Trunk novels remain unpublished for several reasons. These reasons fall into two categories: 1) the quality of the novel, or 2) the state of the
We all want to believe that our rejected manuscripts fall into the second category. This is natural, because nobody in her right mind sends out a manuscript unless she really believe that it's of publishable quality. And yet, I realize that the majority of my trunk novels fall into the first category. I wouldn't be surprised if many writers find, in retrospect, they have a project or two that wasn't as ready as they thought at the time. I have projects that never left the privacy of my own computer, because I didn't even need anyone else to tell me they didn't work.
If a first-category trunk novel isn't worth reworking, it can still be valuable for what it teaches us about writing. Looking back over my discarded projects, I find these lessons:
A book needs a plot.
Bad stuff has to happen to the main character.
The main character's friends shouldn't have more interesting problems than she does.
A book needs conflict.
If my book is just a blatant rip-off of an already-successful book, people are probably going to prefer the already-successful book.
A setting should feel realistic.
If a plot is contrived, it shows.
A novel written from atop a soapbox is off-putting.
Lots of stuff can happen to the main character, but at some point he or she has to take action.
A story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. At least one of those parts will be extremely difficult to write.
I don't have to write what I know, but I'd better be able to fake it really well.
(For YA) Stay true to the inner teen.
Don't hide so much. Be brave. Don't worry so much about what people think.
What have your trunk novels taught you?