I Completely Understand Pratchett’s Bulldozer

Terry Pratchett wanted his unpublished manuscript partials destroyed, so his daughter did it with a bulldozer.

Good for her.

There’s a reason writers don’t want their unpublished stuff published after death, and it’s the same reason they didn’t want it published during life: it’s bad.  Even if it’s an early draft that could have turned into something good, it’s still bad.  And no writer wants her or his last publication to be bad, or even mediocre, especially if he or she already knows it’s bad or mediocre.  Destroying unpublished manuscripts is a good thing; just ask Harper Lee.  

To illustrate my point, I just put up two drafts of Nita’s Chapter One under the Works in Progress tab UP IN THE TOP BANNER, NOT THE SIDEBAR.  One was written in February of 2016, the other I did a last pass on today.  It’s still not right, but it’s much closer to where I want it to be.  Not there yet, but closer.  The February 2016 draft, however, is so bad it makes my eyes water, which is okay: I just had to get something down on paper so I could fix it.  Everybody has to start somewhere.  But I would not want that thing published as a work by Jennifer Crusie.  A draft by Jennifer Crusie, sure, but a finished work?   No, no, no, no.  

When my time comes, Mollie will wipe my hard drives, too, although probably not with a bulldozer.  It’s what any sane writer wants.

ETA: Critiques are always welcome, but you’ve read those scenes so many times now, I can’t imagine there’s much left to say, so it’s perfectly all right to think, “Whatever,” and go on to something more interesting.

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49 thoughts on “I Completely Understand Pratchett’s Bulldozer

  1. Reader, learn from me. I was successful hitting Works in Progress link at the top, as Jennifer Crusie so specifically directed. Being me, because my brain works sideways, I first hit the sidebar Works link and found it delivers elsewhere.

    Also, I hereby declare that whatsoever Ms. Crusie desires to do with her computer hard drive is fine by me, both in opinion and in fact.

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    1. Ok, why are they Hotels? Is that their last name, or is it something I’m missing?

      I’m having a hard time believing Nick would smite in front of them. Yeah, they’re drunk, but I thought the whole point was to keep a low profile. At least that’s the reasoning behind not weeding the demons out with scupper.

      Though Nick telling everyone the truth isn’t much of a low profile, now that I think about it.

      Thanks for posting it! Do you want any other feedback? It seemed slower to me, and Nick asks Rab about the scupper, then makes it sound like he’s annoyed with Rab for interrupting.

      Thanks for sharing it! It’s interesting to see how it changes.

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      1. An explanation comes later, but Statler’s real name is Statler and Waldorf’s is Walden, but when Nita was little, she was a big Muppets fan, so she kept screwing up “Walden.” Astoria came later. They’re actually a fairly large plot point.

        I think it’s slower, too, but I actually cut it back. I think the whole first chapter is slow.

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    2. LOL, I love the Hotels, too. And for the first time, the old Muppet Show joke fell into place.

      I hope they’ll be a recurring Greek chorus!

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  2. I always feel weird reading unfinished, posthumous works.

    I also despise when a publisher hires a different author to continue writing a series after the real author has died.

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    1. The only one that I think worked was Robert Parker finishing Raymond Chandler’s last work, but he’d done his PhD on Chandler and copied his style meticulously. I think they offered him a lot of money to keep doing it, but he said it was too hard writing in somebody else’s style.

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      1. This is Poodle Springs right? That’s been on my shelf for years, but I still haven’t read it. Partly because I haven’t read much Chandler, and I can’t decide if I should read other stuff and then move on to that or if it would be better to start with the Parker book since I wouldn’t have any issues with changes in style. Mostly when I want hard-boiled I just head straight back to Dashiell Hammett, but I really must make time for Chandler next time that mood strikes.

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        1. It might be fun to see if you can spot the parts that Parker wrote. He was a big Chandler fan so I’ve heard that he was extremely respectful and basically quashed his own style to be Chandler.

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  3. I have on occasion enjoyed books that ended up completed by another author after the death of the original author. Even with the most complete notes and an almost finished work, the voice is always different. But of course it should be the author’s right to destroy his own works, the unpublished ones anyway.

    I guess I still grieve over the destruction of the Jane Austen’s letters between her and her sister Cassandra. I feel a little creepy even saying that because they were meant to be private, but I still would have loved to read every single unexpurgated word of those two smart, witty and observant sisters. Maybe a 100 year time capsule so the characters would be gone by the time the letters were released.

    Sometimes a complete update of a classic can be amazing; I still remember watching Clueless and in the first few scenes exclaiming out loud “It’s EMMA!” I am not a vocalizer in movies. And of course 10 Things I Hate About You. Great works can be translated with a new vision and a respect for both the intention and the deeper story.

    So now I find myself both concerned and rather nauseated by reading the rights to remake movie of 1984 have been bought up by two (white) men to be remade with all girls. I don’t plan to even give them a chance. (I’m pretty sure…)

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    1. Is that 1984 or Lord of the Flies? Because somebody’s doing Lord of the Flies with girls.

      Adaptations are different; the originals are right there on the shelf for anybody to read. But publishing something the writer didn’t want made public really is a transgression.

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      1. It’s Lord of the Flies, and it’s been pointed out that that movie has already been made in the form of Heathers and Mean Girls.

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        1. You could say it those are remakes, but the only connection I see is that the girls are being mean in the ways that girls can be mean. Neither really carries with it the deeper messages about patriarchy or toxic masculinity. I’ll have to think harder about whether I’ve read any books that would strike me as being equivalent.

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          1. But that’s rather the point – Lord of the Flies is about toxic masculinity. Toxic femininity is a different thing, and movies like Heathers and Mean Girls explore that concept.

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          2. In response to Emily; the point is that the Lord of the Flies is about toxic masculinity. Heathers and Mean Girls are movies that were made within a culture of toxic masculinity. I don’t think either movie gets very close to what toxic feminity would be given that it didn’t grow up tainted by toxic masculinity.

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      2. Oops, you are right, it’s Lord of the Flies. I’m mixing up my grim dystopian nightmares. And there are always more on the way. Thanks.

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  4. Fair enough, Hope. You’re right about Heathers and Mean Girls being embedded in a culture of toxic masculinity, and therefore not going the distance on what toxic femininity would look like. What I was trying to say, though, was that an all-female version of Lord of the Flies would be a very, very different story to the all-male version, because I believe toxic female behaviour tends to be very different to toxic male behaviour (yes, there’s overlap, and a lot of theories on how and why gendered behaviour is constructed) and therefore just swapping out the genders would not work.

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    1. I don’t think Lord of the Flies is about toxic masculinity. I think it’s about the essential savagery of children, and by extension, people in general.

      One of the prime reasons that parenting is necessary is civilization, particularly civilizing children to the norms of their culture. “We do this, we do not do that.” You can do a toxic masculinity story without removing adults; the key to Lord of the Flies for me is that there are no adults, toxic or otherwise, nobody to enforce the rules of a civilized society, so they make up their own rules. Ralph tries to hold the line, but eventually they desert him, killing the weaker kids, creating a god from fear, reverting to savagery. None of that has anything to do with masculinity per se; females would do the same thing.

      That’s not to say that children are little sociopaths, but I used to teach junior high. Without adults setting the rules, things can get pretty savage, male or female. So an all female Lord of the Flies would be interesting, I think, and probably not all that different; there would still be rage and jealousy and a jockeying for power. The fact that it’s set against a background of war is a factor, too.

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        1. It’s easy to say that about an entire group of people but it’s no more true about children or teenagers than it is about any of us.

          Some children are empathetic early on, some learn it. Some children take to order & responsibility like a duck to water, some don’t. One strong willed child can lead a whole group down one path or another.

          You could put a group of middle aged women in a Lord of the Flies situation and end up with something with less blood and conches but far more destruction. The religion would be more superficially Christian (or Hindu or Jewish) but the underlying power struggle would remain the same.

          I don’t remember it being about “toxic masculinity.” It was about the savagery that lies just below our skin. And it’s a choice anyone can make.

          Hughes wrote A High Wind in Jamaica to illustrate a similar point.

          Now compare it to actual stories of kids who get their siblings out of war zones.

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          1. I don’t know about war zones, but I’ve taught nursery school, elementary school, junior high, and high school, and what kids can do to each other in groups is frightening, even good kids. The problem is that they’re still developing their ideas of how the world works. They get a lot of that from their parents until about junior high, and then it’s all peers. And bucking the peer group is damn near impossible. I’ve seen a few kids fight back, but it’s a jungle out there.

            What kids do have, I think, is an innate sense of justice which is one of the reasons they’re so swift to punish those who break the group rules, but they’re also inherently selfish which wars with that. Well, we’re all inherently selfish, that’s not just kids. Some of us just repress it better than others. Add to that a very real sense that they lack control over their lives, and they start to assert that control in some pretty toxic ways. So running a junior high classroom, for example, means giving them options so they have some sense of control and then running the place with an iron fist. Some of the things that happened while I taught junior high were so horribly cruel I still think about to them to this day. And those were “nice” kids from good homes, the best of which watched with troubled looks on their faces while the others were savage.

            Lord of the Flies is not, to my mind, about abnormal children.

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      1. I read Lord of the Flies once only, years ago, but I still remember how shocked I was at the end, to recall that the characters were just children. In the story, I think there is also an element of the inevitability of human nature taking its course in a given set of circumstances.

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        1. I think the author said once that they were all boys because he had once been a boy. I don’t think he was thinking about toxic masculinity as much as he was thinking about toxic human nature. More of a Joseph Conrad/humanity has a heart of darkness idea.

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  5. Rhianna Pratchett is a creative in her own right. As Terry’s daughter I think she and he must’ve discussed methods of destruction. Good on them.

    I remember when Amy Winehouse’s manager deleted all of the unfinished and rehearsal recordings. My first thought was ‘GOOD’.

    I particularly hate the conspiracies that abound when an estate releases previously unreleased work – Tupac is dead y’all. Please!

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    1. I do have to say, though, that I’ve gotten a lot of joy out of David Bowie’s rehearsals. It’s different with him, though. Some of his finished pieces sound like a rehearsal outtake (“Andy Warhol” or the one off of Space Oddity where he starts singing, “Don’t sit down. Don’t sit down,” then starts giggling.). And a lot of his rehearsal gigs are as good or better than the live performance. (“Under Pressure” with Annie Lenox is a joy either as a rehearsal or a live.)

      And then he *planned* a lot of releases that wound up post-humous, and may have been calculated to remind the Grammy voters that he was still a force to be reckoned with, even if he was dead. The release of the bonus EP from Lazarus, for example. Absolutely brilliant work, and the timing? Well, IIRC, he won four of his five Grammys after dying.

      But, David Bowie is a special case, and I’m sure there are thousands of hours of recordings that will never hit the eardrums of the listening public. (But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was still stuff that is going to be released.)

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  6. Enjoying the latest draft, but stumbled over your misquote (it’s not quite English as you have it). Should be ‘There’s a guy works down the chip shop swears he’s Elvis’. She could get ‘swears’ wrong, and substitute ‘says’, but your extra word and plural for ‘chip’ threw me.

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  7. Just got to say that Pratchett, in a way, was lucky. He got to finish up a few stories with the help of other people and release them into the world. It’s a lot of fun to speculate on what might have been, but who would finish them? Who could hope to match the voice and tone of Pratchett? It’s for the best, really, and it’s really cool that Pratchett arranged to have them steam-rollered. Such a showman!

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  8. It’s lovely to see how far it’s come along. So much charm in the first draft, so much charm in the most recent draft, too!

    I think there may be too much info coming at us in the second scene (Nick in the bar). So many characters, and in particular, I notice that the scupper is being fully explained at this point. In an earlier draft, I think the scupper made a brief appearance, and then was explained further when Nita drank it, and I think the whole “let’s spike the punch” thing happened even later in the story.

    I want all those characters! And I really love the Hotels acting as witnesses, or observers or judges of some sort. (You use Statler and Waldorf, and that’s what I get: the hecklers who sat judgement on the proceedings below, even though none of these guys really seem to pronounce judgement.) But my goodness, just from memory, you’ve got Nita, Button, Mort, Frank (?), Jason, Joey, SUV driver, Nick, Rab, Deglas, Vinnie, Belial doing a lifeline to a friend, Astoria, Statler, Waldorf, and I believe Mr. Lemon is mentioned at the end. That’s a lot of introductions.

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  9. You know, I’ve read every draft you’ve put up of this scene and parts of it still make me laugh out loud. I still love Button and the way she gets coffee down Nita’s throat.

    I love the Hotels and the idea that they’re important characters.

    But overall it did seem a bit slow. I think it’s the lack of physical movement. They sit in the car and then they stand in the bar. Lots of great dialog but not enough else for me.

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    1. I’d rather have more Jason and less Hotels.

      They may be important later but right now they shouldn’t be there. Because even Jason would have cleared a bar that late at night.

      When’s closing time on the Island?

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  10. I love dialogue! It tells so much of the thinking going on, whereas lots of action is needed later on dialogue gets us there with no prologue necessary. I like it Jenny.

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  11. I’m confused about the / a hellgate? What is it (or are they)? Nick wants to find an illegal one, as he explains to Vinnie. Then there is talk of some inebriated demon sucking – but not through a gate? And a little later there is mention of a gatekeeper, presumably of a legal gate? So a hellgate is two ways? In and out of hell? Is one pushed, pulled, both? Can one walk thru alone?

    There doesn’t seem to be a generic or Platonic “hellgate” in literature, or maybe there is in religious lit. So, what is Nick’s, or Demon Island’s, hellgate? Why does it matter if there is an illegal one? What would make it legal – having an entry on Nick’s List of Hellgates? (He is a bit of a (hot) bean counter yes? (Haha. The devil would be wouldn’t s/he?!)

    Or, will I learn more about hellgates later and for now I’m just in that reader’s What Happens Next?! happy place 🙂

    I’m totally willing to suspend disbelief, but need some hellgate imagery help, sort of – and heaven help me for saying this – the devil is in the details. (Arghhhh!)

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  12. Funny, it didn’t seem slow to me, and I miss the part from an earlier version where Nita stopped arguments in the car at least once more….. so apparently I was fine with it being even slower in that regard. It is amazing to see how much more together it is than in the first draft though.

    Mauve Binchey’s husband published Chestnut Street, which were bits and pieces she planned to put together into a book some day. He said it wasn’t done, so truth in advertising. Some of them are rough, or obviously not finished, but many pieces are delightful. I would have been very sorry to have missed it. Don’t know what Mauve would have thought, but if she was against it, one would think that she would have told him so.

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    1. You know, if he said, “This isn’t a finished book,” I think it’s okay. I put up my drafts after making clear it was drafts and I knew they weren’t close to being finished. It’s the stuff that published as a finished book by the author that’s the betrayal.

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  13. I absolutely love the new version! I needed all the info provided, and it seems to come out naturally. The Hotels remind me of the two Brits in a lot of old movies, like The Lady Vanishes. They keep the tempo going and kind of set what’s normal while being funny. The twin evil smiles of Nita and Nick are stupendous. Button has become 100% real to me. I like hearing both Button’s and Nick’s impressions of Nita’s face. Many memorable bits: “Joey? I just talked to Joey today. He gave me my doughnut. I yelled at him because it made me sick. He can’t be dead. I haven’t apologized for that yet.” … “Buttons do not walk away from their partners.” Okay. I’m not reading your plans for the rest of the book. I’m enjoying whatever you provide as you write along.

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  14. I love the newest version. It feels heavy on backstory/explanation for a Crusie, but still feather-light compared to most romance authors. And the dialogue is snappy enough tocarry it off.

    I haven’t been reading along closely–this is maybe my third version–so I’m intrigued by how it will eventually wind up.

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  15. I like the inside-the-car conversation, reminiscent of a clown car. Plus, Button now shows herself as observant, an partner with potential. Second act of Nick, then others added, you’ve bashed into economical shape. Love the chorus, and the “hotels” concept is inspired.
    If the act seems to move slowly, I believe we get that impression because we’ve received all this information before. At some point, you’ll need a virgin reader.
    Huzzahs.

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      1. Meant to replay with “grin.” Who knew on a computer words written inside those funny little sideways arches – name? – disappear.

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  16. I bought the last Tiffany Aching book just before TP dies. I haven’t read it yet, because when I do, that’s it. Silly, I know. I pulled it down this weekend, but I don’t know. Not quite yet, I guess.

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    1. It wasn’t finished. So be warned. It’s a pretty good example of what Jenny’s talking about though. Some parts just shine with his voice and others are clearly in need of polishing and linking/arcing better.

      I didn’t really think about Pratchett having WIPs when he died. So when I heard about the destruction, it hurt to both find out there were new thoughts and that they’d been destroyed.

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  17. On one hand, Ariana Franklin had a nice series going (Mistress of the Art of Death) in Henry II’s reign. She ended Book 4 on a cliff hanger and then died unexpectedly.

    If she had enough to get a Book 5 out, I’d buy it even if it were rough.

    On the other, Agatha Christie wrote a final books for Poiret & Marple during WWII in case she went up in the Blitz, they were released very close to her death.

    The problem was she had never updated them so there had been changes to both characters and to the cast of characters around them. So I could have lived without reading them.

    I did just finish Thrones, Dominions which Walsh finished for Sayers. I’m curious to see what the next novel looks like because that was very close to Sayers’ tone.

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    1. I liked Thrones, Dominions. I even liked the second one (Peter’s away so it’s mainly Harriet.) But the third. Just no. It’s bad enough, in my opinion, that I no longer want to reread the first two. And I found out by accident there’s a 4th one and I’m not touching it.

      You know all the stuff Jenny’s talked about with the reader contract? For me, Walsh blows that contract to hell and gone with the third book and I won’t read anything by her. You may have a different view but I can’t get passed that.

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        1. No problem. I hope I didn’t ruin your enjoyment of it. You know, the whole “everyone is different” thing. 🙂

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