Blog header: Twenty Years a Writer

Twenty Years a Writer, Part 7: Unwritten and Unrealized

Some writers say their characters come alive during the writing process and even push the story in unexpected directions. But do we owe anything to characters we’ve thought up but whose stories remain unwritten, stuck halfway through Chapter 3? Or languishing in an abandoned notebook?

A while ago, in a discussion among several indie authors, I declared that I had no unfinished works. That’s actually true, although She Who Comes Forth stalled at page 17 for months before I found my way back to completing it. But I do have a complete novel that’s been sitting around unpublished since 2008.

Winter Journeys is literary fiction unrelieved by any genre fiction attributes. Moreover, it grew out of my obsession in the early 2000s with Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise. And said obsession was due in part to my experiences of rejection while trying to get my first few novels traditionally published.

The twenty-four songs that make up Winterreise follow the wanderings of a man who has been rejected by a young woman and her family, and who finally rejects the world. I turned that story arc into a novel about a woman who goes through a similar trajectory in the present time, while she becomes fascinated with a particular recording of Schubert’s music.

I hesitated to publish Winter Journeys myself, first, because literary fiction doesn’t sell unless boosted by the forces of Big Publishing, literary prizes, and being made into movies. And second, because I had an intention to send it around to Canadian publishers. They do publish literary fiction, with the help of arts and culture grants from the federal government.

But since entering the realm of self-publishing, I’ve totally lost the mindset and desire to submit. (I actually hate that word, even.) So this novel continues to lurk in the shadows, although I’ve designed a number of cover images for it. Here are two of them…

Winter Journeys cover image 4
Winter Journeys cover image 5

2028 will be the 200th anniversary of the publication of Winterreise, and incidentally, of Schubert’s death. I think that would be the right year to publish Winter Journeys.

In the meantime, I’m getting psyched for writing a sequel to She Who Comes Forth, provisionally titled (what else?) She Who Returns. (You read it first here, folks.)

This is the final post in this series. I hope reading about my writing journey has been informative, interesting, or at least diverting. Here’s a link to Part 1 if you want to read it again. Links to all the other parts are there.

Well, fellow writers, do you have any stories languishing in unwritten or unpublished limbo? Do you feel you have an obligation to give them life?


  1. The only languishing around here, (apart from myself of course) is the current WIP. For some reason, I can’t seem to concentrate on it long enough for the magic to start flowing…

    I prefer the first cover for Winter Journeys, very emotive…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve found I can’t force the writing process to begin. Once a work is a WIP, forcing myself to keep it going is crucial, unlike my first writing experience, when I had to tear myself away from the WIP. Those were the days…
      Everyone who has commented so far likes the first cover. I’ll keep that in mind.
      And thanks for sharing this post!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have the noses of some stories that have never made it to the tip of their wagging tails on my computer. Some Day Days is just a fragment of an unwritten epic romance — and I publish it because I felt I owed it to the characters. The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon is a re-envisioning of a story I’d started several years ago. I have my first novel, a fantasy, from back in the ’70’s in my closet, along with a YA adventure from the 90’s. They’ll stay there. I’ve posted the noses of several more stories that petered out on my blog, just to give them some sort of life. So, I guess I am one of those people who feel an obligation to the characters I’ve created. I want to be a benign god and give my creations some sort of life, and not put them through too much of a hell in the process.

    I’ll be interested in seeing what eight years of playing around with the cover for Winter Journeys finally turns out to be.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Benign god” — I like that! Although sometimes it seems we writers are prisoners of our creations.
      Haha! Good point about the cover images for Winter Journeys. I’ve already created and deleted about half a dozen, and I have different versions of the two I put in the post. Maybe by 2027 or ’28, I’ll have learned Gimp or some similar program and will be able to come up with something better.


  3. (Squeal!) So happy that you’re writing a sequel to She Who Comes Forth! I’m going to miss a certain character who died in the first book, but I’m sure there will a new, unique character I’ll fall in love with.

    As for stories languishing on my computer, one of my stories I wrote for Nano this year will not see the light of day. It’s WRONG for me, and I realized it about 3/4 through, darn it. I’m just not a horror-comedy kind of woman. I’ll delete it soon, I’m sure, because I have minimalist tendencies and don’t like extra stuff hanging around.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, I haven’t actually started writing that sequel, but I have beavered up a couple of images for it to give me incentive.
      I’m not a fan of horror comedy, so would never even try to write one.
      I’m with you on minimalism; I try to have only one true draft of my works in progress.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Within the last two years, I cannibalized everything I could from one abortive novel and one unpublished/unpublishable novel. I’m excited to hear that you’ve written a literary novel and have decided to self-publish it. I’d like to read it. I like the first cover much better than the second.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. As I’ve said, yes, I have multiple WIPs languishing away at the moment. I don’t know if it’s an “obligation” I feel towards those stories, but more of a “I really liked the ideas behind the stories, and still want to see if I can finish them” feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have both stories and characters in my head that will never be written, I’m sure. Foremost is the tale of the author of “The Valley of the White Bear,” that Mythmaker drama that gets mentioned in so many of my books. Plus the “White Bear” itself – I would have to writte that, too. And then there is a story about Lew Shermayne, the son of Griffen and Emmie, who has a role as a child in one chapter of The Termite Queen, v.2 – to say nothing of the remainder of Kaitrin Oliva’s life. Remember the Editor’s Note at the end of the Translator’s Foreword in the Ki’shto’ba sequel? “She disappeared under mysterious circumstances on the planet 1 Hasta on 15 October of this year at the age of 70. She is presumed to have died, although her body was never found.”
    And then there is a highly irreverent satiric fantasy about God and how the world came to created so imperfectly …
    Looking forward to the sequel to She Who Comes Forth, for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve found that as well — that a body of related works gives rise to ideas for other works, whether we writers want them or not. On the other hand, it’s like we can’t free ourselves of those stories and move on to other things.
      Knowing how inefficient a writer I am now, the sequel will likely take a couple of years.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sounds like the perfect time to publish it self- publish the book. I got two about 3 chapters with one character who got so tedious that I didn’t know what to do with her. Maybe a bit too autobiographical. ๐Ÿค”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I tend to finish everything I start, Audrey. I think it’s part of being a plotter. I do a lot of developmental work before I even write my first paragraph – bios, world histories, plots, and story structure analysis against my outline. Somehow, knowing where I’m ending, helps me to start. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ll join with all those who like the first cover of your “lit” novel better than the second. It’s lovely. Striking, in fact. It “speaks” to me. lol

    No, I don’t have any old mss languishing. The first three novels I ever wrote went into the waste basket, though I did use some of the material in later work. I do have the beginnings of a couple of short stories that may never make it into print, but I feel no obligation to let them live if they never get beyond that. Sometimes I like to just start typing, and what I type is usually mood, or setting, rather than character. If I never find a character story to fit that mood, then that, too, will be trashed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts on the cover image, Lea. I do like that one myself; I have several versions of it, and lots of time to decide which to use, not to mention create others!
      That’s the thing about being an indie — we’re not under the gun to keep churning out stuff, which means what we do publish is our best work. Maybe we need to articulate that idea to potential readers!


  10. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series Audrey. Thank you for sharing your process. The first book cover is the better one. It speaks of winter and a lonely journey. The second cover doesn’t convey winter and the two figures suggest a romance rather than a journey. My opinion. Take it with a block of salt!

    I always have a some poems in progress but since I haven’t been writing much new stuff, that well is running dry. Next I’ll have to start in on my file of one-liners and actually write poems to go with them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, JeanMarie. I’m glad you liked the series; I had doubts about nattering on about my stuff for 7 posts. Everyone who’s commented likes the first cover, which is actually my favourite right now. The second one doesn’t convey the gloomy aspects all that well, I agree.
      Starting a new writing project takes some nerve, I’ve found. Like jumping out of the plane and hoping your parachute works (not something I’ve done, by the way!)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Another vote for the first cover, here. ๐Ÿ˜€ … I tend to start my stories in the middle, write forward, then work on the ‘backstory’ … I have a couple of backstorys that have been languishing for most of 2020 ( I wonder why!) but I’m slowly getting into them now I have wrangled this new computer into a tool that I’m happy with. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, I’ve heard that the story doesn’t always start where one starts writing it. The important thing is to start somewhere, and work out the order later. Thanks for another vote for the first cover; it’s been unanimous!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I do like that first cover, that will draw folk to the story as the image is evocative of the narrative.
    Not so much languishing as:
    1. ‘Needs tidying up and now that I have discovered ‘Review and Read Aloud’ this must be done’
    2. A Brief footling around with a follow on from ‘The Precipice Dominions’ about twenty years later, but nothing serious.
    3. Maybe putting that series of posts on WP I did on the Fairy Tales format in a tighter novella.
    4. The necessary revision which comes with all ‘great’ works of History which I complied a few years back.
    Not so much languishing as nudging my elbow.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I know Winterreise to listen to and just thinking about Shubert and his early death is sad! I believe singers and pianists really go deep into his words and music, so you are not alone in being obsessed. I shall await with interest to see what you decide to do – I like the first cover.

    Liked by 2 people

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