I am a writer. And when I grow up, I want to get paid beaucoup bucks to write. I want to buy my parents new houses sans mortgage and I want to fly all over the world at a moment’s notice and never sit in coach again.
But until such time as my writing is supporting me in a manner to which I plan to become accustomed, I maintain a sense of humor about my changing ideas and abilities.
To that end, I present to you the five most embarrassing books I almost wrote.
5. The Playhouse
This one isn’t terrible, more like just terribly BORING. It started out as this wandering, reminiscent narrative about a little girl who gets a playhouse for her birthday. She lived with her mother in a small house in the poorer part of town, and her mother was working three jobs and barely making ends meet. The girl had never met her father, but he was out there somewhere, as evidenced by the beautiful, intricately made pink playhouse that arrived on a large truck the morning of her eighth birthday.
I don’t know why he sent it. I don’t know why he was rich and they were poor. I don’t know why he sent the playhouse instead of a freaking check since they were practically dressing like hobos but bearing their poverty with as much dignity as possible, but that’s what happened.
I digressed to discussing the decline of the neighborhood; the setup of their shabby but somehow charming home; how the mother was always so tired but hopeful that someday her daughter would have a better future. Really original. Really riveting stuff.
The mother was beautiful and hardworking and kind. The daughter was spunky and helpful. The mystery father was enigmatic but not in a “don’t go in that haunted house or evil spirits will chop you up kind of way.” More like a “oh look! it’s Casper the Friendly Ghost!” kind of way; you don’t really understand him, you just like him.
I have no idea where the notebook is that I filled with pages and pages of drivel about the beautiful, hardworking, kind mother and her spunky, helpful daughter, but all I can think is that she should have probably been pissed if this bad boy rolled up on her daughter’s birthday instead of a check:
I mean, come on.
Get out that checkbook and get with the program, Casper the Friendly Ghost/Baby Daddy, or Mama is about to chop up that sucker and sell it for firewood.
Also, get real, eighth-grade self. Your story sucks.
4. Untitled Bodice Ripper
I was in kindergarten when my youngest sister was born. My parents kept no secrets from us about the birds and the bees. They told us: you’re going to have a little brother or sister and this is how he or she got here. Well the sneaky part about all that up-front medical talk about eggs and stuff was that it was actually over my head, and so it was more theoretical than informative at the time, even if I did spend an unnatural amount of time calling my classmates “dummy” because they thought the baby was in my mom’s tummy and I knew it was in her uterus (real charmer I was).
I continued in my trend of theoretical rather than practical knowledge as I grew up. We didn’t have sex ed in school because I went to Jesus Schools and in Jesus School all they really tell you about sex is DON’T and if you have any further questions you may consult your parents or your pastor. Mostly what I had from my parents was scientific, and I preferred it that way.
So at a time when many of my peers were feeling each other up in dark movie theaters or ditching their v-cards before they had their drivers licenses, I was reading teen historical romance novels. They look pretty much the same as the adult historical romance novels and follow basically the same plot lines: smart, innocent (but secretly sexy) female lead is secretly/illicitly in love/lust with the hunky, usually tortured/secretive/rich male lead who is either a duke or a viscount or an assassin or something and their uncle or aunt or father or somebody doesn’t want them together and someone always almost dies but eventually they get married and there are at least three major sexytime scenes either pre- or post-wedding night (and one of them is often the wedding night, in which they consummate their burning attraction for one another. Caution: popping buttons and broken corset strings may follow).
The the major difference between the adult novels and the teen novels is that the teen protagonists mostly just get kissed passionately in carriages while the adult protagonists engage in actual intercourse in carriages. These types of books comprised the majority of my teen sex ed, along with a few doses of Cosmo and Redbook, which I actually found horrifyingly graphic and vaguely nauseating until I was about twenty-two. C’est la vie.
Anyway, my mass consumption of these novels (I could zip through one in an afternoon or so) resulted in me deciding to write my own Regency tale about a smart, innocent (but secretly sexy) girl who meets a hunky guy in a bookstore and OF COURSE he is taken with her immediately and wants to take her on a magic carpet ride and show her the world and stuff. Except it was in Regency London so instead he tries to dance with her at every ball during the Season and offers her a lot of punch and tries to get her to sneak onto balconies with him “to get some fresh air.” …riiiiiiight.
My book essentially amounted to a re-hashing of my favorite steamy scenes from various romance novels I’d read. The guys hardly ever even copped a feel, but all that heavy breathing and passionate kissing seemed pretty intense to me at the time.
(Fun fact, this one was my favorite for quite some time:
Anna was a sassy mcsass skirt who read sexy Scottish poetry so I was a big fan. I also liked her silky ribbons and dainty gloves. I was also embarrassingly rather taken by Teen Fabio’s swishy hair and excellent coattails.)
This prose was discarded circa 2007 so no, you can’t read it.
3. I Can Hear Voices a.k.a. The One About Abortion
When I was fifteen I wrote what I thought was a heart-wrenching short story about a fetus who (spoiler alert) is aborted by his/her teen mother. Parts of it were pretty good but most of it was overdone and melodramatic. I probably could have turned it into something rather touching without losing its aestheticism, but instead I went the overdone and melodramatic route.
I expanded the short story so you could get more of the background about how the mother fell for the guy and had bad, evil premarital sex and then was impregnated out of wedlock, because obviously everyone who has bad, evil premarital sex will INSTANTLY BECOME IMPREGNATED and be left with no choice but to abort the baby.
I’m being a little dramatic here, but it is only to emphasize how bad and dramatic the actual story itself was. Someone probably could write a gripping account of a fetus listening to its mother discuss with other people about whether or not she should abort the baby. Unfortunately, that person was not fifteen-year-old me.
Another one for the slush pile.
2. Once Upon A Time
I started this gem in the fifth grade. It was originally intended to be a short fairy tale, but I kept it on a floppy disk and every so often all the way through sixth grade, I’d pop that puppy into the family Windows 98 and add a few paragraphs to the bloated Word document until the clever, heartfelt short story I began at age 10 had turned into a raging monster of flowery descriptions and prepubescent romantic longings of a very sheltered 12-year-old.
It started out as the story of two sisters, Grace and Estrella. (ESTRELLA MEANS STAR IN SPANISH SO ISN’T THAT A PRETTY NAME?! said fifth-grade self. Vomit.) They’re princesses (of course). Grace is blind and Estrella is not and since they’re twins I guess that’s how you can tell them apart. Except randomly in the story Grace’s parents pay for her to have a very expensive surgery in another country to restore her sight and then the twins are the same and neither one of them is blind.
This is a fairy tale. As in, a tale about magic.
And her parents…paid for an expensive surgery to restore her sight? No fairy dust? No genie wishes? No enchanted stream in an enchanted forest? I was an imaginative and romantic child, but I think this plot choice demonstrates a fatal lack of appropriate sentimentality in one of my early works.
Anyway the non-blind sisters go about their merry lives until one day the spoiled Prince Calvineero (because God forbid his name just be Calvin or Cal; it just had to be short for something) comes to visit as a potential suitor for one of the girls. Eventually through a series of sickeningly sweet and unrealistic encounters the three become friends, but love blooms between Calvin and Estrella. So when they get a little older they are married and Cal sweeps Princess It-Means-Star-In-Spanish off to his amazing kingdom. And there were no hard feelings about Grace being left to become an old maid, because the hot prince didn’t want her even though she wasn’t even blind anymore.
Then one night Grace is missing her sister who has gone far away with her true love to be a princess somewhere else, so she starts crying. You would think that crying in the privacy of your fancy princess bedroom late at night in your parents’ fancy castle wouldn’t be a big deal, but apparently Grace’s weeping disturbs an evil spirit whose origins go unexplained for the duration of this magical tale.
He magics himself into her bedroom (creepy) and starts hissing at her about her “pathetic sniveling” disturbing him or something. So to punish her he seals her lips. When he figures out that she was crying because of her sister, he says he will kill her sister (totally makes sense, right?). Then he disappears. Then Grace has to go on these quests to save her sister’s life because obviously she is super noble and brave because she had surgery to make her eyes better and also wasn’t even jealous when the hot prince chose her sister instead of her.
Let’s pause again. Around this time in real life, Star Wars: Episode II came out in theaters. My older sister and I were COMPLETELY INFATUATED with Teen Anakin/Hayden Christensen. I don’t know. Maybe when you’re twelve the pouting and sulking and whining and creepy staring he does at Amidala is hot. It sure seemed that way then.
Anyway, we saw it in theaters over and over and waited for hours while video clips of that hunky Anakin loaded (remember when everybody had dial-up and it really did take hours to load videos? But we were devoted and he was always worth the wait). And so, oddly enough, in my story, the brave questing Grace meets a stable boy who is training to become a member of an elite group of warriors within the kingdom. Of course they are not allowed to fall in love or marry or have families. So what do you think Grace and Hot Stable Boy/Warrior in Training do?
Duh, they fall in love.
And of course I write scenes inspired by classics such as these:
Because at the time, the costumes and scenery seemed incredibly picturesque. And naturally, there’s just somethin’ about good, old fashioned forbidden love.
I don’t know what ever became of Princess No-Longer-Blind Grace (definitely didn’t use that plot device to its fullest potential) or Princess Estrella (who evidently had ZERO personality, but maybe that’s what Cal liked about her), but I will say this: if you ever find this floppy disk, I feel sorry for you.
1. On Thin Ice
This is the most embarrassing and potentially dangerous admission of writerly failure, since this one was actually on the Internet at one point. The only good thing about the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2011 was that every single paragraph of horrible prose (and all the accompanying notes) were lost, Lord willing never to be recovered.
On Thin Ice was Harry Potter fanfiction.
Sister #3 and I went through an intense, vaguely disturbing phase between 2005 and 2006 in which we read as much Harry Potter fanfiction as we could find. And if you search for “Harry Potter fanfiction” you will quickly see that there is an absurd amount from which to choose. There are parodies, songs, stories about what would happen if Harry Potter characters were on game shows. There are crossovers between every imaginable book and TV show and movie. There are endless romantic pairings; some of them are sort of interesting to contemplate, while others are downright, abso-freaking-lutely NOT OKAY. (The one I always found the most disturbing was the Hermione/Snape. Yes. People went there. It was distressing.)
My story was about two sisters who transfer to Hogwarts from their magical school in the United States. The older sister was the same age as Harry and his classmates, but even though she was roomies with Hermione, Draco had a crush on her and was totes talking to her in the corridors all the time, because obviously that’s way more edgy than if she just met some nice boy or something.
There were a lot of bad things about this story. One of them was the absurd explanation about how their father had died and he was British or something and so now they were legacy kids or something and that’s why American children could now go to Hogwarts. Because….just because. Another bad thing about this story was how obnoxiously PEPPY the main character was, with her long, curly dark hair and signature red hair ribbon (not that I was sixteen with long, wavy hair and a propensity for wearing hair ribbons to match my school uniform. Nope.). It wasn’t even the inane conversation the main character carries on with her new Gryffindor buddies in the compartment on the way to school about “gits” and “prats” and other British slang.
It was the sport I invented.
In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, I’m basically a lost cause when it comes to sports. But apparently I thought I could just invent a wizarding sport and it would be pretty sweet. It was called Bellorum, which means ‘of wars’ or something stupid in Latin. It was played on ice, and it was fast and exciting, but MOST IMPORTANTLY the girls could wear leggings or swishy skirts and there were endless opportunities for my long-haired main character to whip her lovely locks around while playing this wizarding sport on ice and making all the boys drop dead with longing at her ice skate-clad feet.
The combination of this aesthetics-rule-all sport and the stacks and stacks of cheesy romance novels that I devoured as a teenager suggest to me that I have an insidious streak of anti-girl power lying in wait somewhere within me.
I am beginning to think that I overcompensated and attempted to quash these gooey, sentimental, girly tendencies by joining the Army. Whoops.
I issue to you an earnest request. For the good of both mankind and the future of literature, if you ever happen across any snippets of prose from the above tales, please destroy it immediately. Based on my descriptions, these stories sound pretty ridiculous, right? Badly written, indulgent and cringe-worthy. Well you know what? So are Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey and both those travesties of literature now have movie deals.
I want literary fame and a movie deal, but if the cost is the publication and subsequent adaptation of one of the above five books, I think I’ll just stick to Ramen and clipping coupons.