Novels · Publishing · Writing

Schrodinger’s Novel–Do You Have One Too?

I have a novel in my figurative drawer. It’s middle grade–that’s ages 7-13ish for those of you just tuning in–with an action/adventure plot. It sounds a bit dystopian, but is actually based on a historical place, with a bit of drama and culture-boggling to keep things running. I finished writing it last January, and the editing is completely done. Several readers have taken a gander at it and claimed to like it.

Of course, there’s one more quality missing that makes it Schrodinger’s novel: it’s that I have no intention of doing anything with it. Sound familiar to any of you?

You didn’t read my wrong; I’m not querying my manuscript, and I’m not readying it for self-publication. Why? Because the beauty of Schrodinger’s novel is the very uncertainty of it. A book that is never published is both a best-seller and a slush-pile denizen, and until I try, it’s neither. Fear of success? Fear of failure? Both? Whatever the reason, the novel I don’t let anyone see is my best novel ever.

Of course, some of your Schrodigner’s novels are even better than mine. Mine’s been read by others. Some of you likely have them hidden away in password-protected files, far from prying eyes. They are the most exciting novels, and the dullest possible.

Or what about the stories that aren’t even finished? They have the best endings, and the worst. The scariest villains and the lamest. The most tragic redemptions–and the least convincing.

As long as they are never done, they can never be judged. If no one sees them, no one even thinks about them, no one will ever say a word against them. Or for them. When people see them, they could destroy them, or praise them to high heaven, or laud them, or condemn them, or–

Say absolutely nothing at all.

Perhaps, perhaps, that is the worst prospect. Yes, people will read this novel, this novel in the drawer, and they will say nothing! They will ignore it because it is so meaningless, so utterly pointless, a novel not even worth passing a word on, or engaging a single thought with. A novel that simply doesn’t exist!

And the worst part of all?

That’s what all Schrodinger’s novels are.

They exist on dusty shelves, in forgotten file folders, or, sometimes, only inside our heads. Their words are beautiful, sliding through our minds like sublime poetry, and they are worthless. Yes, worthless. What good is a profound thought that none ever think? Music is meant to be heard, children to be held, books to be read, and yours is suspended in a state of limbo it was never meant to occupy. For every day it sits unattended, a thousand eyes do not read it, and thousand hearts care not a whit for these words they don’t even know have been written. For every day your novel is ignored, it may as well not exist.

“But my novel was for practice” I hear you say. “It’s bad. It’s poor. It’s stupid.”

How do you know? Do you dare speak for the readers? Are you the Lorax, standing among the silent eyes, proclaiming what Is and Is Not? I don’t bloody think so.

Yeah, I have a Schrodinger’s novel. It awaits the day I finish the query, it awaits the day I get sick of avoiding the query and self-publish, it awaits the day I no longer need a novel that’s the best-selling novel that’s ever been written, need it badly enough that I’m willing to own a total flop in the bargain so long as I can hold on to the thought that my novel is great. It awaits the day I am ready.

Are you ready yet? Perhaps tomorrow, perhaps next week. Perhaps ten years from now. But until then, be aware that while Schrodinger’s novel will neither fail nor succeed, it will never, ever matter. And there’s nothing uncertain about that at all.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out my short story “The Foreigner’s Loneliness,” say hey on Facebook, or hang out on Twitter! Or of course feel free to tell us your thoughts in a comment below. Thanks for reading!

32 thoughts on “Schrodinger’s Novel–Do You Have One Too?

  1. Whatever you do will be right for you somewhere. Decide what you want and believe it will turn out the way you want it to. Fear can lead to inaction and what if? I am just one person and collectively we make a group. I think your writing is great. Let more people give you hope. Good luck.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Wow I love this post, thank you so much. It’s always amazing when Quantum Mechanics can be brought down from the highest levels of intelligencia to every day life!
    if you have a Schrodingers novel, project, or idea please share it with the world. You never know you just might have the next million dollar idea, the next big cure for disease, or something that saves mankind. Sitting still is not an option in life, we must keep moving forward as individuals, communities, and as the human race. Isn’t that why we call it a race?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This is a great argument for pursuing publication. I have one of these novels now and I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not to send it out. Thanks for writing this article. I kind of needed it.

    Good luck with your own trunk novel!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes publish it. It’s clearly got the marketing support already. Just be sure to do all your research I’m currently doing the marketing after ebook release of my project. Had I not self-published a dodgy or alleged publishing house would have applied for copyright on my manuscript.

    All the best for the future your writing on wordpress is very inviting, I’m sure your book will be a great success story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for your thoughts on this. I have several WIPs from Nanowrimo that will probably reside in the temp file forever. But wait… maybe I should revisit those. Thanks for the incentive.


  6. You have come long way, give justice to your thought and words you have written. Everything happens for some reason if you publish your content the readers will get chance to learn from your thoughts and if you don’t publish they will miss it. My humble request to all who are in same dilemma don’t worry about good or bad results if it turns unsuccessful you will learn from what did not go well and we all know failure is first step towards success and if it turns successful it will inspire you to your next venture. So when can we read your novel.


  7. Thank you for your perspective. I had one in the draw for nearly 20 years before publishing. There are many challenges from working with an editor, having your friends finally discover what you have been working on and then releasing it to the world. Ultimately you can’t control what another human being brings to your work when they read it. There is a freedom in releasing it and allowing a reader to have their own experience.


  8. Schrodinger novels are excellent, meaningless verbiage detailed into plot-lines by humans with no desires for money or fame or recognition – just to expose themselves on paper. And to let it be that. The purest form of art, supposedly, the artist who paints in the dark and never lets the light on.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hey, I’ve got one, too. It was my first attempt with absolutely NO planning. Needless to say, it’s more like a bunch of random stuff I wrote down and tried to string together over the course of…well, probably over a year. But it doesn’t go together at all. So I’m going to dissect the good parts into shorts and use them that way.

    Better planning has my on track with my next novel for self-publication which I am determined to let fly to all critical praise or hatred. Cheers.


    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have many Schrodinger novels as well, sometimes it’s hard to translate words from thought to text….and sometimes you leave your binder that has your entire work on the bus….yeah….don’t leave stuff on the bus. Not good.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wonderful, wonderful post. I have one of the unfinished kind. One that some of the people closest to me have read portions of ..but that I “never have time to finish.” So much so, that when I did find myself with an abundance of time, I picked up a new hobby to distract myself. And I moved fully into it. But I’ve thought recently about trying to finish it… and hopefully this is the push for that. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Many unfinished essays and stories. Sometimes getting them out of me was the entire purpose. I feel once it’s on paper sometimes, I don’t so much care if anyone else reads it. But sometimes, sometimes, it’s all those things: fear, loathing, fear, fear, and fear. Wonderful post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love how this is uplifting and saddening at the same time, considering that all unfinished stories have equal potential to be amazing or terrible but in the end really aren’t anything until they’re published is mind boggling, awesome post.

    Liked by 1 person

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