In The Drawer

Donna Cooner 4 Sunday, May 29, 2011
Not long ago, I was surprised to read survey results from debut authors that indicated most of them had completed novels that never saw the light of day. The first novel published was often the second (or even third/fourth/fifth) written. At the time, I was shocked. Why wouldn't the writer have just kept working on that one novel until it was publishable? After all, from the perspective of a former picture book writer, completing a novel is a LOT of work. I would never just give up on it. Right? Well...time passes, perspectives change. I am now one of those writers with a drawer full of "completed" manuscripts that may never see the published page. And there's probably a reason for that.

So, I'm pulling open the drawer slowly and giving you a peak inside...

1. One completed YA novel. I still have hopes for this manuscript--a mystery with a ghostly, paranormal twist. I like the concept, characters, and setting, but think the plot needs work. My plan is to come back to this while my current project is out on submission. But, who knows? Plans change. One thing learned is I had to write this book to get to the next one. Nothing is ever wasted.

2. One Tween novel Whether or not it actually ever sells, this manuscript will always be special to me.. The story is about a girl whose mother is diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time she's developing her own breasts. I wrote this after a long absence from the children's writing world, and it was the first thing that actually captured the attention of an agent. The story also holds a special place in my heart because I wrote it while my mother, a breast cancer survivor, was battling ovarian cancer. She was able to read the first few chapters from her hospital bed shortly before she passed away.

3. Early Chapter Book Series. Teaching kids to read is absolutely one of my most favorite things about being a fomer elementary teacher. It's an amazing moment when that lightbulb pops on and a child realizes those black squiggles on the page have meaning! This early chapter book series comes directly out of my passion for that age group, and my experiences of what makes reading accessible for beginning readers. There's lots of repetitive phrases and sentence structure, with some major silliness thrown in for good measure. I love this series and hope someday it will see the light outside my drawer.

4. Picture Books. There are a couple of random picture book manuscripts in the drawer. Most of them make me cringe, but one of them is special. It is the first manuscript I ever submitted for publication, almost twenty years ago, and has never sold. I'd like to believe...someday...I will get the revision right on this baby and it will actually find a home.

So, what about you? Anything in that drawer you'd like to share with us?


Recently I came to the realization that my first completed ms might never get published.

*deep sigh*

Then I found out that this is usually the case. In fact, many of my favorite authors have admitted they have (sometimes many) trunked novels. That makes me feel a teensy, tiny bit better.

I know, I always heard this too, that most people end up writing several shelved novels before they get published. Naive little me about five years ago - not me, my first one will get published!!! Um. Yeah. Five years and four manuscripts later, I'm finally getting published! Kind of glad I didn't know that then, though. Don't know if I would have had the gumption to keep going!

Congratulations, Heather! It is kind of depressing to realize the first one MIGHT not work, but I strongly believe nothing is really lost. That's a hard pill to swallow though when you're just starting out.

Erica and Christy,
I have also heard quite a few stories lately though about people who sold their book and THEN when back and sold one of their drawer novels. I personally am holding on to that idea a bit.

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