Tag Archives: Abandoned Projects

Abandoned Project: Swords of the Nine Isles

29 Jun

Flashing blades! Sorcery most foul!

The Project

Remember how I was trying to write something marketable? I thought I might be on to something with this fantasy novel set in a sea kingdom of nine tropical islands. I was trying for a mysterious, shadowy setting reminiscent of Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories. The main characters were a sorceress and her swordsman companion, who went off on missions at the behest of the sorceress’ clan. We join them as a mission goes spectacularly wrong: a routine beatdown of a corrupt merchant turns into a confrontation with an undead enemy that hasn’t been seen in the world for decades.

Honestly, I can’t remember what I thought would happen from there. But I wrote a kick ass opening fight scene.

Why it was abandoned

I had world-building problems. Again, the crazy need for everything to be perfect before I started writing undid me. The geography, the culture, the clan structure, the political situation, everything had to be mapped out fully before I could start swinging swords around. Which I guess is fine except that I couldn’t settle on any one scheme of things. I kept fiddling with the world, changing things.

A big problem was that I knew that whatever world I came up with was fake. I couldn’t know whether it would be convincing to a reader because I knew just how full of holes it actually was. Maybe this is a way in which someone who tries to write fantasy finds himself playing King of the Hill with Tolkien. For example, when Tolkien named his characters, those names had a fully developed cultural and linguistic context. I was giving characters names that seemed cool and hoping that they sort of sounded like they might belong to people who lived in the same place. Dur! I is write a novels!

After a while I got bored with fiddling and set my incomplete Tinkertoy world aside. Which is a shame, because now and then I caught glimpses of a place that I would really like to visit, and maybe readers would, too.

Well, who knows? Maybe I’ll find a way there yet.

And that, ladies and gents, wraps up Abandoned Projects Week. Thanks for coming!

Abandoned Project: The Key of Worlds

28 Jun

Behold the whiteness of the Whale!

The Project:

The Key of Worlds (sometimes titled The Key of Dreams) was to be a modern fantasy novel, something like a James Blaylock book. It began with some notes jotted down in the late 90s about a young man who stumbles into a dreamlike world when he turns corners, pulls certain books from library shelves, etc. And there was an idea of something hidden in the ancient Library of Alexandria that was so important, the Library was burned down just to provide a distraction while it was smuggled out.

In its most coherent form, KoW was a story about a young man who inherits his late grandfather’s house, located in a strange neighborhood with a large population of eccentric old people. His grandfather possessed (or was himself) the object of a power struggle among these eccentric old people, something called the Key of Worlds.
The main characters try to find out what and where the Key of Worlds is and what it’s for without leading the wrong people to it, whoever they are. In the process they uncover a secret history of this community that’s full of shame and horror and deep wounds that need healing. They also learn a secret history of the twentieth century involving bizarre experiments in psychic research by Naval intelligence that tie into the secrets of this little neighborhood.

In the end, the good guys win.

Why it was abandoned

You ever see Wonder Boys, or read the novel by Michael Chabon? This was my Grady Tripp moment.

I’d just come off writing a first novel that was making the rounds at the publishers. A few people were pretty excited about it, but were anxious to know what I was going to do next. Could I be counted on to consistently deliver quality product? Or was this the only book I had in me?

I’d succeeded in finishing the first novel because it was fun to write. Now I had to create something “marketable.” I had no idea how to successfully complete a marketable novel, only one that was fun to write. The result was creative paralysis.

I coped with my paralysis by substituting planning for actual writing. I wrote mountains of notes: plot outlines, character studies, lists of people, places, and things and how they related to one another, all of them changing constantly as better ideas came to me. I wrote a history of the Bryce family from the late 1800s to the present day. Every time I moved I changed the location to whatever part of the country I’d moved to, which changed the mood of the piece, and the characters’ biographies…

All I had to do was make it perfect, you see.

Pretty much any of the later versions of the story would have made a fine novel. (The villain remains for me a tremendously compelling character.) But I couldn’t stop working on the book and start writing it.

Eventually the endless and unproductive struggle for perfection left me burned out. I filed the notes away and stopped thinking about the project altogether.

Along the way I learned that I find old folks more interesting to write about than young folks. Old characters have a long history that they need to come to terms with. They have complex relationships, and the sobering knowledge that this might be their last chance ever to put things right.

Abandoned Project: My Life On Earth Prime

26 Jun

Abandoned novels? I got a million of ’em!

Earth Prime

The Project

My Life On Earth Prime* was to be a hilarious yet touching coming of age story. The main character and his friends were high school nerds who passed the time reading comic books, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and arguing about whether Robert Heinlein could beat Robert Silverberg in a fight. Or something.

As the story progressed, they, ah…


Why it was abandoned

That’s all there was to it. I had no story, or characters with any real depth – just a bunch of geeky pop culture references and generic high school situations. Mind you, one could write an enjoyable piece of fiction that meets that description, but I couldn’t shake the conviction that this novel had to be Profound and Meaningful. It turned out that I had nothing profound or meaningful to say on the subject, so I hung it up.

* See Earth Prime (Flash: Those Who Ride The Lightning)

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