I wrote my first book six years ago. Our office had started a summer hours program where if you worked extra hours the first four days, you could take a half day Friday. I signed up, I worked my extra time and I came home.
While eating lunch, I wondered what I would do with my hard-earned free time. On a whim, I picked a story idea from my file cabinet (one I had never really thought about before) and started writing. I wrote for four hours, ate dinner and wrote for another four. My first chapter was done: a real chapter, with a beginning and a middle and an end.
Now, I had never finished a story in my life. Up until that time, I wrote scenes. A scene is an idea about a story, with characters, action and dialogue, but no connectivity with anything. It makes total sense in my head, but it would be several pages of gibberish to anyone else. I enjoyed my scenes a lot, but no one else could.
I wrote more the next day. I enjoyed myself. No rules, except the obvious it has to make sense. If I got stuck, I made something happen. The poor gentleman who dies in the first chapter dies purely because I thought "That proves the situation is serious" (paraphrase from Galaxy Quest. How many Star Trek Red Shirts died for the same reason? I've not counted them, but some nerd will know). A forest of walking trees showed up. A crazed monk with a branding iron. A mouthy little friend who runs like the wind.
With every chapter completed, I wondered Can I go on? Why not? I had the time.
I kept writing. I wrote from seven to nine every night. By August, I was writing nearly all day on Saturdays. By September, I had expanded to writing during the lunch hour. By October, I wrote as long as could before I went to work, and I would write past nine P.M. if I was on a roll. Every weekend minute not spent at church or with family went to my book (and I must admit, I resented more than a few of those church/family minutes).
I always began by reading the previous day's work, editing it for clarity and plunging into new action. I was afraid if I stopped, I would never start again.
Every weekend I would read a completed chapter aloud to my mom. It gave me a weekly goal and I kept it. It also gave me weekly encouragement because I needed it. Mom is a very forgiving audience, though not useful for critiquing purposes. She thinks everything I write is wonderful.
Some chapters were easy and were completed well before my weekend deadline. Some were hard.
Chapter Twelve was hard, mostly because I knew what was coming in Chapter Thirteen and I wanted to get there. I cried when I made it. But the book wasn't over, and I didn't stop. I'd come so far. Could I make it to the end?
Mom was scheduled for surgery November 3rd, and I finished the last chapter and read it to her on the 2nd. I couldn't believe I had written an entire book: 310 pages, 167,000 words. It made sense.
Other people thought it was interesting (I'd enlisted several readers along the way to make sure I was telling a good story and not wasting anyone's time). I had accomplished everything I set out to do (which, albeit, wasn't much) that Friday afternoon five months earlier. I wrote a book.
Being a Type B, I patted myself on the back, stuck it in a drawer and moved on with my life.
Ooh, time's up. Tune in tomorrow for the rest.
One other thing. When I do publish that first book, don't skip to Chapter Thirteen. It's worth the wait. Believe me.
Monday, September 21, 2009
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