In the summer of 2011, I took the plunge.
I would write a novel.
Adhering to the classic “write what you know” advice, I wrote about my journey of quitting drinking. (I had been sober for a year at that point.) The tale would be inspired by my favorite book, Through the Looking Glass.
Clocking in at a whopping 18,000 words (the longest story I’d ever written), it was terrible. Aideen spent the first half of the story on a train, and the second half on a journey nearly identical to that of Alice. (My White Knight was practically the same character as Lewis Carroll’s.)
Discouraged, I walked away from the manuscript for the first of dozens of times.
Over the years, as I learned more about my craft and experienced more of life, my flurries of writing activity became more fruitful. Characters fleshed out, plot lines changed, and I could see the glimmer of a worthy story.
After seven years of on-again-off-again rewrites, I joined a workshop led by Sterling and Stone founders Sean Platt and Johnny Truant called Clocking Out. The premise was they would teach their students how to write fast to publish fast. Rinse and repeat. (Write and Reiterate.)
Sean and Johnny provided so much value in that two-day intensive. Plus, the incentives were enticing: finish your first draft by the end of the year, and get a free book description and cover. Uh, yes please.
Between the excitement of implementing my newfound knowledge and the promise of having the whole sales package when I finished, I scrapped the story and started over.
I kept many of the characters I loved (or loved to hate), but I reexamined their goals and motives. Their relationships. My assumptions about the plot. And using the 40-scene summary template Sean and Johnny provided, I wrote a more compelling story line and gave my characters more, well, character.
Is it the next Great American Novel?
No. Not by a long shot. It’s my first novel. But it’s a heck of a lot better than the garbage I was clinging to, hoping some pretty window dressing would make it better.