Builders make buildings, executives make companies, musicians make music, and I was taught writers produce manuscripts, not Adobe files. To me books are dreams that take shape on paper.
This one started four years ago. I was willing to let the idea go, but it kept coming back in bits and pieces when I journaled. That went on for a year until I found the courage to write the first line: "I met Charles Charles about six months after I married Andy." That went well, so I kept going. (Never underestimate that first line.)
I wrote out the entire first draft on yellow legal pads, as I have since the beginning. It became more and more difficult, until I knew I was going to have to take drastic action to finish. Luckily, friends invited me to LA and I'd heard the Baja peninsula in Mexico was almost deserted by tourists for various reasons and that made it the perfect escape. I completed the draft sitting on an adobe veranda with nothing before me but the sea.
Then I practically re-wrote the entire script transferring it to the computer. I'm not a complete fool, only a slow learner. I started to find the voice of the central character, who is also the narrator, during this draft and started to get the hell out of her way. That's what got me through the draft--at least it wasn't all me, me, me.
It took another solid year working three to four hours a day with longer stints on weekends and vacations. My life became less interesting than the book, so I had to fight with myself to go on dates and take breaks. It kept growing and I couldn't stop it. My analyst approved of the project and the ladies didn't know.
Then the initial emotional surge abated somewhat and I had to put on my thinking cap. This is the time when "craftsmanship" comes into play. The pieces of the puzzle exist but they have to be put in the right order. Mess up and you have failed. Old characters are replaced by new, language has to sound real, claptrap cut, scenes made as vivid as possible, the theme enhanced by minimal increments. It takes discipline, and whatever objectivity that can be mustered.
By now I'd spent two Thanksgiving mornings working on the script at my apartment. They were the most memorable days since there is nothing I feel more thankful for than when I have a script I believe in and some time to work on it. Some folks might call that a bit strange, but it's the only way of being I've ever known.
I did more writing the fourth year than all the other years combined. Some chapters, I found, had to be re-written three and four times until they felt right. I often woke in the morning with new lines in mind, and sometimes whole paragraphs. Words came when I was walking down the street, talking on the phone, during business meetings, and while tweezing. It was like holding on during a tsunami.
The ending still scared the ever lovin' babageezers out of me. I decided to closely edit the entire last two parts--about a hundred pages in preparation for it and "hand" wrote the entire chapter from scratch again before committing it to word processing. Thanksgiving Day was looming in the distance.
I slowed down my pace and refused all invitations so I 'd be uninterrupted with no way out. I made sure I had plenty of coffee and pipe tobacco. I got to the "machine" around nine. "Not too much, not too little," that was the mantra. By one I started to think it was possible, but then there was a computer glitch and I thought it was lost.
I took a break. Journaled. Prayed. Hoped it wasn't true and when I went back to the computer figured out my mistake and went back to work. At 5:40 I was on page 361 and wrote the last line: "I became a person." It ends with a whimper, but sometimes a whimper is more powerful than a bang.
In the days ahead I'll do some proof reading, print it up, and slap on a sunshine yellow cover. My offspring will be born. I'll send it to a few close friends for their evaluation. "Snail mail" is good enough; it brings something you can hold in your hands and use to scratch between your fingers. At least, nobody can take that satisfaction away from me. I've sent out some queries and already had a few rejections--one by a relative of my deceased wife--an agent who didn't bother to read the material, or my blog as far as I can tell.
Truth be told, this is the hard part. Writing the manuscript is the best part. I was in control. Now, I have to watch as it is ignored, battered, and bruised. It will take all my patience to endure, and if the past is any measure I will lose hope easily. I will not self-publish, or "internet" publish--not a novel. No offense to those who do; I've spent my life with no more recurrent purpose than writing a work of literature that reaches a wide audience.
I can't imagine what it's like to wake up without the script on my mind. If next Thanksgiving rolls around and I still haven't sold it, I'll have the date in mind--another year will have passed.
It's been almost a year since I wrote this post. Since then, I've been averaging over a hundred views per month to this and the excerpts from the novel--in some cases more, despite the fact that OS is under a spam attack and it's unclear how long it will last.
The readers now are those who have been directed here in the publishing business. The commenters are mostly other bloggers on OS, none of whom I know elsewhere, and none of whom were paid.
I don't know who you are or what you want but hope you will tell me sometime soon. I'm not getting any younger, and either are you. I'm currently back to work on the manuscript, amazed at the changes that need to be made. I'm expanding, detailing and contemporizing, (if that's a word) and close, very close.
I have further studied the literary antecedents and had it reviewed by a prominent psychoanalyst. No reader has complained to my face. I'm calling the form "psychological realism." It's like riding the cyclone. Two parts, roughly a hundred pages are ready to go out. Cleary, my cards are on the table. What are yours? You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Chapter One and an additional excerpt from my novel MAGGIE MAGIC are published on my blog. Click the tags: Maggie Magic or Ben Sen's Fiction.