The Laundry Basket Novel

Posted on March 12th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Writing

Anyone who has been following me for a little while has probably heard/read me make mention of “the laundry basket novel.” It’s even referenced obliquely in the dedication of Saving the Dragon when I promise my mother “no more laundry baskets.” But what was the laundry basket novel?

The laundry basket novel was an epic fantasy titled “The Magic Book.” It was my first attempt at writing a full novel-length work, and I was in 8th or 9th grade when I started it. The entire thing was written on a typewriter that I was so excited to get for Christmas. Sure, home computers were definitely a thing by then, and my family had one, but I’ve always been an old soul. Typewriters appealed to me on a visceral level. To this day, I prefer the clackitiest keyboard I can get for writing. (Yes, I know clackitiest isn’t a word.)

To be clear, I was maybe 13 and had no idea what I was doing. But I had read and re-read Holly Lisle’s writing articles. I had my map. I had my rules for my magic system. I had encyclopedic articles about all the major political bodies and cultures in my world. I had the beginnings of a fantasy language. I had everything, and it was mostly hand-written on crinkled pieces of paper all hodge-podged together in a laundry basket.

Let’s face it, 13-year-old me was no more organized than 31-year-old me.

My mother, in her defense, had absolutely no idea the labour that went into all that paper. She had no idea that barely contain mass of scribbles was my entire world-bible and what I estimate now to have been roughly 25K typewriter written words. What she saw was a laundry basket being used in place of a waste basket and she <whimper /> threw it all away.

I cannot begin to express the heartache and tears when I discovered it was all gone. All of it, except for a tiny percentage of the manuscript that had been copied (by re-typing it!) to the computer and saved to a floppy disk. To this day I want to cry if I think about it too hard for too long.

Over the years I’ve re-written a lot of The Magic Book. Several times, in fact. Adeirea is a much different world now from the one I envisioned almost 20 years ago. The characters are older, more mature. The overall tone is different. I won’t say that I really know what I’m doing at this point, but I do feel that I am more the writer today to actually tell the story my younger self first conceived of.

The legacy of The Magic Book is that it taught me how to do the business of writing. It taught me not to get bogged down in revisions and edits before the first draft is complete (although I admit, I still struggle with this lesson). It taught me the importance of back-ups. Saving the Dragon then went on to teach me about LABELING those back-ups appropriately. It taught me what it takes to build a world that big. And so many other things.

I do plan to publish The Magic Book (and hopefully its sequel) one day. I don’t know when that day will be. There’s still a lot of Adeirea I need to rediscover. And there’s still some growing I need to do as a writer before I can really tell Michele and Jennifer’s stories the way I feel they deserve to be told.

In the meantime… no more laundry baskets.

- ♥ -

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