Just because they’re in the trunk doesn’t mean that they didn’t help you.

I have to confess that when I eyed the topic for this week that I didn’t really want to write about it. I have a bunch of trunked manuscripts, and all of them are tied into a traumatic time in my life that I never want to revisit. I was much younger. I didn’t know as much about the world. Three pages in, and I start cringing.

On top of that, a trunked manuscript represents a lot of time spent pouring yourself into work that might not necessarily see fruition, let alone the light of day. Trunking something is traumatic. I didn’t really want to go back and relive that time I spent a year on an epic fantasy only to finish the first draft, read it, and have a quiet, sinking feeling that it just wasn’t a good enough book.

At the same time, though, trunked manuscripts are an investment in yourself. Writing a novel is hard. Writing a good novel is even more difficult. But it’s like plumbing, or painting, or physics, or any other skill—the more you practice, the more you do it, the better you get. And it’s absolutely fabulous if you can do it the very first or second time without a hitch, but that doesn’t happen to everyone.

Before Architects of Memory, I wrote two real, full manuscripts that got trunked—more often, I’d realize the idea was bad before getting through the halfway point. One was during high school and was basically a Star Trek-esque fanfiction before I knew what fanfiction was. It’s now locked away on a floppy disk, never to be seen again, probably. The second novel was finished in 2009—the aforementioned epic fantasy—and maybe someday I’d like to look at it again. I don’t know. I’m not as interested in the world of the book as I used to be, because 2016 happened and 2020 happened and the problems people had in those books were 2009 problems. Life is short. Why spend time on 2009 problems when 2020 is happening?

I think the best thing to do with a trunked manuscript is to find what it taught you and value that thing. For me, finishing the epic fantasy taught me that I could finish something that long and that complex and interesting, and that was more important at that time in my life than any other monetary hope or career goal. I tumbled into a crazy time in my life after that—working eighty hours a week trying to get my wedding video business running, with no time to write—and remembering that I could finish at all helped me feel comfortable with starting Architects of Memory.

So thanks, trunked manuscripts. You got me to where I am today.

Now stay in the drawer.

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Karen Osborne

KAREN OSBORNE is a writer, visual storyteller and violinist. Her short fiction appears in Escape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny and Fireside. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding. Her debut novel, Architects of Memory, is forthcoming in 2020 from Tor Books.

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