Time is finite, but sometimes, ideas seem to come from an inexhaustible source like a dam break somewhere high over your head. No matter how much you wish you could, you can’t write and finish every concept that ever comes to you. Some ideas are forgotten, some get shoved in the draw, some get started and some get rewritten and rewritten and rewritten, but are still never finished. Oh well.
But when you think of your favourite (dead) authors, don’t you wonder what brilliant ideas they had that were never finished?
The Mystery of Edwin Drood is probably the best example of a classic unfinished novel. Dickens had written 6 chapters and published 3 when he suffered a stroke and died. This left his reading public with the ultimate cliffhanger, no idea who killed the uncle and no chance of ever finding out.
Likewise, The Garden of Eden The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway was also left unfinished by the author’s death. However seeing as he had been working on this sexuality-bending honeymoon drama for 15 years already, who knows if the work was really on the top of his to-do list.
If you write every day, it seems inevitable that one story will die with you, but there are many more that will never make it.
Some authors obviously lose a lot of sleep over the idea that some stories are destined never to be. Patricia Highsmith went as far as to write a novel about an author who has hundreds of story ideas and never manages to complete a single one. The stories in this novel were her own unfinished ideas. Actually, that’s a lie. Funnily enough, Highsmith only ever outlined that story and never completed it. Cue Alanis Morrisette…. Or perhaps Highsmith was just making the ultimate meta-literary-statement.
But then she never had the internet. Oh, sweet blessing and curse. She didn’t have all these pages to distract herself with, but she didn’t have a platform to spew her unperfected ideas onto either.
But I do. Hurrah!!
So without further ado… Here are my top 5 unfinished (possibly amazing (if you use your imagination)) works of pure literature.
1. The Mouth and the Castle
Oh, my. In this, my first and only venture into fantasy territory, a primitive world exists on the surface of a planet with the accessible remains of a much more developed civilisation lying below. The people on the surface mine the treasures of the world beneath, getting richer and more developed with every generation, unaware that the mining is undermining the stability of their world and encouraging another eruption, the same one which wiped out their ancestors. The catch here is that this world was only reachable through a very narrow cave, which was impossible to widen. So generally only children could enter and occasionally, children went in and couldn’t come out again when their heads grew too big. A civilisation of ‘others’ lives on a mountain cliff high above them and the people think these unreachables are gods. But they’re not. They’re just a branch of the previous civilisations that survived. They want a second eruption to try to stabilise their sinking substructures and increase their lands.
The story is about a young girl who uncovers the truth, but it is a race against time to provide the evidence needed to convince the adults to stop making the kids mine. Will she be successful before she grows too large? Will she get stuck next time? Well, I never got past the first 40k words, so I guess we’ll never know.
2. The Monsoon Meal of a Roppongi Jungle Crow
In 2003, I spent a summer living and working (and occasionally learning Japanese) in Tokyo. They do things differently over there. In between witnessing kidnapped children being rescued by swat teams from the apartment across the road from mine, seeing Hollywood celebrities stopping traffic to pose on crossings and getting financial advice from the Hong Kong mafia, I partied – a lot… Almost every evening I would walk down to the entertainment district of Roppongi to cash in on the free drinks given out to white girls by many of the clubs. Days and nights and days and nights tended to merge together into single sticky messes. Then after I’d been there about a month, the rainy season started. For weeks on end, I walked everywhere under an umbrella hardly making daylight eye contact with another living soul. I developed 4 or 5 Tokyo-based short stories under that umbrella and one night, was wondering what to call the collection when a jungle crow screamed above my head. I looked up from under my streaming umbrella and saw him sitting on one of those illuminated billboards, his feather wet and sleek. he was very handsome…. I liked those crows, they were smart and weird and not afraid of anything. They were proper grifters. But now my stomach lurched. In his claw, hanging off the edge of the box, its head limp and wet, was a white and ginger cat. It was literally, one of those little waving kitties you see at every shop and restaurant. I saw it’s dead marble eyes, but I smelt its guts too. Right then, I knew I had a title, but it didn’t motivate me to finish the collection or write the title story.
3. We All Have That One Friend
“From the very moment he shook his hand, Simon knew that he was either going to kill Harry Wentworth, have sex with his girlfriend or steal his boat…” That was the opening line. The first chapter was a long one… too long some might say… but I liked the premise. This guy Simon was going to do 1 of 3 things to posh boy Harry. What would it be? Ha! You know, it’s going to be all 3… but the twist was, at the end of chapter 1 it was Harry who killed Simon. And then the real story was to begin.
The only problem was, I had another book on the go at the same time and just couldn’t settle on what Harry was up to in the bigger picture…I will, though … one day…
4. Peace on Earth
In a very near, post-Brexit Britain, a transgender man is convicted of a crime and must take a course of medicine designed to create empathy. The drug has never been used on someone a born woman before and the empathy becomes so powerful that he learns to read minds. He uses this super power to earn money, working for the richest people and eventually becomes the richest person in the world, but the mind reading empathy leaves him so traumatised by all the human and animal evil that he decides to invest his wealth in the destruction of the planet. ‘Peace on Earth’.
I thought of this after watching a programme about adult penguins sexually abusing baby penguins until they died. I had that thought… wtf Planet Earth? Seriously. WTF?
5. Man in the Loop
This was the first book I never finished. It gets pulled out every year around Nanowrimo time and revisited… honestly, I just can’t talk about it. It’s too painful.
Okay. That’s it.