novel meme

A variety of people are doing this as a quasi-meme thing, apropos of a discussion about writers selling or not selling their first novels, and which ones are the first ones to sell. So here’s my own litany of the books I’ve written.

0. Attempted Vervain Novel — this happened around 1996 or so, give or take a year. It’s the first time I recall deciding I was going to finish a novel. I failed, for a variety of reasons, one of which was that I didn’t realize the pace I had set for myself was way too high, and thus my non-outlining self wrote itself into a corner. The setting and characters, however, may still yet see the light of day . . . eventually.

1. The Novel Formerly Known as Shadow of the Sidhe — currently languishing under the less-than-inspiring replacement title Emerald and Gold. Concept formed circa 1997; first draft completed October 1999. Substantially rewritten in fall 2001, maybe winter 2002. Near-future urban fantasy, set at college. I wrote it while at college, but the setting actually came to me in high school, for which I blame Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin. Unsold, but I have every intention of seeing it in print someday, along with the two sequels I want to write.

2. Doppelganger — soon to be retitled Warrior. Concept formed circa 1997 (around the same time as #1); first draft completed August 2000. My first novel sold, in 2004, as a part of a two-book deal with the then-untitled Warrior and Witch. Published April 2006. I conciously conceived of it as my attempt at a more complex plot, hence the two-protagonist structure (which has ended up a pattern with me). Written as stand-alone, but since both this and #1 end with a major change in the world, it wasn’t hard to spin out consequences for a sequel.

3. The Kestori Hawks — concept formed circa 1998 or 1999, I think; first draft completed Feb. 2001. The base idea was supposed to be Robin Hood, but that kind of fell apart due to the main character’s complete reluctance to act in a heroic or even proactive fashion. It was supposed to be my attempt at more complex characterization, but unfortunately this led to Leonard drowning in his own trauma. I should have realized, when Eleanor and Luke started hijacking the plot for its own good, that the book needed a good re-thinking. Currently trunked, and likely to stay that way.

4. Sunlight and Storm — concept formed summer 2000; first draft completed August 2001. Fantasy western. My initial attempt was a flaming disaster, so I rewrote it practically from scratch in fall 2001 or winter 2002. (Basically I can’t remember which I rewrote first, Novel #1 or this one.) Second draft is better, but I’d need to give it a third go before I try to sell it, this time with extra helpings of western research. I’d like to do that someday, but it won’t be any time soon.

5. The Vengeance of Trees — idea staged a mental coup d’etat March 2002; first draft completed May 2002. I was supposed to be writing Novel #6, not a quasi-Italian renaissance theatre fantasy. Apparently my subconscious had other plans. Unsold, but I really want to see this one in print eventually.

6. The Waking of Angantyr — concept formed fall 2001; first draft completed July 2003. The bastard child of my senior thesis on Viking weapons, this is a big ol’ revenge epic with berserkers and ghosts and blood magic and all that good stuff. As with #5, unsold, but I hope that will change.

7. Warrior and Witch — sold in 2004 with its prequel Doppelganger; first draft completed August 2005. Published October 2006. This was my first experience in selling a novel before it was written.

8. Midnight Never Come — contract signed in spring of 2006, but we didn’t settle on this being my next book until March 2007, at which point I cranked out a first draft by August. Elizabethan faerie spy fantasy, due out in June. The concept dates back to June 2006, when I ran my RPG Memento.

9. Super-Sekrit Projekt CHS — YA urban fantasy, currently being shopped around. First draft completed Feb. 2008.

Future stuff:

10. And Ashes Lie — second book for the 2006 contract, and a seventeenth-century sequel to MNC. English Civil War and Great Fire of London.

11. SSPCHS #2
12. SSPCHS #3 — ideally #9 will be sold as a trilogy, and then I can write the next two books.

13. Onyx Court #3
14. Onyx Court #4
15. Onyx Court #5 — I have potential ideas for three more Onyx Court books, though they are at present unsold. I’ll keep you updated on that.

For a while there during college I was averaging more than a book a year; if you count in the two rewrites, I think it goes up to about 1.7 a year. Which is encouraging, given my plans for my future. If I can manage that while joint-concentrating at Harvard, I can manage this, right?

0 Responses to “novel meme”

  1. daobear

    Thanks. This was really interesting. I’m impressed that you managed to crank out so many books while also being a student, and without any certainty that you would actually sell any of them. I guess that perseverance is what it takes to be a successful novelist, but I probably would have given up if I couldn’t sell my first one.

    The Waking of Angantyr sounds cool. I hope you can publish that one at some point. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to MNC.

    • Marie Brennan

      I wanted to tell the stories in my head, and doing so kept me distracted while I waited to hear back from editors. And you have to realize how slow that latter part is: by the time it was starting to look like I couldn’t sell my first one, it was my senior year, and I’d already written three others. But I had good ideas for revising it, so it wasn’t dead yet. Doppelganger didn’t look like it was running out of places to sell until 2004, and then lo and behold, it sold.

  2. sora_blue

    Wow. You did all this while attending university full time?


    (I feel really inexperienced now.)

    • Marie Brennan

      Sometimes the stories fall out of your head quickly, and sometimes they don’t. It varies wildly from writer to writer.

      As for the earliness of it all happening, as I said over on Toby Buckell’s blog, it’s just that I decided much sooner than most people do that I really and truly was going to be a writer. Made the decision at 10, got serious about it at 18, and this is the result.

      • sora_blue

        I meant more that I look at the range and variety of ideas you’ve written and I feel inexperienced. My list is long, but it’s all some what interconnected. You have a lot of stand alone ideas. 🙂

        (I didn’t get serious until… oh, 2005, I guess.)

        • Marie Brennan

          Ah, I see.

          I have two sources for lots of interconnected ideas, but one of them (the source of #0, the Attempted Vervain Novel) I deliberately set aside around 1999 or so, knowing that I needed to take time away from it before I’d have the perspective necessary to fix it. The other, the Nine Lands, has yet to produce novel ideas determined enough to make me write them. (Though there’s one that’s been The Novel I’m Going To Write Real Soon Now since The Vengeance of Trees butted its way in line.)

          I deliberately prodded myself to come up with different things and especially stand-alones because I didn’t see much value to pouring a lot of work into a project if I hadn’t yet sold the first piece of it. Now, sometimes hearing there’s more beyond the first book will help pique a publisher’s interest — but that wasn’t the tactic I ended up following.

          • sora_blue

            I think there’s different approaches. One develops many stand alone ideas, and another is to throw everything into whatever you’re currently writing. (Everything meaning idea-wise. As most people put their efforts into whatever their currently writing.)

            Like a lot of things it’s whatever happens to work for the writer. Although, I admit for publishing the many different ideas on their own is probably a wiser move. 🙂

    • kniedzw

      (I feel really inexperienced now.)She’s also quite probably certifiable, you know.

    • Marie Brennan

      No, he didn’t — remember us saving him in the nick of time? <g>

      I take it you weren’t aware of the uses to which I put my college years, though.

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