Posted in Miscellany

why do writers never finish novels or worse, destroy them?

Why would a novel be, in Chabon’s parlance, “wrecked”? Authors, always sensitive creatures, might abandon a book in a fit of despair, as Stephenie Meyer initially did in 2008 with her “Twilight” spinoff “Midnight Sun,” which she declared herself “too sad” to finish after 12 chapters leaked to the Internet. More dramatically, in 1925 Evelyn Waugh burned his unpublished first novel, “The Temple at Thatch,” and attempted to drown himself in the sea after a friend gave it a bad review. (Stung by jellyfish, Waugh soon returned to shore.) More dramatically still, Nikolai Gogol died a mere 10 days after burning the manuscript of “Dead Souls II,” for the second time.

I found this article fascinating and so reassuring! I abandoned my first novel. I just couldn’t figure out how to write it. I could do it now, but I don’t really have any interest in writing a story across the generations, nor did I then really. It was just all the what-ifs and why is she/he this way that got out of hand then.

And there was my Soviet novel, never completed though the research was fascinating because the research taught me how bleak and hopeless and utterly unromantic the Eastern front had been.

And my Chicago 1/2 novel, which got cut out of my London novel, and replaced, well, by London. My favourite bit of it is here.

So all is not lost!



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

4 thoughts on “why do writers never finish novels or worse, destroy them?

  1. I haven’t had a chance to read this article yet, but it sounds great. Isn’t every novel a learning experience, whether finished or not? Well, that’s the positive way to look at it, I suppose. If you’ve burned your novel like Gogol, there might be something else going on.

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