#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Unfinished Work

In the car the other day I was listening to a talk show on the radio and the topic, oddly enough, was an unfinished, unpublished, manuscript by a respected author who has now passed on.

The Empty Chair by Graham Greene is being published in serial form in The Strand magazine over the next year. There's an unusual history here. The Empty Chair isn't listed in any biographies. It's one of Greene's first works (possibly his first). It was never finished. And it was, quite literally, shoved under the bed and forgotten.

I can't help but think of my own pile of half-finished works. Or thinking about the first novel I wrote long-hand during classes in high school with bad handwriting and worse spelling.

Would I really want someone to pull those out after I die and publish them unpolished?

Would I be comfortable with someone else writing the ending for me?

Right now the idea sends me into fits of panic. I want to stay up 24 hours a day to just write so that I leave behind no promising plot line, no half-finished mystery, no forgotten oeuvre.

What about you? Do you have a forgotten manuscript languishing with the dust bunnies under the bed? Would you let someone else finish your work?


  1. Yeah, that's pretty crazy. I think I'll have my husband delete and burn all of my old crap if I suddenly die after I'm published and famous. Hah.

  2. Delete and burn? No! Just have the kids stuff it in the attic for a few decades and then break it out when they need to pay for someone's college.

  3. Good question. I shudder at the thought of anyone looking at my high school manuscript, much less publishing it.

  4. I kept them. They're in a box. *wince* They're VERY bad. I long-hand wrote them in class, too. I...well, I stuck them in a box when my oldest was just born because I wanted to pull them out some day and show her, you know, that dreams had to start somewhere.

    And maybe, hopefully, I'll get that chance.

    But I CERTAINLY hope that no one goes and tries to publish them. Oh, good greif, no! Please. *groan* No.

  5. I don't think I'd care (once dead :P) what they do with my old MSS. I'd probably ask family and friends not to allow old novels to be published, but I wouldn't object if people wanted to sell them off for obscene profits. %-) (Hey, donate it to a good cause or pay bills or whatever.)

    Even if they were posted online but not for sale (or traditionally published), I probably wouldn't care. As long as, you know, the general readership wasn't paying for a copy or something of old and discarded and unfinished drafts... *boggles at the idea of anyone being that crazy* :P


  6. I guess if I were dead, I wouldn't really have very much say in the posthumous publication... I'm just saying!
    Maybe they'd make it better.
    I think I'll go talk to an empty chair.

  7. My first "novel" (which never got past Chapter Six) was this horrible Star Trek fanfic thing which pretty much defined the Mary Sue genre. [laugh/cringe] Luckily it doesn't exist anymore. Unluckily, neither does any of my other early writing; I lost everything back in '90, the good along with the bad.

    Of my current WIPs, I guess it wouldn't kill me if someone else finished them and published them after I was dead. And honestly, people? Come on! The whole point of the exercise is that you'll be dead. You won't be caring one way or the other about much of anything at that point. :D It'll be up to my surviving family members to deal with the accolades or shame attached to the publication of my old WIPs, so I'll let them worry about it when the time comes.


  8. Anything I haven't already destroyed is fair game :-)