Half a Million Words of Garbage

The villain of one of my awful fantasy novels, as drawn by my talented sister, Paulina D.

They say every writer has half a million words of garbage in them, and you need to get most of them out before really establishing a writing career. This makes me glad I started writing early. (My earliest memory of writing is sitting at the kitchen table, asking Mom to spell each word out individually so I could write a story about Santa Claus. That story probably never got finished, but it certainly started me on the way to half a million words!)

So, to help everyone feel less ashamed about going through this process, here are some samples from my first half a million words.

1) James and Dan: This was a story written entirely in dialogue. Entirely. Just the words the characters said and only the words the characters said – without any descriptive sentences, sentences not in quotation marks, or even “he said” or “she said.” Yeah, somehow I got it into my head that a truly great story would contain dialogue and nothing else. To be fair, I was in Grade 2. Here’s a sample (I fixed punctuation a bit):

 “James, I want meat, cooked meat.”

“Fine, Dan.”

“James, look! Buffalo! We can kill one and eat its meat and it will last forever! Throw rocks at it, then it will die.”

Wham, whip, wham.” (author’s note: this was meant to indicate them actually throwing rocks)

“Dear me, it’s going to chase us…”

“Quick! Run, heeeeelllllllllp! Heeellp! AAA! Aaaaaa!”

“Oh, bear! It’s going to kill us too!”

etc, etc… (for approximately eighteen notebook pages…)

 2) Rags and Riches: The plot was a decent idea, it was fun to write, and collaborating with three of my best friends to write this wasn’t the problem either. The problem was not setting this story in any specific time period or place. The four of us were deliberately trying to imitate Christian historical romance novels, without knowing much about history. And I do mean history in general, since the story was a mish-mash of elements from the eighteenth century (such as dancing gavottes) to the nineteenth century, and included other unbelievable elements such as attempted suicide, and the male protagonist giving a tearful goodbye to the heroine while slowly dying from a broken neck. A recommendation – don’t try this if you want to get published. I’ve got a drawer full of rejection letters to prove it doesn’t work.

 “Nice evening, isn’t it?” Joshua said conversationally of the late summer weather. Selene stiffened. She was in no mood to talk to this banker’s son, not when his father, Mr. Stirling, was inside her house with her parents, discussing foreclosure. All her life she had lived in relative prosperity, and now they stood to lose it all because of debt, and here Joshua Stirling was, making small talk!

“You probably know what they’re talking about inside,” he said. Selene nodded, her mouth tightening with dislike for the person in front of her.

“Things may be hard for you,” he told her.

Selene’s eye narrowed. “We shall lose everything,” she said shortly.

“Have you thought of getting married?” he asked. “You’re young, you’re pretty. You could easily catch a rich husband.”

Selene turned to stare at him in shock. Anger bubbled beneath her calm exterior. In front of her Joshua stood confidently.

“Excuse me?” she asked quietly.

“Selene, I want you to marry me,” he told her. His dark eyes turned towards her, as if sure of her response.

Selene drew herself up at his nerve. Her face quivered with shock.

“How dare you,” she hissed, spots of colour appearing on her cheeks.

He looked at her in surprise, then said slowly, “Well… I thought since your father had debts…”

“You think I would desert my family for you?” she shrieked. “How dare you! I would never do so!” She brought her hand back and smacked Joshua’s cheek hard enough to leave a glaring red handprint. He stared at her, open-mouthed.

I’ve also: Attempted to re-write Romeo and Juliet as an overblown melodrama where the Montagues and the Capulets launch a civil war and Juliet has to learn how to be a nurse (she also was supposed to fall in love with Mercutio). Started a sci-fi kidnapping story inspired by Star Wars, despite the fact I know nothing about space and have a love-hate relationship with sci-fi. Wrote a fantasy trilogy that starts in a magical school, like Harry Potter, and ends in an epic battle, à la Lord of the Rings. And so on, and so on…

What’s the most embarrassing things you’ve ever produced?


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Filed under On Writing, Randoms & My Life

6 responses to “Half a Million Words of Garbage

  1. Alexia

    Humm the most embarrassing thing I ever wrote… Probably the first story I’ve ever put on paper (actual paper, cause I didn’t have a computer at the time) : it was supposed to be a simple story about twins who dislike each other cause they’re different and don’t understand what the other likes but end up making peace – I know, sooo original. But then I got a little overboard and they were kidnapped by a queen vampire and there was also some demons and torture I think if someone had seen this I would have been in therapy for most of my childhood lol! My biggest problem always was that I came up with a plot easily but when it came to writing it down I never knew how to put it and gave up after two pages… A little better now, but everything I write is for myself so maybe I’m not the best judge^^


  2. When I was a kid (probably 4-7), my dad had an old monochromatic Apple II Plus. he would set up the word processor for me and I would pound on the keyboard pushing random buttons and screaming “GARBAGE! GARBAGE!” in joy. Hopefully that nonsense took a big chunk out of my half million.


  3. Pingback: Why Writers Should Take a History Degree | Stories and Stuff

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