I had a couple of youthful attempts at novels, and four completed books written, before I finished a book that I sold. Here’s the rundown:
1. The Weirdo Zone, which I thought was a novel when I was in fourth grade, upon reflection, is a novelette at best. Oh, well. I was nine, what do you expect? (It had an unfinished sequel, The Time Lords , which is funny, since I never even heard of Doctor Who until years later). Still, it was my first “book,” filling a wide-ruled yellow spiral-bound composition book.
2. The Squad. I wrote probably 50,000 words of this in junior high, and it was, improbably, a war novel. I have no idea what possessed me to do such a thing, but I remember researching (read: looking at encyclopedia articles) about asymmetrical warfare and guerilla fighters (and watching John Wayne WWII movies on TV). It was about a Suicide Squad-esque group of misfits, special forces soldiers with severe mental problems — MPD, psychogenic fugues, schizophrenia, pathological lying, etc. I think I was trying to write a version of the A-Team that consisted entirely of Howling Mad Murdocks.
3. Shannon’s God (1997). The summer after my sophomore year in college I wrote this contemporary fantasy about a college student who starts seeing monsters in her town and falls into a feud between two sorcerers (one of whom has delusions of grandeur and thinks he’s actually God — and he’s the good wizard). Featured an assassin character named Walker who I’m rather fond of, though I pretty much rolled his best characteristics into my character Mr. Zealand, who appears in my Marla Mason books.
4. Raveling (1998). The summer after junior year I wrote this long, multiple-viewpoint novel about the daughters of a crazy god — or, at least, a powerful entity from another universe which may as well be a god. It’s written badly and the plot is a wreck, but I love the characters, and I always think I’ll return to the book sometime and try to salvage it, though it’d take a page-one rewrite, so don’t hold your breath.
5. Infants and Tyrants (1998/99). Written over Christmas break in my senior year, this was a superhero novel, and the villain was a six-month old telekinetic genius (incredible intelligence, but the utter self-centeredness of an infant). His mother, a third-rate superheroine, has to stop him. It’s wacky. The novel took place in the world of my story “Captain Fantasy and the Secret Masters,” but set about fifty years earlier. I decided it’s better as backstory than as a book of its own.
6. The Genius of Deceit (1999). Contemporary fantasy with a basis in Hindu mythology. I wrote it in the fall after my senior year, right after Clarion, mostly to dispel any chance of a post-Clarion writing slump. I think it was reasonably successful, actually. I made a stab at rewriting it as a young adult novel but it didn’t work out so well; too bad, as I still think the plot rocks.
7. Ferocious Dreamers (2000). My first attempt at a novel about Marla Mason. Went completely off the rails about 55,000 words in. Unfinished, never will be finished, but I strip-mined some of the ideas for my book Poison Sleep.
The next year I started writing Rangergirl, which sold, and so far I’ve sold (or still hope to sell) every book I’ve written since. But right up there’s where most of my Million Words of Crap were generated…