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.
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