“Everyone has at least one great book in them,” said my good friend, Chris, over the music and the constant flow of beer. I can’t recall where we were; I’m not even sure I knew at the time. Somewhere in Victoria, I think. But while the details of that night faded quickly, Chris’s words did not.
At least a decade later — and almost two years after I started writing my debut novel — I am into my third major draft and realizing that a finished product is still months away. Like most things of substance, if we knew how much work they would be before we started, then we likely wouldn’t start them in the first place.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with two editors: my wife, Sheila, who already went through a draft manuscript in painstaking detail, helping me bring a rough story to a solid state; and Richard, who is challenging me in entirely new ways, building on the story that Sheila helped me to create. This was always the plan, to have two editors, because I felt that Sheila was too close to me — to the anecdotes and people from my own life who inspired countless bits of the story that I have created — to view my novel as objectively as she could see somebody else’s work. She did a wonderful job. She caught mistakes and logical challenges; proposed ways to bring my characters to life; tightened my language; asked me tough questions about my story, my setting, my characters, my style. She helped me so much that I almost decided to skip the second editor.
I’m glad I went ahead with Plan A. What I’m learning now is what a layered process it takes to start with a completely organic, sat-down-with-an-idea-and-started-to-write story, and turn it into a novel that people might want to read — “want” being the key word. I know there is a core group of family and friends who will slog through my book regardless of whether they enjoy it. But I don’t want reading it to be a chore, so I’ll try to do the slogging instead. I know that at some point in the not-too-distant future, I will have to say, “that’s a wrap,” and accept that my story — my novel — is what it is. I’m not there yet, but I trust that I will know when I am.
I’m thoroughly enjoying this whole process, and learning a great deal along the way. Both Sheila and Richard have already driven me to be a better writer, and they are well on their way to helping me become a novelist. Since I already have at least three additional stories bouncing around in my head, I am treating this first book as a springboard to a writing career. But I also want to treat it as a work that is worthy, in its own right, of the time and energy that I am investing in it.
So it turns out that writing a novel is a team effort. With process and structure and all that stuff. That’s one of the reasons why I started this blog: to have a place where I can pour my thoughts to the “virtual page” without having to think about where they belong… what else they might affect… whether my spelling or grammar are perfcet.
Well, that’s a wrap. For this little post, anyway…