I’ve been in kind of a funk the last week. Wrapped up the on-line novel on Tuesday, and that felt good. No, actually, that felt pretty damn good. I had a nugget in the can when I started – the first chapter, an idea and a couple of scenes I’d sketched out here and there – but I pretty much did what I said I was going to do. I wrote a rough draft online and let ya’ll watch. And I wrapped that puppy up in two months. And the cool thing was this. First month, I wrote 13 chapters, and that wasn’t bad. I mean that was a chapter every couple of days more or less. But then I hit on the whole novel-as-a-serial-flash-fiction exercise, and from there on out, it was pretty much a chapter a day. And bang. Sixty days on the nose, one draft in the can.
Compare that to my first novel, Unto Caesar. It took me years to write that, although years is misleading. I always had it in the back of my head that I’d write a novel someday. And every so often I’d toy at it. But I had the day job and the family and writing just stayed on the back burner. In some ways, I guess it felt like wanting to be a big-league ball player or imagining I was going to whip my golf game in shape and make the Senior’s Tour. It felt like a dream, so I treated it like one. It didn’t get much attention during my waking hours.
Then a good friend of mine died. My best friend, actually. My oldest friend. And that shook me up quite a bit. Intellectually, we all understand that tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us, but his death drove that home in a big way. I realized I was on the clock. I’ve been fairly successful in my day job, but being a big-shot marketing muckety-muck at a national accounting firm, that was never a dream of mine, that was just what I did to pay the bills and take care of the family. Writing a novel – and getting the sucker published – that was my dream.
So I dug what I had out of the various desk drawers and hard drives and floppy discs, and I found that I had maybe 25 to 30K, and over the next year and a half I finished the rest of it. I remember the night I was wrote the end of the first draft. It was late, a Friday night in February, a snow-sleet mixture going on outside – I could hear it scratching at the windows. I had my laptop out in the living room while the rest of the family was in the den watching a movie. Had a fire going, had a Manhattan on the end table. And I remember banging the period at the end of the last sentence of the last scene in the last chapter, pounding that sucker out with a little more emphasis than usual. And I sat back, and I watched the fire, and I finished the drink. And I felt better about that period than I had felt about anything else in a very long while.
But I didn’t have this funk thing going that time. Partly, I guess, because this was still an adventure. I mean now I had the agent hunt. So I whipped the draft in shape and started the whole query exercise. Wrapped that up pretty quickly, actually, but mostly because that was marketing – I understood that. Carpet bombed the likely agent list, had several nibbles, and then hooked up with crime uber agent Stacia Decker. And then she gave me my new marching orders – thou shalt get on Twitter. Thou shalt start a blog. Thou shalt BUILD A PLATFORM. So I spent several months doing a lot of virtual hammering and nailing whilst she pitched away. Then came a substantial overhaul of the first novel based on feedback from some editors who really liked it, but . . .
Thing is, I realized what I was dreaming of wasn’t so much writing and publishing a novel, it was being a novelist. And that means writing more than one. That scared me a little. I mean I know how long the first one took. Always this little voice in the back of my head telling me maybe I was a one-trick pony. And I think I delayed starting The Gravity of Mammon for just that reason. But not for long, and once I started, I churned that puppy out. I now KNOW, without a doubt, that I can write a novel a year, even with a day job. In fact, I can write at least two novels a year, even with a day job.
So why am I in a funk? Don’t know. I tried to jump on a couple of flash fic things last week, but just didn’t have the energy. Maybe I just need a refractory period. Maybe my brain is still in the novel and is going to stay there until I get through the rewrite and get it off to the agent. But I’ve got that nasty January feeling in my heart the last few days. The kind that used to make me put the novel in a drawer for a year or two.
The difference this time is that I know that bad is not final, even in this light. So I’m writing something for the blog, keeping the wheels turning over, knowing I’ll get some traction soon enough. And that crow in the other tree, the one with the malice bright in his eyes, fuck him.
No Possum, No Sop, No Taters
by Wallace Stevens
He is not here, the old sun,
As absent as if we were asleep.
The field is frozen. The leaves are dry.
Bad is final in this light.
In this bleak air the broken stalks
Have arms without hands. They have trunks
Without legs or, for that, without heads.
They have heads in which a captive cry
Is merely the moving of a tongue.
Snow sparkles like eyesight falling to earth,
Like seeing fallen brightly away.
The leaves hop, scraping on the ground.
It is deep January. The sky is hard.
The stalks are firmly rooted in ice.
It is in this solitude, a syllable,
Out of these gawky flitterings,
Intones its single emptiness,
The savagest hollow of winter-sound.
It is here, in this bad, that we reach
The last purity of the knowledge of good.
The crow looks rusty as he rises up.
Bright is the malice in his eye…
One joins him there for company,
But at a distance, in another tree.