Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Pile of Paper


            Welcome back to more fun with the journey through The Zealot.  We now have a pile of paper.  God, I was so proud.  I had achieved my actual goal by just writing the crazy thing.  I had written a book, sort of.  It totaled 205,000 words.  I was so na├»ve that I didn’t know something that large was a problem.  I knew I had work to do, but what and in what order?

            I knew a lot of people like myself who read, but no one who wrote, so I went online and ordered some books on how to construct manuscripts for publishing.  As I had written the manuscript, I created a separate file for each chapter.  I did this for several reasons, one of them being that I was a mystery reader.  I didn’t want chapters to become too long.  I also thought it would be easier to work on the individual chapters if they were in their own files.  Who knows if I was right.  For me, it turned out okay.  I would do it again.

            Once I had the books in hand and I read them, I immediately found out I was an idiot.  Imagine that.  My font was wrong and I had written the thing in 10 point.  Once corrected, I remembered the words from Sean Connery in Finding Forrester, “You write the first draft with your heart, and re-write with your head.”  I then sat down and started to re-write.  For me, without a laptop, this was very time consuming.  Each morning, again very early, I would sit at the computer and do as much as I could.  I didn’t know what I was doing, but I would correct spelling, punctuation, meaning, and trim and cut where I could.  Then I would print off a chapter for the day and take it with me to edit in the cab.  This process probably took me another two or three months.

            The second draft was completed.  Smiling, I clicked the button and found I had trimmed it to…198,000 words.  WOW!!!  I’m getting somewhere.  I’m thinking at this point somebody should read this thing.  I thought it was pretty good, but was it?  My wife Lana and I went out and bought five BIG three ring binders.  I mean BIG ones.  This manuscript was around 600 pages at this point.  We also bought A LOT of paper.  And ink.  We started printing.  I got a phone call from Georgia-Pacific.  They told me they had to start up a paper mill in the South.  When we were done, three Sequoias and four saplings were sacrificed. 

            I sent one off to a sister in Tampa, one to my parents in Missouri, gave one to Lana’s boss, another to a friend at Yellow Cab, and the final one was for Lana.  I wait for the reviews.  Lana loves it.  What is she going to say?  My parents love it also.  My sister loves it.  Lana’s boss, a Dentist, loved it too, but he offered to help me chop it down and get it cleaner.  I was more than happy for the help.  By the time the good doctor had finished it and I had made the changes, another six months passed and the manuscript had been taken down to 180,000 words. 

            I realized friends and relatives have read it, and they have all told me the same thing.  It isn’t just that they had told me they liked the book.  I expected that.  It’s how they said it.  It was what they said about the characters and the plot that excited me.  I knew I had something.  The bad news was when I learned I needed to be between 90,000 and 110,000 words.  I needed serious help.  I needed help from people who knew what they were doing, but where was I going to find that? 

            That, my friends, will be the topic for next time.  Oh, by the way, I still have that binder with the early draft.  I use it for approaching tornadoes.  I run out and place it on the roof of my van so it won’t blow away.

4 comments:

  1. So that's why the roof of your car is Caved in. Always wondered about that. When I first started writing a novel, my biggest misunderstanding was not recognizing that the real writing is in the revision. I recall thinking that I was doing such a great job on my writing that I'd never need to do a lick of revision! Me and Henry James, baby!

    Btw, I was wrong . . .

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  2. Iguess I always knew I would have to revise, but I really never understood how MUCH revision there would be. I've basically re-invented the whole novel.

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  3. You could always find a way to leave it open ended for a second novel, essentially cutting it in half but still having the whole story.

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  4. Thanks Bill, but in hindsight, it just rambled and rambled. I'll get into that shortly. I clearly had no clue what I was doing, but it was fun doing it. That's what is also fun about forums like these. I get to be the village idiot for everyone, showing you what not to do, saving you time and PAPER.

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