It’s been over five years since I finished writing Cody H.

Five years. Can you believe that? I hardly can. Even though it’s not something that I think about on a day-to-day basis, it feels a lot more recent than that.

I was reminded of it by my mother, actually. One of the 8th graders who I shared the hallway with in grade 12 came into her office, and when my mother asked if he remembered me he said “Of course! He wrote a novel!”

So that’s got me thinking about Cody H., and everything it meant (and means) to me.

At this point, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the project is dead, and it’s never getting revived. I haven’t made any edits in nearly four years, and haven’t even opened the file in three. I don’t even have the file on my hard drive right now. It’s safely backed up in four or five locations, but still, it’s about as dead as dead can be.

To a certain extent that’s a real shame. I poured my heart and soul into those 75,000 words, and for a period of about a year that novel was all I ever thought about. I worked on it harder than I’ve worked on anything else in my life. I was incredibly diligent and showed a level of determination that I’ve never showed in any academic work before or since. I look back to the amount of work I put in, and it boggles my mind. I don’t know how I did it. Every day I sat down and pumped out a little bit more. Some days I would be able to crack out 700 words and some days I would only be able to get out 100. But I worked steadily, I rarely took days off, and finally after 10 months I was able to type that final period. And it felt fucking great.

So to see that all come to nothing is a little sad.

At the same time, I don’t have anyone to blame but myself.

At one point after I had finished with the first draft and was editing away, someone in the publishing business was going to look at my novel, but they needed it immediately. I said I wasn’t ready, that I needed another week. They said they were leaving town at the end of the week. And so I turned their offer down. It’s not likely that anything would have come of this though, so I’m not overly concerned about it.

But my biggest regret, and the only one that still eats at me, is this right here. 

When I was more than halfway through the novel, I made a really bad decision: I sold out. And not only did I sell out, but I sold out in the worst way – I sold out for no money. I sold out because I thought that a reader base which I didn’t already have would like one idea better than another. And that led me into trying something that compromised the quality of the novel and was way too ambitious.

Originally, Cody H. was going to be a nice story about the value of friendship, with a side order of “be careful what you wish for” thrown in. Cody’s got a nice group of friends, but they’re all going to be going their separate ways at the end of the year. One night, he makes a wish that things would never change. Much to his surprise, that wish comes true – he and his friends end up repeating the same week over and over in and endless loop – and it ends up tearing his circle of friends apart. He spends the rest of the novel trying to figure out who is responsible for granting this wish and looking for a way to reverse it. The conclusion was going to be along the same lines as Freaky Friday (the book, not the movie). Once Cody and friends learn their lesson, the history teacher turns things back to normal as if nothing had ever happened. There’s no explanation given for how the history teacher was able to manipulate the fabric of space-time – that’s left open for the reader to imagine as they please. Cute and harmless, right?

Instead, I decided to take things in an entirely different direction. I decided that the whole ordeal was a test issued by the history teacher to see if Cody and friends were worthy of possessing various magical powers known collectively as “psy”. Ultimately this alternate plan was going to have our band of heroes collect mystical artifacts, visit new worlds, and save multiple civilizations.

Like I said, way too ambitious. Obviously, a plot that as complex as the one I was planning could never fit within the pages of one book – it would have to be a series of three or four books, and there’s no way I could have done that. Somehow I convinced myself that when I finished the first book I’d start on the second one immediately, but although I did a fair bit of planning for books two and three, it never moved beyond that.

But more importantly, the shift from the “friendship” plot to the “magic” plot was a shift from the book I wanted to write to the book that I thought other people would want to read. The Harry Potter series had just come to an end and I figured I could fill that gap by creating a new magical world for readers to dive into. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy crafting this world; on the contrary, I enjoyed it immensely. But by prioritizing the hypothetical reader (who didn’t even exist at this point) over myself I think I compromised the quality of writing substantially. And that’s the main reason I don’t want to go back and read Cody H. I’m afraid that all the hard work I put in will have resulted in something that’s shit.

If I could go back five years, that’s the one thing I’d change. It probably wouldn’t have changed the fate of the novel. Had I gone with my original plan I’d probably still be here today, reflecting on a five year old unpublished novel. But it’d be the five year old unpublished novel that I wanted to write, and not the one that I thought I should write. And if by some miracle I were to go back and edit Cody H., I would undo my mistake and write it the way I should have to begin with.

Nevertheless, the end result is that today I’m left with a manuscript which can never be published (even if my writing was brilliant, what kind of publisher would take on the first part of a series if the author had no intention of continuing it?), and one which I’m not even sure if I should be proud of.

With all of that said, there’s one point that I must make absolutely clear: Writing that novel was not a waste of time, and I did achieve the ultimate goal that I had set out for myself when I started writing on that memorable 14th of September, 2007. The whole reason I put pen to paper was in order to do something that I would be remembered for. It wasn’t about money, it wasn’t to pad my CV, it wasn’t about writing the Great American Novel. It was about doing something memorable.

Now go back and read the third paragraph of this blog.

Did I accomplish what I set out to do? You bet your ass I did. And you’d better believe I’m damned proud of that.

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