Reader Friday: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

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An author friend of mine loves telling the story about when her mother found her sitting in front of her pot belly stove burning old manuscripts she had stashed “under her bed.” When asked why, she told her mom that she didn’t want ANYONE publishing them posthumously. She thought they were THAT bad. What about you?

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?


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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

40 thoughts on “Reader Friday: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

      • Will definitely consider finishing at least two of them. They just need to stay in the drawer a while longer. 😎

        • Good attitude. I have one I haven’t lost hope in & had revised plot & was halfway through rewrite but had to put it down for deadlines.

          My only other one may be “under the bed” forever.

  1. 2 full (of what, I’m not sure) first drafts;

    3 partials (unless you count false starts, then it’s an untold number);

    Notes and jottings in another pile to be burned at a date yet to be determined;


  2. I’ve got 5 full MSS “under the bed” and at least 15 partials that will prob never see the light of day. I may resurrect the idea, and start fresh, but not that work as it stands. My writing has improved so dramatically with each book I’ve written (including those starter books) that it means a rip-apart-re-write for those. My time’s prob better spent writing forward. 😜🤓😎

    • Every author is different in their approach to older material. I like the idea of keeping your momentum moving forward, because there are so many stories left to tell, your way. Only you can judge whether an unfinished or unpubbed MS is worth the effort to salvage it.

      Thanks, my fine friend Jeanne. See you on Twitter.

  3. There used to be dozens but I got tired of always going back to the same old stories, trying to make them work, instead of creating new material. One day I simply tossed everything so I’d be forced to start from scratch. On the whole, I’m not sorry but once in a while, when I have an idea for an old story that sounds it like it might work, I’m annoyed that all is lost.

    One thing I have learned, don’t let stories languish in a drawer too long because if you ever do decide to finish it someone may have beaten you to the punch. In my case, the movie Prometheus ends exactly as a story I wrote nearly 20 years ago, down to the same name of the android. Rats. Can’t use that now.

    • Gutsy move to toss old material but I can see how cathartic that might be. Definitely focuses you on the future. I’ve seen quite a number of authors work and rework old manuscripts for years. One for 10 yrs, without ANY new projects. I respect what you did. Very gutsy.

      • Thank you! I’ll remember your encouragement when I’m cursing myself 🙂

  4. One full novel (my first). At least one partial draft. I might go back to the partial, but that first book is probably beyond rescue.

    • Finishing your first manuscript is a real accomplishment. That would be a great goal. Good luck, Suzanne. We’re rooting for you.

    • There’s nothing wrong with those characters staying in your head. I like that you’ve revived them in new projects, Patricia.

  5. Probably enough to keep a pot belly stove going through a Montana winter! Just burning my rejection slips would keep the month of December toasty (back from when rejections were still printed and arrived by snail mail in the SASEs I’d dutifully sent).

    In old deep storage, I just ran across a banker’s box from the mid-90s full of notes from writing conferences, old articles and PR stuff I’d written, long forgotten. A complimentary judge’s score sheet from a mystery contest really warmed my heart and reminded me how important encouragement is to keep up writers going.

    I’m not ashamed enough of my first eight novels to burn them (well, maybe two deserve the fire), b/c they comprise a big chunk of my million-word apprenticeship toward competency.

    Most of the contents from the box went in the trash…but I’m saving that score sheet.

    • I like how you’ve kept the positives. Thanks for sharing, Debbie. I’ve judged a number of contests & always put work into each scoresheet to encourage entrants. We’ve all been there. One judge did that for me & taught me how to write a synopsis in her generous comments. Cherished notes.

  6. I have one novel completely finished, and I’m looking for an agent. I have several other books in that series drafted (some drafts are barely there, but others are much more filled out). I’m currently revising the next book in the series. These are science fiction, and I hope that many, if not all, of them are someday published.

    I also have a couple partial drafts, one of which I’m ready to take to the next level… if I can just find the one piece that makes the whole thing spin. I think I’m nearly there. This one’s a mystery that I’m having fun with. The other is paranormal. Though there is almost always some mystery in everything I write, including the science fiction.

    And – as if I don’t have enough going on in my head – I’m working on non-fiction regarding a certain murder, trial, and hanging that happened here in Saskatchewan in over a hundred years ago. This one is barely started, though. I’m still researching it.

    None of this is as yet published – although I just got an article related to the non-fiction published in a small local magazine.

    As for older works – they’ll probably live forever in boxes or on my harddrive (one older work hasn’t made it to digitization yet. It’s only handwritten so far. And I wrote it over 30 years ago.)

    • You are busy, BJ. You may want to think about what your brand will look like going forward. I’ve seen many authors write multiple genres under the same author nane, but if you create pen names to promote separately, it could be hard to generate an audience if you’re spread too thin. There’s writing time & release schedules to consider, as well as costs to maintain multiple social media & an online presencenin each. I’m sure you’ve thought this through, but I wanted to mention this because of my experiences in writing for adult markets as well as for teens.

      Reply ↓

      • Oh, I’m concentrating on the science fiction right now. The non-fiction is more personal, and I use my first name rather than my initials for that. I’ll probably do most of my marketing for the non-fiction in Saskatchewan, since it takes place here and it seems very few people are interested in Saskatchewan history outside of the province. 🙂 But it’s not completed yet – I’m missing something important, but I don’t know what yet.

        As for the mystery – that probably won’t come to pass until long after my science fiction is published (I hope! I pray!), so I’ll worry about that then.

        I’m a marketer, myself, and I completely understand brand. That’s why, in social media, I’ve been calling myself a science fiction author, and not even mentioning the others.

  7. Oh my. Six full first drafts, about ten partial drafts, and half a dozen partial short stories. My characters are in queue staring, no, glaring at me. One short story has been sent off to a Beta Reader though. I’m working on them. Honest.

  8. I have two novels and dozens of short stories none of which work. I haven’t looked at the stuff in years but I don’t dump it because I like the characters. They’re family.

    • Sorry for the misposting a comment. My bad.

      Characters can stay with you & pester you until they are born on the page. Keep at it, Nancy.

  9. I finished a first draft of a novel, put it away for a couple of weeks before revising, and ended up facing major heart surgery. After a long, difficult recovery, I still haven’t got back to that draft. I did submit the first page here several months ago and got some great positive encouragement and advice. Thank you all for that! But I still have trouble getting back into it. Some day I’m going to join a procrastinator’s group. Really.

    • I can relate to time interfering with the excitement over writing a project, being in the throes of it but dashed when you stop. But keep the faith, Dave. You will know when it’s right to get back at it. Sounds like, with the TKZ encouragement you received on your intro, that you’ll have a good project to come back into.

      I hope you’ll finish that book. There’s nothing like the feeling.

  10. I wrote a novel, a first.

    I wrote it, got disgusted with it and sent it to manuscript exile in the back of my hard drive. While my novel was serving an involuntary sentence of undetermined duration, I wrote part of the sequel, and then sent it to be a cellmate with the aforementioned M/S.

    I subsequently cranked out and published three novelettes, and then started working on a psychological thriller. The first draft of that manuscript is nearly complete. I sent this one to the section of my hard drive that doubles as a mental hospital for the criminally insane for further evaluation and treatment. I haven’t even looked at it in months. Maybe I’ll take a defibrillator to it at the end of the year and see what, if anything, can be salvaged.

    With my desk empty, I reluctantly decided to commute the sentence for the first manuscript, pulling it from the far reaches of C-drive hell and took a good look at it. I did not like what I saw. It was bitter, raw and disgusting. There was so much room for improvement. It needed some serious editing, re-writes in several areas, with some scenes being thrown out entirely, POV issues cleaned up (because I have a bad habit of head hopping), and in some instances, going deeper into the POV. I went so deep into it that I found myself writing in the first person for some of the darker scenes, then going back and editing to the third person to clean it up.

    I worked on it for an entire weekend, taking only comfort breaks. I came away with something so horrific and disturbing, I considered it unpublishable. Back to the far reaches of the hard drive it went where it sat for three months while I thought about it some more.

    In some ways, it was very easy to do. Every dark scene had a lot of me in it. I wrote from experience and first-hand knowledge of what the protagonist was experiencing. What they were feeling; their inner monologue. The easy thing became the hardest thing. Writing about it all caused me to re-live these experiences.

    For a long time, I was on the fence about it, but ended up publishing it the middle of last month.

    A few days ago, I took a look at the sequel book and wrote almost 4,000 words, saved it off and haven’t looked at it since. I have to take my own writing in smaller doses, looking at it almost clinically.

    But I haven’t gotten up the nerve yet to take another look at the psychological thriller residing in Burnside Mental Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

  11. Oh gosh. I probably have a couple dozen partially completed stories, and one VERY rough, mostly-completed draft. That story is a book of the heart and I WILL finish it someday.

    I’m currently working on the first in a series and it’s going well. Feels like the one that I will finally carry over the finish line properly.

    Sometimes, thinking of all the unfinished stories depresses me, but there’s a lot of words in them and I like to think each one made me a better writer in some way.

  12. No trunked or boxed or otherwise set aside stories for me. So far I’ve managed to finish every book I’ve started, and publish them. That said, I do have multiple works in progress. I tend to write a first chapter or sequences down to save them, but not so much as a “maybe someday i will finish this thing” rather they are quick bits put on paper as a place holder in the writing queue in my mind, that way since the story has found its way to paper and ink it has a solid spot in line and must be finished soon, else I will be cursed.

    Of course there are other bits I write out that are mini-stories of their own that are simply waiting for a full length book to insert themselves into. Such as this one from today:

    A primer on how network switches work.
    By Basil & the Leprechauns
    All of our network switches are going to be replaced this weekend. The switches being replaced are what all of our phones, computers and network printers connect to to be able to talk to one another. The current ones being replaced are Cisco model 3750, 48 port switches with multi-fiber-optic uplink ports. The new ones are Cisco model 3850s with the same basic setup, but they’re newer, and the transmission speed knob has had an 11 added so that instead of maxing out at 10, these can go to 11.
    The other major feature difference is that each of the 3750s communicate via a group of 24 very tiny telegraph operators, highly trained sprites, who tap out binary code at light speed, two ports per telegraph operator. Their messages go to the group of 11 senior telegraph operators housed in the ‘Core Switch’ in the main network room on the other side of the hospital, who decide if they need to relay the messages to local servers or over to the router, where super-senior telegraph operators tap them out beyond our network into the magical mist of the cloud where dedicated teams of pixies rush the packages to where ever they need to go, and come back with sandwiches from foreign lands as a reward for a job well done.
    The newer 3850s operate in an almost identical fashion, but are powered by new Super telegraph operator sprites who are genetically modified to be able to type binary with both hands and both feet simultaneously, to double the speed of transmissions, thereby using half as many of them, and requiring half as many sandwiches, which are a major expense in the operation of networks. The new operators are also specially trained in physical combat using their Magic Spears and The Sword of Destiny with which they battle virus demons and malware monsters.
    There are also some new incantations for me to learn. One of the new incantations is very similar to an ancient weather chant once used to call rain or sun. That particular chant fell into disuse after Elfric the Wandering Wizard and Baker for Hire read out the line “Figgle Faggle Woop” as “Figgle Figgle Warp” which happened to be an even older chant used by fishermen to call massive schools of herring to mass around their boats. When the fish chant was called out over land it took a little longer than at sea, but the herring did indeed show up. Two million of them. The small town in Upper-Funconia that Elfric the Wandering Wizard and Baker for Hire had wandered through, suddenly had more herring than they could ever hope to pickle.
    And that is how network switches work.

    And that will one day end up in a book amongst its story peers.

  13. I have a ton. I get bored easily. I keep finding things I’ve forgotten I even wrote.

    I have a full-time (sometimes more) day job. I also do theatre. Right now I’ve decided to let theatre go for a bit and concentrate on my writing.

    I spent some frustrating years trying to write the way other people thought I should with the result that writing became a chore and boring. I quit entirely.

    I began studying the writing habits of writers I admire and discovered what works for them is what used to work for me until I let others talk me out of it. They did all right. Maybe I will too.

    Now I’m back to doing what comes naturally. Writing is a joy again. I’m in the process of going through finished, half-finished, random notes etc., published things I had forgotten about (God bless my mother-in-law – she kept them all) and organizing them so I can see what I have. A couple of them still nag at me and always have. I may see what I can do with those.

    • Sounds like you have a plan and the right attitude. From all the comments today, I’ve gone back to my proposals & partials. Found an idea I will develop for sure. Yay.

      Thanks for joining in the conversation, Cynthia.

  14. In my head? Call it half a dozen. Committed to paper? Nil. I read what some of you folks write (Lookin’ at you, Basil), and the words “hopelessly outclassed” comes to mind.

    The other problem is that none of my ideas, in hindsight, seem original.

    • I get that same feeling with some of the books I read. And as far as originality…the story core might all be the same for most writers, but the words we use to tell make it unique.

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