Reader Request Week 2014 #8: What Writing Lurks In the Shadows?

Katy asks:

Is there anything you’ve written that is sitting in a drawer/file cabinet that will never see the light of day?

Not really, no. The very first novel I wrote was Agent to the Stars, which I sold shortly after Old Man’s War (the second novel I wrote) was published. All the other novels I’ve written since were either written under contract or claimed after I wrote them. Likewise, I only wrote a couple of short stories before OMW was published and I sold both of those, and since then I only write short stories that either have been commissioned or that I write for my own amusement and then post here. So there is literally (hah!) no backlog of material from me, and (thankfully) no stuff I’d be embarrassed to show off.

Now, the above applies only for work that I wrote as an adult. When I was a teenager I wrote several stories (not to mention poetry and song lyrics), and I have them here in the office with me. Most of these are, well, not good — I think they’re fine for the output of a teenager, but I’m definitely grading on a curve, there. I’m not ashamed of them, but neither do I imagine there’s much of a market for them (one of the stories, set in the future, features a semi-truck full of cassette tapes). Unless I decide to pay someone to type them into the computer, and then post them here purely for archaeological interest, I don’t imagine any of you will ever see them.

I’ll also note that there’s a fair amount of material I wrote professionally that isn’t readily available on the Internet — most of the work I did for newspapers, for example, which is only accessible via paid archives; a lot of the other print work, which is not available anywhere online; most of what I wrote for AOL back in the day, which also went away when the client-based AOL service did, and material posted here prior my first Movable Type installation in 2003, because I revamped the site and took a lot of that stuff offline.

None of that stuff will “never see the light of day” because in fact most of it was seen by a ton of people when it was first published. It just won’t be seen again. The good news there is that a fair amount of it isn’t worth seeing again, for reasons ranging from marginal competence on my part, to the material simply being woefully outdated. No one will miss it much, me included.

So: Yeah. I got nothin’ for you lurking in the shadows, I’m afraid. What you’ve seen from me is really and truly everything I have. Well, except for the upcoming novel Lock In, and the novella I finished up a couple of weeks ago. But those are both on their way. Honest.

22 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2014 #8: What Writing Lurks In the Shadows?”

  1. What about that sequel to THE ANDROID’S DREAM you were working on a few years ago and then pulled…THE HIGH CASTLE or some such? Are you still planning to finish it sometime, or is it in the “permanently filed away unless someday I think of something to do with it” category?

  2. Well, except for the upcoming novel Lock In, and the novella I finished up a couple of weeks ago. But those are both on their way. Honest.

    Damn. As I started reading that closing I thought, “Oh, he’s gonna drop a bombshell on us!” Sadly, no. :(

  3. Let’s hope Athena isn’t taking career planning advice from Christopher Tolkien, or she’s going to be severely disappointed.

  4. RPF: What about… THE HIGH CASTLE.

    John Scalzi: That will be written eventually, I think.

    Such a tease…

  5. “Unless I decide to pay someone to type them into the computer, and then post them here purely for archaeological interest, I don’t imagine any of you will ever see them.”

    You realize your minions would probably line up to volunteer to type up sections of the Scalzi Teenage Writing Archive so you could post it here.

  6. JS:

    Well, if you write it I’ll buy it. Would enjoy seeing Harry Creek and my favorite Manic Pixie Dream MacGuffin again.

  7. I’m really excited for your upcoming book and novella. After a friend had me read OMW, I became something of a “Scalzi fan.” I have bought and read just about everything with the Scalzi name on it, (All that appears on the kindle book store anyhow) so I would happily be one of the minions DG Lewis mentioned.

  8. Ever think about auctioning off some of those old works for charity? I bet someone would pay a few bucks for “Futuristic Truck Filled with Future-Casettes”.

  9. OMG Thanks for answering my question. Looking forward to reading anything and everything that is coming soon.

  10. If I were young enough you might have a knock on your door after that “if I paid someone to type them” line.

    I read something from RAH (about the time of “Stranger”) where he talked about not having enough time to organize his notes put together a bunch of stories the had but not compiled and work on his novels. 16 year old me thought about hiking halfway across the country, knock on his door and beg to be his apprentice. I would have offered to file and type and anything else, cut the lawn, clean the pool, in exchange for a place to sleep, a couple meals a day and the opportunity to learn writing from him.

    Life intervened & I spent the summer in the hospital instead. I often wonder how that would have worked out. I’d like to think it would have led to me becoming a famous author but the odds are it would have ended with getting chased off followed by a restraining order.

  11. Off-topic and probably suitable for malleting

    [Correct! Also: You are welcome — JS]

  12. Just out of curiosity, do you have any other short stories floating around on here, besides the sentient yogurt one? Short stories online are a great way to pass my lunch break, and I enjoy your writing.

  13. ‘type them into the computer’ ??? Scanners. OCR software. You kids live in a world full of miracles and don’t appreciate it!

  14. By way of contrast, I’m a 32-year old who has written obsessively since I was 16 (that was when I completed my first longer work – a novella – that placed well in a national contest for writers). I have written thirteen novels and probably two hundred short stories. NONE of the novels are published, although half a dozen have won bits of money in various contests. One was shortlisted in Australia’s largest YA novel contest (first prize is $10,000; second prize is a pat on the back). About forty of the short stories are published in various places around the world.

    I think about five of the novels will eventually be published, but after sixteen years, thousands of writing hours (definitely over the magical “10,000 hours”), and hundreds of rejections, I’m not holding my breath.

    I’ve put in more work for less results than most writers, partly due to starting young and partly due to the usual combination of bad luck and (presumably) a lack of skill – but my story is so different to the above that I thought it was worth mentioning.

    Louise Curtis

  15. This is interesting… Alot of writers have said they had to write alot of books to learn how to write. There is some national writer month with a goal of writer a full book in a month to learn the process. Surprised you dont have throw away books or short stories you wrote as a learning tool. I think brandon samderson said he has a dozen or so

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