The 10 Worst Stories I Ever Tried to Write

Writers are only supposed to let readers see the good stuff. You don’t show people the stories you’ve already rejected: the bad zombie tale that never found an ending, or a middle; the moment-of-genius-idea that looked so dreadful in the morning; the unedited, awful prose that makes you squirm; those pieces of work that cause you to sputter and say, “What was I thinking when I wrote that?”
No. That would be a bad idea. I don’t think my publishers would like it. They’d worry that people who saw the worst of my writing would be put off. And that I wouldn’t sell any more books.
Then again, I’d love to look inside the reject folders of other writers. So, in the hope of persuading any of the other writers who blog here to bare all (don’t leave me out on a limb, guys), I’m going to swallow my pride and post my most embarrassing attempts at fiction.
These are all scraps of stories and ideas I junked years ago. I’d forgotten about most of them until I dug them out for this blog. The majority never got beyond the first paragraph. I binned them all because they were missing something (a plot, characters, common sense), because they’re clumsily written, pointless, or because they’re just generally awful. They will not be available in any good bookshop.
1) UNTITLED SHEEP STORY. Ashamed as I am to admit it, I wrote the following two lines with the full intention of turning them into a story. I have absolutely no recollection of what it was going to be about, but it worries me.

Something weird was happening to McTavish’s sheep. Something unnatural.

2) UNTITLED CANNIBALS IN SPACE STORY. Next is an SF tale I started three times, then abandoned. Set on a spaceship, it was going to be about a couple who wake from hibernation early, and must survive the long trip by defrosting the rest of the crew, one by one, and eating them. It never got beyond the second paragraph, because it is silly.

Colony ship Edicol Stephens shot through the freezing dark like something spat from Earth, rolling and shedding pinches of starlight from her hull. Inside, in a cramped dark conduit on deck 64, a torch-beam shone between the close-pressed faces of John and Elizabeth Nightingale. They were looking at a waxy green circuit sheet the way two murderers would look at evidence about to be presented against them.

3) DOCTOR PANDEMONIUM. I must have thought, what a fabulous retro, so clich├ęd it’s cool, Sci-Fi title for a story. But as I started to write, the story just sputtered to a halt. Sometimes your fingers have more sense than your brain.

They kept the lights low in Helios’s Bar. In one dark corner (and there were many of these dark corners) two men sat opposite each other at a stained mica table. One drank whiskey; the other drank bubbling green synth.
“Doctor Pandemonium?” said the whiskey drinker.
The thin man with shocking white hair gave a slight nod.
Another slight nod.
“Your actual surname is Pandemonium? Not Brown or… I don’t know… Wilson, or something? Honestly? It really is Pandemonium?”
“I am a scientist, Mr Fink.”
“Right. And scientists always come from families with some crazy name like Pandemonium, Destructo, or Arma-friggin-geddon. Tell me, bud, what’s your first name?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“First. Name.”
A pause, before the doctor answered, “Mobius.”
“Mobius? Mobius Pandemonium?”
“Would you stop bothering me, please. I’m supposed to be meeting someone here.”

4) NEVER BUY RADIATORS FROM GENIES. I found a document on my computer with the title, “Never Buy Radiators from Genies.” I didn’t remember writing it, so I opened it up. Inside the document I found this one sentence:

Never Buy Radiators from Genies.

5) THE LEECH PRINCESS. This next one really makes me squirm (even though I actually like the title.) I’ve never written a children’s story, but I obviously tried to start one here. One of the characters is called King Leopold Stickytoes, and I’m just going to have to live with that for the rest of my life.

In a pond in a wood the frogs and the leeches were at war. Slur Nigel Brownback, tactical advisor to King Leopold Stickytoes squatted before a map he had drawn with his toe in the mud.
“The bloodsuckers advanced three feet last night,” said he to his monarch. “And now their main army is arrayed here” – his tongue flicked out and back – “clinging to the underside of this root.”
King Leopold puffed out his throat, then shuffled his great green bulk closer to the map. “Have I eaten today?” asked he.
“Many times, Your Great Greenness.”
“Some water beetles would be pleasant right now.”
Slur Nigel waved his toe at one of the serving wenches, who immediately hopped off in the direction of the insect pool. “Now,” said he, turning his attention back to the muddy sketch. “If we send a crack unit in here” – his tongue flickered again – “we can pick them off as they slither out tonight.”
The king belched.
Slur Nigel eyed his ruler for a moment, then said, “The leeches are planning to attack the mosquito larvae in Itchy Bay.”
“Mosquito Larvae?” The king’s fat lips smacked together. “Lovely. Have them send up some nice fat ones.”
“Your Great Greenness,” said Slur Nigel. “The mosquitoes are our allies. You promised not to eat them.”
“Oh tush,” said the king. “They won’t miss a regiment or two.”

6) DUNGEON OF DOOM. I remember writing this, which, I’m sorry to say, is longer. I was fed up of being interrupted by my mobile phone. This isn’t a story. It’s me venting ire – at mobile phones, and at the whole Fantasy genre. It’s the running metaphor that makes this effort especially painful to read.

Gundhar Hairybreeks stood before the entrance to Drakorian’s Crypt and raised his broadsword. “Evil one,” he boomed. “Hear me in the Nether Realm. This night your legacy ends. This night I will plunder your tomb and lift the curse you have inflicted upon the land. This night-”
Bling-Dada-Bling. Bling-Dada-Bling. Bling-Dada. Bling-Dada. Bling.
Gundhar glanced down at his mobile.
Thou hast 1 unread message.
Received Weaversday, 1st Octovier 9:13 pm.
Hi, Muffy. Can u let me know what time you’ll be back? It’s just that if u r going to be an age, I might pop out and see Gwendolin. Ta muchly. Love u loads. X X X

The warrior grunted. Time? Time meant nothing down in that crypt. What foul creatures lurked within those dank tunnels? What dismal abominations stalked the gloomy halls? Wraiths and wights, it was rumoured. Aye, and worse: cankerous things from the Hell of Eternal Torment, summoned in the Age of Darkness when Drakorian, the Mage of Night, unleashed his wrath upon the world of men.
He swept his gaze across the valley. The sun had fallen behind the peaks of Greyfang Mountains and the land below lay shrouded in evening mist. Hamlets and clumps of woodland dotted the gentle fields in the south. Silverlade Brook broke free from the foothills at the base of the mountains and snaked through the farmlands around Briarsgate. The waters glimmered faintly, dull as pewter in the waning light.
An unsuspecting world.
Gundhar weighed his sword in one huge fist and faced the crypt once more. While blood still flowed in his veins he would not let Drakorian’s legions rise again to threaten his homeland. Let these monsters know their doom is nigh. Let them feel the-
Bling-Dada-Bling. Bling-Dada-Bling. Bling-Dada. Bling-Dada. Bling.
Thou hast 1 unread message.
Received Weaversday, 1st Octovier 9:14 pm.
Me again, Poppet. Gwendolin’s going to come round here. Will I do us some munchies? In case u get peckish when u get in? XXX

Damn the woman. He was about to plunge into the depths of Drakorian’s deepest stronghold, to the very brink of Hell, where seas of madness lapped the shores of reason. Blood was to flow this day; heads were to be severed and souls taken. He had not the time nor desire to consider munchies. His demon blade, Stormwrath, murmured its approval. There was much butchering to be done this night.
Gundhar advanced towards Witchcrag’s gaping doorway, and there he paused. Shadows writhed between the stones.
A warding spell?
“Clever, Drakorian,” Gundhar muttered. “But your powers cannot keep me from my destiny. Methinks I have some tricks of mine own.”
The warrior stepped forward and spoke the words of power, words gifted to him by the Elders of Silent Keep; words to shatter the dark mage’s spell.
“Karrak-na karash. Karrak-du karash. Karr-”
Bling-Dada-Bling. Bling-Dada-Bling. Bling-Dada. Bling-Dada. Bling.
Thou hast 1 unread message.
Received Weaversday, 1st Octovier 9:15 pm.
Sorry, Hon, I know u r busy. Only I need 2 know what u want on your sandwiches. There’s cheese, but its the blue stuff u don’t like. If u want something else I’ll have 2 go out 4 it. Let me know. Love u. X X X

Sandwiches?” Gundhar bellowed. “Sandwiches!” His voice thundered through the valley, echoed far across the Greyfang peaks. His broadsword shook in his grip. The woman was baiting him. How was he to stand against the hordes of darkness when this… this… wench would not let him be?
And as for this interminable messaging device…
The thing was a leash!
Had Drakorian sown them throughout the earth? Had these seeds of evil been planted to safeguard the dark mage’s return? Gundhar would have no more of it. The peace of the Sunset Kingdoms was at stake. When Drakorian regained his strength he would return from the Nether Realm. Already there were signs of his coming: the birthing of two-headed calves; ravens wheeling over the Crooked Ruins; great, grey wolves hunting once more in Whitewillow Wood. Time was running out.
Only Gundhar stood in his path, the last of the Moor Swords. Drakorian’s crypt must be cleansed by the eleventh moon, the evil driven back to the lands of shadow before the Winter Comet burned again in the heavens. The Shard of Night must be destroyed.
“I have vowed to do this,” Gundhar said, relaxing his grip on Stormwrath. “And so I must. Forefathers, forgive my outburst. Let not my temper isolate me from those I love.” He sighed. “The path of the sword is double-edged. Quick is the warrior’s rage. But quick is he to repent… and to grieve.”
Again Gundhar stepped forward, and again he uttered the words of power. “Karrak-na karash. Karrak-du karash. Karrak-ji karash.”
A mighty roar shook the valley, as though the very heart of the earth had been sundered. Gundhar staggered back. Sorcery blossomed and erupted around him, filled the air with spinning, twisting, midnight-coloured threads. Acrid fumes engulfed him: odours of scorched wood and coals, of blazing steel and mercury. Gagging, he fell to his knees. Distantly, as though in a dream, he heard a chorus of voices rise in a dirge. The voices grew louder, louder: liquid, inhuman words that swirled and danced and seemed to form shapes in the storm of magic around him. Gundhar clamped his hands over his ears, cried out in pain.
For a long moment the warrior knelt there, his teeth set, his bones thrumming as the last residues of sorcery departed. Finally he struggled to his feet and looked to the doorway again. The shadows had withdrawn further into the gloom. But no longer did they seem to move. He sniffed. A breeze issued forth from the crypt, cold and ancient and dead.
Bling-Dada-Bling. Bling-Dada-Bling. Bling-Dada. Bling-Dada. Bling.
Thou hast 1 unread message.
Received Weaversday, 1st Octovier 9:29 pm.
Sorry to bother you again, Muffy. Gwendolin asked me to ask, can we have the girls round? Do u mind? She has this catalogue of silky night thingies she wants to show me. Can we? Pleeeeaaase. Molly’s bringing some mead so we can all get roasted. X X X

Gundhar’s shoulders slumped. Wearily, he lowered his sword. Now it was silky night thingies. Was there to be no end to the Dark Lord’s trials? He stared at the infernal message contraption, wondering is there was a way to switch it off. He pressed the silvery knobs and studied the tiny glowing window for a while, before giving up. Such wizardry was beyond him.
His blade crooned softly, reminding him of his purpose. The crypt doorway yawned before him. Enough of this foolishness. His quest beckoned.
The stones were moist underfoot, the air greasy and unwholesome. Gundhar inched forward, Stormwrath balanced lightly before him. The sword seemed to welcome the promise of blood. He felt its power rise in response to the crypt’s latent evil, a surge of energy that echoed in the warrior’s heart.
“You feel Drakorian’s presence,” Gundhar whispered to his sword. “As do I, my old friend, as do I.”
He moved deeper into the passageway, pushed through cobwebs, and halted. Worn steps melted away into darkness. The steady drip, drip, drip of water came from below: a hollow, forlorn sound. His warrior instincts were tingling. Something here was deeply wrong.

[It goes on and on, but I won't inflict any more on you.]
7) UNTITLED TIME TRAVEL STORY. I don’t remember writing this. I suppose it’s the start of a time travel adventure, in which there would be a lot of sitting around, waiting, combined with a total lack of dinosaurs.

Back in a Blink of the Eye.
So said the advert, but it wasn’t technically true. Even the fastest machine – the Garguthera – took a whole second to travel backwards in Time a year. Passengers might conceivably return to the height of the Roman Empire in half an hour, were such trips permitted, but to reach the Pre-Cambrian Depot took a little longer. Twenty three years, ten months, and a day, to be precise.

8) UNTITLED WEIRDNESS. Have you ever tried to write something when there’s been some sort of annoyingly loud noise outside your house? I think this was born on an evening like that. Thankfully, it died on the same evening. Mr Dipney’s Asparagus Glass-house?

The bastards over the wall were building something, Mr Roral eventually decided. At first he’d thought the scraping, sawing and god-awful hammering to be another of their pathetic jests, like the bongo drums or those disgustingly lewd shaped balloons, or the time they’d tried to burn Mr Dipney’s Asparagus Glass-house by flinging Molotov cocktails. But no. This had gone on far too long. Even the worst of them lacked the patience to sustain such hilarity, as they saw it, for more than a day or two.

9) THE EXTRA LEV. I went to Bulgaria on holiday and came back with this monstrosity. There are actually pages of this drivel, where Yuri (No, I don’t even know if that is a real Bulgarian name) wanders around his village trying to earn an extra lev. In the end, I just couldn’t bear it any more. Reading the sentence with the “pink pickle” is like stepping on a tack.

“You know, Yuri, how much it now costs to have someone murdered?” Petrev glanced around the mehana, then leaned over the table. “Five Levs.”
“Five.” Petrev lifted a pink pickle from the dish between them, popped it into his mouth, and sat back, chewing. “There are so many Bortzi now, the cost has come down to this.” He shook his head. “Five Levs. Can you believe it? The price of a meal. The price of two dozen eggs.”
“That’s bad,” Yuri said.
Petrev nodded.
“I have only four Levs saved,” Yuri said.

10) THE HOUSE FROM EVER AFTER. Someone asked me to write a Sword and Sorcery story for an anthology. I tried, and then gave up. I was struggling to meet a deadline, and woefully lacking in self confidence. Of all these literary blunders and false-starts, this is the only one I think I might actually finish one day. Funnily enough, it kind of sums up my feelings about posting this on a blog.


A gnarled hand slid a red cylinder into the library vacuum tube and worried it for a moment before suction snatched the message away with a whoomph. The cylinder shot upwards through the glass channel towards the ceiling, careened around a bend, and vanished into a hole in the wall. Dust that had lain undisturbed for nine years vortexed in its wake.
Pile’s fingers hesitated at the mouth of the tube. He glanced up at the wall, then back at his hand. He stepped back from the intake, his face sickly green in the library worm-lights, and said, “Well, that’s that.”
He hobbled back to his desk with only the barest tremor of panic in his step, and sat down. Crumpled sheets of paper covered his desk and the floor around it. Pile looked at the place where the tube disappeared into the wall. Most of the worm-lights were now crawling in that direction, clearly intrigued by this strange new occurrence. “Can’t take it back now,” he said, as the corners of the room grew darker.


Zim heard an inverted pop and glanced up to see something small and red shoot through the glass ceiling-pipe and disappear through the opposite wall. A series of rapid clicks came from behind the plaster. The electric light bulbs dimmed. And then the capsule reappeared at the top of the delivery tube beside his bed, blasted down the inside of the glass, and landed in the reception receptacle with a shunk.
The vacuum tube exhaled a cloud of sour dust.
Zim had been polishing his rapier with nanite juice. Now he blinked and coughed and glared at this impudent arrival. A red tube, he vaguely recalled, meant something critical. He put down the blade, strolled over, and snatched the cylinder from its wire basket.
It was from Pile, the House Sorcerer, and it said:
We need to have sex.

I should point out that none of these ideas made into my books – “Scar Night”, “Iron Angel”, and “God of Clocks” — which are available at all good bookshops.

9 Responses to “The 10 Worst Stories I Ever Tried to Write”

  1. Christine H says:

    These are so great – thank you for sharing! I honestly think the cellphone + dark lord story has possibility… am I crazy?

  2. Greenwolfen says:

    I thought these were very funny. My favorite was also the cell phone one. It was actually interesting to read.

  3. dpomerico says:

    This seems like seriously good advice:
    Never Buy Radiators from Genies.
    And once again 10 minutes of working were diverted by the Internet. Thanks.

  4. VoicesInMyHead says:

    I loved the one about McTavish’s unnatural sheep! Worrying no doubt, but worth a good laugh nevertheless.

  5. Kyle M. says:

    Have you ever seen the movie Black Sheep? It’s about Weresheep, if you can believe it. It’s B-movie goodness all the way…if you’re into such things. That was the first thing that came to mind for me when I read those two lines, anyway.
    I do love this post.

  6. Alan Campbell says:

    I haven’t seen it, but I have heard of it. Wasn’t it made in New Zealand? My brother told me it was really good, so it’s on my “to-watch” list.

  7. Kyle M. says:

    You are absolutely right, sir! It was New Zealand and I side with your brother. It was, I think, a kind of spoof on the genre and it works deliciously well. Easily the best weresheep movie ever made.

  8. Malink says:

    Wow, that made my night. Also, I know what not to purchase in case I come across a magical lamp with a sales pitch inside of it.
    …and maybe I’m wrong, but aren’t ALL sheep unnatural and weird?
    P.S. You’re brave to put these false starts up, mine are under lock and key.

  9. Australian Books says:

    Nice Post..

Leave a Comment


Del Rey Spectra 50 Page Fridays