Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lost Works

There's an interesting blog post here about what books authors never chose to (or were unable to) publish say about them. While fans of a deceased author often go into raptures over posthumously-published works, I find them a bit gruesome and often inappropriate (especially when during their lifetime the author made it clear they were never to be published.) Yet I was enchanted to hear about the discovery of some music written by Mozart when he was a child, so maybe I should adjust my own attitude.

Obviously writers should destroy anything they don't want to survive them, but this lost works post plus the Mozart discovery made me think of another way to handle posthumous publication. What if you destroyed what you didn't want published (which would really be smart, btw) but also deliberately left behind unpublished/unknown works that you do want published, either to finish works that were never wrapped up and/or to possibly provide some extra income for your heirs? In a way it would be a creative variety of writer's life insurance. It wouldn't be a bad way to bid your readers farewell, either.

I'm leaving behind enough unpublished works that I think the life insurance angle is pretty well-covered, but I also wouldn't mind writing a book and arranging to have it released posthumously for free on the internet. I can think of several ideas that would be cool to leave behind in the free library after I go on to the next place.

Writers, have you considered what should be done with your unpubbed work after your demise? Have you come up with any creative solutions to the dilemma? Let us know in comments.


  1. Honestly, I've never really given it much thought. Now I'll have to re-examine everything to see if there's anything I wouldn't want put out there... O_o

  2. That's one thing I'm looking forward to in the afterlife - reading all those books my favorite authors who passed on too soon didn't get to write.

  3. Fran Kane4:45 AM

    I have about half a dozen started stories, of different genres, on my laptop but nothing finished. I don't have the depth or vision to complete a work that's worth reading. The best one has stopped at chapter 6 and I've completed the layout for the remainder of the story. I've had fun doing it and shall probably continue to dabble at it in the years to come, but I don't have the characters talking to me, giving me the story. I don't have the angst or compulsion to complete it. Its just for me and after all these attempts, I've finally come to the conclusion that while I'm a world class reader I'm not a writer.

    So I say long may you and your esteemed ilk continue to publish so I can continue to read.

  4. At the very least, I would like my loved ones to have access to it when I'm gone, and be able to do what they want with it. Once I'm gone, I don't think I'll mind what my reader's think of me, so even if they decide to publish something that's a bit too x-rated or dark or poorly written... hey, I'm dead aren't I? What's it to me? It was their choice. This free library thing could also be an option... Hmmmmmm :)

  5. Everything I hate went through the shredder just recently. Anything that's left is fair game for my family. To my surprise I didn't feel one bit of angst shredding all those pages. The stuff really was awful.

  6. Interesting! Hadn't thought about that.

  7. Anne V.9:43 AM

    I like that idea! A way to leave one last gift.

  8. Authors need to decide about this and put it in their wills or as an addenda to their will.

    A literary executor specific to your career is also a good idea. Most choose their agent or a writing friend who is wise in the ways of publishing. I've seen more than one dear friend's posthumous career ruined by family who don't have a clue about this weird business we are in.

    I have an article on the subject with more details as well as a link to Neil Gaiman's PDF generic writer's will here:

  9. I do need to think about a will, even though I am not well-known yet. My hubby, hopefully, will handle it. I have given him specific instructions NOT to let my parents get their hands on my writings. They are more likely to burn it than to publish it.


  10. Mostly I just live in terror of being hit by a bus or having a fatal asthma attack before I finish everything. Or before I finish something I really want to be remembered for. So much work to do. Of course, after I die it sort of ceases to be a point of concern. So there's that.


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