“How’s the book coming?”
“When will it be done?”
To answer a question with a question, have you ever written a long paper?
A thesis, perhaps, or a term paper or legal brief? One that really mattered to you? Maybe you’ve tried your hand at a short story, and discovered just how challenging that can be. Even just an important letter home can be a big endeavor.
Ok, so when you think back on that little writing project, did it end up taking longer than you thought?
(Maybe you’re even thinking, “that thesis wasn’t a ‘little’ project! It was many pages long)!
Well, how long did it take you? Did you rework the wording, to be sure it captured what you wanted the reader to take away? Did you take time to mull over your choice of words, and tighten up the paragraphs to ensure one idea flowed clearly to the next? Maybe it took longer than you guessed it would. Or maybe you’re just a whiz-bang at this stuff, in which case you could be cracking out novels yourself, and if so, then I urge you to go for it!
Or maybe you’re one of those folks who wanted to write something but abandoned it because it was just too hard. Because life got in the way with all its interruptions and you were just too busy to take the time.
Does any of that strike a chord?
Good! Then have mercy! Consider that the tale I’m telling required extensive research, some of which had to be done in person because it couldn’t be found in the library or online. Consider that after I whittle it down, this book looks like it’ll be a good 300 pages in length. Every word of it must be carefully chosen to match the cadence of speech and the voice of my character, who lived 130 years ago (seriously, that rules out a whole lot of modern-day phrasing). I have to look up word origins, as I work, and read a lot of old books, to get the “voice” of this thing. Consider the time it takes to construct a tightly-woven plot and complex characters.
Portions of this manuscript have had to be rewritten maybe 10 times. And no, that’s not an unusual number of times for an author to rewrite. Just ask Stephen King!
So, in answer to your questions—
Yes, the book is “written.” It’s been written for some time. But it’s still in rewrite.
No, you can’t read it yet, unless you’re one of my beta readers, helping me vet the key scenes (and even the beta readers don’t get to read the whole kit and kaboodle of this manuscript, till I’m satisfied it’s DONE.
Yes, I do have an agent waiting, and I’ve promised myself I’ll submit it to her before the end of this year, 2018, come hell or high water.
“What are you waiting for?” Several friends have asked. “You know that agent’s interested…why not strike while the iron is hot?” My answer— I want to be sure the manuscript gives a clear vision of my story, the way I want it told. Might as well give it 100%. If it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing right.
Thanks for your patience.
I think this endeavor is worth my time.
Everywhere I go, I bring my writing. Everywhere.
The few times I’ve allowed myself to become separated from it, it’s led to a brooding creative doldrums, from which no progress can be made….a day without sunshine.
The absolute worst, (and how could I let this happen) is finding myself with some substandard, borrowed, low-on-ink ballpoint, scratching words on a soon-to-be-forgotten napkin.
Normally, i tote the manuscript on my person or in my car, the laptop on which it resides packed in a sturdy canvas tote, along with a pencil case stocked with easy-grip gel pens, highlighters and my favorite, a fine-tip writing sharpie. A single-subject spiral notebook in which I document my conversations with my editor and outline my scenes. All orderly, every item in its place.
But travel presents a problem. A laptop is a lot to tote around. And even though it’s backed up to the cloud, I worry about it getting stolen, or wet, or dropped on that long downhill jog to the beach. So, I’ve left it behind!
I thought this would be hard. But it’s freed me instead. I’m learning all I really need is a spiral notebook, a couple of pens, scene outlines, and such details from my prior draft as deserve to remain in the story.
When I get home, I’ll tackle the task of assimilating my travel pages into the manuscript. Till then, I’m learning the art of working remotely. But please don’t feel too sorry for me—my characters and I are on the beach.
The bathers in the photo below are on the Texas side of The Rio Grande. That green grass right behind them is Mexico. The River is quite narrow in this spot…both physically and metaphorically. There has always, ALWAYS been commerce across the river…”commerce” including both legitimate trade and smuggling.
Back in the day, believe it or not, the smuggling was not just in stolen longhorn cattle, but also candellia wax. Yes, WAX! Seems like a strange thing to smuggle. But because of the way it was taxed, it was cheaper not to declare it.
The Hot Springs hasn’t made its way into John’s story (at least, not yet). Though the water here is delightfully warm, and not hard to imagine our hero and his campadres coming to take a dip.
Recently I met up with Kathleen Kent, author of four books, including The Dime, which is about to become a TV series.
At Interabang Books, to listen to Joe Lansdale, author of Jack Rabbit Smile, tell the lowdown about making a novel into a film.
Spending time either in conversation with or listening to the experiences of other writers has helped me to understand this work I have taken on. It helps make it seem all worthwhile. People like Kathleen and Joe help put things into perspective for me and, ultimately, my soon-to-be readers.
By the way, Kathleen’s third novel, The Outcasts, is set in Texas just a decade before the events of my own book.