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.


  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 . . .

  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.

  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.

  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.