by Shanyn Hosier
I will wager every author has a story bone yard—a collection of unpublished stories in various stages of completion, temporarily (or permanently) abandoned. This is a tale about one of those stories coming back to life.
It began several years ago, when a memory popped into my head. Just a random, pointless recollection of a 30-second conversation in a high school hallway. These flashes happen to most people, right? You chuckle, or tear up, or cringe, then forget it for another 30 years.
But I’m a writer. Curse or blessing, these things stick with me like a burr. So I picked at it like a scab, pulled at loose threads until the idea stretched out, the now misshapen weave unraveled and frayed.
A story was born from those bits. And once sprouted, it took root and spread like kudzu, choking out everything else in its path for a solid year. I wrote for 12 months, word count pouring out of me, yet it still wasn’t finished. Over 200K words, and it still wasn’t done.
As cathartic as it felt to write the plot, to mold the characters, I was terrified, like an avalanche had swallowed me. This manuscript broke a cardinal rule for length—as most novels aim for 80-90K, I had likely passed the Ludicrous Range already—and yet the story still wasn’t complete. Nor did this cold-war coming-of-age tale neatly pigeonhole into any typical romance subgenre. How in the hell would I market this beast? I panicked, convinced no one would ever give this a chance, and I’d just wasted a year of my life.
I set the manuscript aside. Worked on other, much shorter, projects. Published about half a dozen of them. Almost wrote it off completely, holding ideas about it at bay in order to concentrate on other, more accessible work. But my beta reader, bless her heart, kept asking about my semi-abandoned saga, urging me to finish Craig and George’s story.
After I’d published Ingenue in 2014, I sifted through my story idea file, nothing really grabbing me. So I turned to the bone yard, looking for something I could finish up in a few months, maybe publish again before the end of the year. Reading through Craig and George’s story, I started remembering why I’d started writing it in the first place: I wanted to dig through the baggage adolescent sexuality drags along with it, exploring the intersection of that nascent sexuality and feminism through the lens of male and female characters, how the concept of feminism has evolved in the past 30 years, how one’s understanding of it changes from adolescence through adulthood. How sometimes it takes a stranger to see who you really are—and sometimes it takes a true friend to show you what you’ve missed all along.
In short, I fell in love with it again.
Energized, I thought, I can finish this up quick. Maybe even over the summer. While I’m at it, I’ll figure out how to divide it up into smaller, more easily digestible pieces, like a series.
I laugh at those naïve, futile thoughts now. Best laid plans, and all that. This damn story has tied me up in knots like no other book, defying all attempts to wrangle it into manageability. I started writing the re-animated tale of George and Craig in the spring of 2014, thinking I’d only need a few months and 10-12 chapters to wrap it up. I didn’t finish the rough draft until May of 2016. Even with several rounds of huge edits, the entire story—now divided into 2 books each with 2 parts—sits at 256K.
Am I still terrified no one will read it? Yep. Do I have any clue how to market it? Nope. Does any of that matter? Not really. Not anymore. Because I’ve made my peace with it, at long last. It’s the story I set out to tell, polished and shined to the best of my ability. I sure hope people read it, and like it, but I can’t let my sanity and/or self-worth rest on that fragile scale.
Shanyn Hosier adores reading and writing in the same way she loves breathing and eating, deriving a similar nourishment from each. Her next two novels, An Experimental Phase and Theory Versus Practice, are slated for release in September 2016. For more information about current and upcoming releases, please visit her website, www.shanynhosier.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.