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 naïve 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.