Friday, June 22, 2012

Novels Eat BRAINS!

by Ernessa T. Carter

I've been trying to figure out how to write this post ever since our current topic cycle of trunk novels was announced. It's not that I never submitted a novel that didn't get published. I totally did. Twice when I was in college. Strangely enough, both query letters were strong enough to get me several requests for partials and one request for a full from agents. Unfortunately the writing was not strong enough to garner me any offers of representation.

Shortly after college, I switched from novel writing to screenwriting. I have several trunk screenplays, and scads of rejections to go with them. But then in 2005, I came back to novel writing, finished my debut novel in 2008, 32 CANDLES, and it sold in 2009.

I have no idea what happened to the hard copies of my college novel and I'm not sure how to go about getting them off their respective hard disks (remember those?).  But in the end, it doesn't really matter, because the truth is, every single thing I write to the end becomes a zombie.

What do I mean by this? I mean, if I finish a thing, I'll recycle and recycle it until it sells in some shape or form. Take for example 32 CANDLES. That started out as a screenplay, which I rewrote twice. Then I finally turned it into a book. My second novel is a floor-to-ceiling remodel of a screenplay I started in grad school. And my third novel is the second college novel, completely leveled and reimagined -- call it Extreme Novel Makeover.

My zombie issue goes so deep that just yesterday, I announced to my writing exchange partner I would start sending her pages from what should have been my original trunk novel next Monday. You see, the very first novel I sent round to agents in college has been the biggest zombie of all. First, I rewrote it as a screenplay twice, then as a TV pilot, then as an adult novel. Now, I'm digging it up again and rewriting it as the YA series I envisioned in college, before YA was big.

Why? I don't know. Something just sticks in my craw about having a trunk novel. As an undergrad, I remember having a very visceral reaction to the story of Emily Dickinson, who lived and died in the nearby town of Amherst. Something just stuck in my craw about someone so talented dying with all of those poems hidden away. As much as I love Emily Dickinson's work, I never wanted to be that person. For whatever reason, I want everything I write to live and breathe out in the open while I am alive.

And when I die, I hope whoever eulogizes me will be able to say, "We checked on her hard drive, and under her bed, and on the top shelf of her closet, and in all her dresser drawers; she left nothing behind."

13 comments:

  1. What a funny post! And good for you bringing back to life your old work.

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    1. Thanks, Karin! Writing this did make me feel like a zombie slayer.

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  2. A truly wonderful post, Ernessa! And again, a completely different take on the trunk novel--when I got to the Emily Dickinson part, I had this vision of you scavenging through her trunk, filled with period clothes, (not poems,idk why) and saying, "If I just rework this seam, it would be a perfect fit..." In the long meantime, I admire your ambition for your personal trunk!

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  3. Ernessa, this was so beautiful and the last line bought tears to my eyes.

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    1. Thanks so much, Lauren. That means a ton coming from you. I really loved your post, too.

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  4. Ha! You are a very green writer-- you like to recycle!! Love the idea of re-invigorating old projects.

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    1. Hahaha, yes. Well, I do love to hug a tree.

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  5. Ha! Love it, Ernessa. I also like the idea that you have these stories in you that in one form or another WILL come out!

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    1. It also helps that my husband feels the exact same way. he was the first person I ever dated, who was like, "I agree. Now actually sit down and rewrite!" Totally changed my life.

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  6. This is wonderful, Ernessa! I love the attitude you bring to writing and the drive you have to put to good use every idea you've got. Thank you for sharing this!

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    1. Thanks, Marilyn. Though, as I said to Samantha, I'm not completely self-propelled. It helps to have a husband whose really supportive of me not just thinking about rewriting but actually doing the physical act of writing.

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  7. Loved this post, Ernessa. So glad you revived 32 Candles. It's a fantastic story. Gives me the motivation to keep working on revisions of two novels. I'd gotten a little discouraged after I decided both needed substantial rewrites. Now I'm realizing that the only thing that matters is that I make both stories the best they can possibly be so they'll be ready for primetime.

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    1. Thanks, Roxanne. I always think the story will tell. If you're passionate enough to keep on rewriting it until it's "ready" then it's good enough to be told.

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