of being a mother, and somehow then, with two toddlers–I returned to writing fiction again. I drafted a novel called Telling Details about being a cub reporter covering a brutal murder by teenagers in a small town. I worked on it, relearned how to write fiction, sought out a manuscript consult, gave it a much better title (The Paper Girl), and then had some good response from agents. Still, that novel ended up in the drawer. (The photo above is a printout of this ms.)

I followed this work with another novel, which might be called women’s fiction (a term I do not personally embrace) about a quiet street that turns bad when some drinking and drugging renters move in and refuse to leave. I took this novel to a summer workshop at the University of British Columbia, to positive response from classmates and great suggestions from the professor, Annabel Lyon.  This novel also has some favourable response when I sent it to agents, but for now remains part of my novel “drawer.”

With every page of these novels, I learned something. I wrote 500 words every day.  I received criticism, suggestions, positive feedback, and blunt rejections. My friends stopped being able to keep track of how many novels I had written. (It did seem kind of unusual, even to me. I had a full time job and two full time kids. Why not scrapbooking?) Once the children were in bed,  though, I would write. I could not stop. This is still the case.

So, as of today, that makes four novels that I have completed–two in the drawer, one to be published, one on submission. And–I am now at work on another.  I may return to those earlier novels one day to revisit and revise, but to be honest–publishing is so tough–and discovering new characters is so thrilling, I am not sure I will. I am too excited to delve into my brand new project, which involves running. I guess I can think of the novels in the drawer as “time on feet,” logging mileage. Every kilometre is training for a runner as is every page for a writer. Here is the other thing. Not to sound lofty, but I believe in Save Me, Kurt Cobain. If it fails, I will still stand behind my strange little story. Would I say the same about the other novels? I am not sure. The unpublished Starter Novel (or two) may be a good idea even if it doesn’t seem so at the time.

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