A NOVEL EXPERIENCE

This is what I have to say to everyone who cavalierly says hmmm, I should write a book.  Beware: novel writing isn’t for the faint of heart.

StoryBoard:  you have a great story idea, you write it down, you revise it, you publish it, and you have a terrific book release party.

The devil, however, is in the details. Here is my version of the storyboard.

You sit at your computer for seven years writing and rewriting a hundred thousand words. You live with it so long, you’re not sure if it’s any good and you really can’t remember why you started it in the first place. But start you did—over and over—and by God, you were going to finish it..

Mixed through all those early drafts are piles of research. The first agent I spoke to said that my time frame made it a historic novel. How could I be old enough to have lived in historical times? I was flabbergasted.  Since my grays are covered up and I think I’m much younger than I truly am, I was incensed but took that matter seriously. I amassed a fair amount of research and fact checking. I will say that if you enjoy William Kennedy’s books of Albany, you should read his newspaper stories of that time. Fascinating but distracting! Research is an effective procrastination tool. (Reading is far less taxing than writing, in case you were wondering).

After the second draft, you know you need critique and a soundboard. So you impose on your writer friends, who made the generous mistake of offering to read it.  Little did they know they would then be asked to read and reread and comment.  And I must say, they were all diligent and blunt.  Well, I asked for it, didn’t I?

Marika would never say that.  This scene would be better with a catfight. You have to add to this scene. The scene is too long. It ends too abruptly. Too many commas.  You don’t need a comma there.  I don’t think the story should start there.  But then again maybe it should. 

The margins have encouraging notes.  No. Don’t do it!  He’s such a jerk!  I just love that she did that. Tell her to get over it. What is Lisa thinking?  

It’s starting to come alive. You rewrite again. The suggestions that you embrace and discard make sense and it all seems to work.  Almost to the finish line, but there is still the copyeditor and proofreaders (the one from hell and the one heaven sent), resulting in more changes.

So all these years later, the book is finished and it’s time to have a party.  During all those years, I never let myself think that far ahead.  It was indescribable happiness. People from all parts of my life together with my book in hand.

Do I dare start another one?  It seems impossible not to.

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