The Manuscripts In Lara Lillibridge’s Drawer


I write a lot. I devote the majority of every day to writing, reading, and editing. (It really helps to have a work-and-home SigO who is always working.) I know I’m both incredibly lucky to be able to do so and also incredibly boring by most people’s standards.  I get antsy when I’m away from my work for too long. Even when I travel—and I travel a lot—I write wherever I am.

Just because I write a lot doesn’t mean all of it is good. I have a friend who writes very slowly but every paragraph is beautifully wrought. I write a lot of stuff that in the end I just don’t care enough about to polish and revise and turn into something worth reading, even though I loved every minute of writing the first draft.

Some of those pages had to be gotten out of my system to free up brain space to do other work.  Some stories are only interesting to me. And some stories are so badly written that it’s easier to start from scratch than try to fix them. But each page gets me closer to becoming the writer I want to be.

I have several manuscripts in the drawer, accumulated over the last 10 years:

  • the four romances I wrote while pregnant. (480 pages)
  • the memoir about my first marriage, written before grad school. (175 pages)
  • the novel about gender, sex, and power. (257 pages)
  • a series of children’s books about the globe trotting gay grandmas

And that doesn’t count all the half-finished essays and blogs that are fluttering about in my virtual filing cabinet like unloved butterflies. Oh, and my thesis is in there, too.

I wrote my 125-page thesis with no intention of publishing it. I needed desperately to write about sex and relationships and heartbreak and family. I loved my thesis, but it was far too intimate for me to even think about publishing back then. But I didn’t throw it away. Some of it turned up in Girlish, and some of it will turn up in Only Mama. There are a few essays in there I plan to harvest and publish as stand-alone pieces one of these days. By the time I die, I’m sure I’ll have consumed the entire thing in bites and chunks. Which reminds me—don’t throw anything away. Ever. I horde cut chapters and paragraphs and even really good sentences. You never know when they’ll come in handy.

That’s around 1,000 pages of material I don’t plan on using, and I’m OK with that. When I first started writing, each page was like a pint of blood. The idea of scrapping even 10 pages felt like a substantial loss. Now I realize how much time and energy revising takes, and I’m not adverse to stuffing something into my laptop’s file cabinet and moving on. I’ll circle back to some of them, eventually.

Author: Lara Lillibridge

Lara Lillibridge sings off-beat and dances off-key. She writes a lot, and sometimes even likes how it turns out. Her memoir, Girlish, available for preorder on Amazon, is slated for release in February 2018 with Skyhorse Publishing. Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In 2016 she won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest, and The American Literary Review's Contest in Nonfiction. She has had essays published in Pure Slush Vol. 11, Vandalia, and Polychrome Ink; on the web at Hippocampus, Crab Fat Magazine, Luna Luna, Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, and Airplane Reading, among others. Read her work at