If we’re friends on social media, chances are you already know that I wrote a novel. You may even have participated in one of my “Help name a minor Character” thingys I did along the way. Those were a lot of fun and genuinely helped me out a ton. Between all that and my intrepid team of Beta Readers, there has been a lot of crowdsourcing on this project and I am grateful for it all.
So, it is written and whether or not it’s any good is up to the readers, but it is written. Such things become increasingly subjective the closer one gets to the world of publication, but I did in fact once again create something that can certainly be categorized as a novel.
This new project is very different from the first novel I wrote, years ao, which is currently well and truly situated in a box in the guest room closet. That book was about a number of things, including but not limited to answering the question, “can I write a novel?” It turns out that I could and I did. That one did what it needed to do and is safely shielded from you all, much like my live performance at the Wooster Spotlight Showcase at Mom’s Truckstop in 1992 where, despite my moving cover of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain,” all anyone recalls is how I forgot the words to “American Pie” after the 67th verse. (Too many damned words in that song, Don.)
There are parts of the first novel, The Geography of Home that I still really like. There are a few chapters and some dialog that I think hold up, but it’s not ready for the world and I’m not interested in revisiting it. I processed a lot of personal in that one and it’s served its purpose. It was a good project to learn from and the experience of writing it, editing it, and trying to get it out were valuable to me both then and now. Writing has always been an outlet for me. I have piles of notebooks that attest to that fact. Like everyone else, I’ve faced challenges, adversity, and moments both high and low. I’ve always felt when facing any such moments that I handled them best after putting pen to paper to process them.
The current book, The Last Good Day, is a story I’ve been wanting to tell for a very long time. It’s loaded with people and places and events that really pop for me, and having a good portion of the action take place in Wildwood is a bonus. Write what you know, they say…
So, I have a group of pitch meetings scheduled this weekend. As I review my notebooks to prepare for the selling of myself and the story in Philadelphia, where I’ll try to convince people way smarter than me about publishing that my book is worthy, I’m struck by the fact that this story kept poking me. The first words I wrote for this one were written on March 2, 2011. “It’s only 8am and I just made the train.” Honestly, the story had been germinating for longer than that, probably years really, for a variety of reasons. Let’s just say again, we write what we know. Or knew. I have currently about four different books living in my head, vying for attention and time. It’s hard to focus on more than one at a time but The Last Good Day just kept calling me and I know why now.
Whether or not anyone ever reads it, and whether or not any of my pitches hit their mark and lead to anything this weekend or beyond, this was a story that I simply had to write down. There’s a truth in it that I only see now as I look back on the process of writing it and, if I’m honest, the moments and characters that ring true in both the world of the book and the world of my actual past. It’s a fine line.
About a month after I started writing the first pages-all handwritten, as the book is a journal-style narrative-I found myself on a bench outside of Coit Tower in San Fransisco. I tagged along with the wife on a work trip and had several days to explore the city and write, read, and explore the city. I also must admit that I got into a loop watching a marathon of the old “Coming Home” series on Lifetime where they helped soldiers returning from overseas surprise their families in a variety of complicated ways. I blubbered at them all.
But I remembered writing at Coit, and in Union Square Park, and at the Irish Bank and the Buena Vista Café. I wrote a lot and ended up with more questions than I started with but I remember leaving San Francisco in 2011 with a basic plan and an outline and some excitement.
But then, life happened. I’ve chronicled much of that life here in earlier posts so I won’t reiterate, but short version is that family life got complicated. But these characters still kept on growing in my head. And other projects got my attention. I have both The Petulant Son, and The Strange Case of Freddy Pinkerton, competing for my time and attention. I went back and forth with all of them but in the end Avery and Angela, the protagonists of The Last Good Day wouldn’t let me go.
For fictional characters, they are quite bossy and there have been far too many nights where I didn’t get to sleep or I got to sleep way too late because they made it clear that they weren’t done with me for the day. Or, more irritatingly, that they weren’t going to do or say the things I had planned for them. We worked it out but it is truly something to be dictated to by a fictional character.
So, the book is done and my beta team was awesome and it’s been edited and re-edited and will likely be edited more if all goes well. The business of getting it published is a whole different animal than writing it has been and I look forward to diving back into that world as I believe in this story. I think there’s an audience for it.
I think I’ll write more about this process and about the book in the coming days but it’s been interesting to consider the fact that I’ve been actively writing this story for over six years and living with it for far longer. Time to see what kind of legs it actually has. It’s a nervous thing though, getting ready to sell yourself and something you’ve put such time and energy into. The people I’ll be pitching are looking for something they can sell and believe in. It won’t be personal if it’s a pass and if no one wants it, I know that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value or a chance to grab an audience. This will be an interesting week as I prepare.
I ordered 100 business cards. It’ll be either way too many or way too few. Stay tuned as there is more to come this week, I hope.