The new book is done. It only took 3 full years, but it’s finally complete.
Truth be told, this particular book didn’t take 3 years. There was the other book that I was writing and decided to toss in the trash. That was a year wasted. And then there was a year of doing almost nothing. Well, not nothing. I did get married, move into a new house, get three new roommates and went on a honeymoon. That took a year.
The last year has been spent writing my new book. Pretentious.
Ok, thats not quite true either.
Several years ago, I was driving along the backroads up near Cooperstown. I happened along this old dirt road branching off from the main road and leading up the hill into the woods. There was a weathered old sign with the barely legible words “Do Not Enter” blocking the path. I wondered who lived there. I went through a few different scenarios, and came up with this – The property is owned by an old, reclusive Rock star, someone who hasn’t been seen in over 20 years. A musical J.D. Salinger.
I went home, wrote a few pages of back story, and then tossed it in a drawer for two years.
Ok, it wasn’t actually in a drawer, it was on a hard drive, but it’s a much better visual. Then I went back to my other unfinished novel. The one that was supposed to be finished two years ago. As you may have noticed, I have a problem completing projects.
Anyway, the other novel stalled, as did a screenplay that I’ve been writing for 10 years, as did…everything else I was working on, so I went back to my Cooperstown/rock star story. I changed the narrative here and there and began to flesh out the character. He wasn’t an old recluse, but a middle aged rock star who walked away from his career in the prime of his life, and was now living in relative obscurity in upstate New York. He was a flawed character, as most good protagonists are, but there was something about him that I liked, so I kept writing. When I got up to around the 100 page mark, I started to think that maybe it was going to become a full length novel. Imagine my excitement. The turning point of the story is when my star, Zack Miller, has a drunken episode which is captured by various cell phone cameras and then spread across Youtube and TMZ for all the world to see…
Then, on a whim, I went to see the movie Birdman.
If you haven’t seen it, Birdman is the story of a washed-up, middle-aged actor who is desperate to get his career on track… and has an embarrassing episode captured on cell phones for all the world to see.
I was sick to my stomach. I almost puked up my popcorn right then and there.
The novel went back in the drawer for another year. I went back to the other novel. I couldn’t make it work. I was stuck. Hell, I’m still stuck. After a few more months of procrastination, I went back to Zack Miller. I still liked him, although I was less sure about the story. I decided to plow on through to the end and let the chips fall where they may. I set a goal of 1500 words each day.
I failed miserably, but the story kept moving. Eventually, I got to the point where I had a completed story.
I hated it. I hated everything about it. I hated the story. I hated the title. I hated the cover I came up with. Everything.
Back in the drawer it went.
Somewhere along the way, I decided that it didn’t matter what I thought, it was getting published, no matter what. So I went back and edited, and re-wrote, and edited until I had what I thought was a pretty decent book. I still hated it, but I was very satisfied that it was complete. Around the beginning of the year, I put a deadline on myself. I wanted the book to be ready and published by the time the Bay Ridge Summer Stroll happened – July 22nd. Then I went back to work. I wrote a lot in Jan and Feb, and added a few new chapters that gave me a little confidence about the project.
Then I started editing… and re-editing… and un-editing… and cross-editing…
It gets sickening after a while. At some point, you can no longer see the mistakes. I thought the first draft was in good shape, so I put it down for a few days and went about my business. When I came back to it, I discovered about 100 new mistakes. I knew it needed a pair of fresh eyes, so I gave the draft to my brother.
He found about about 100 more mistakes and typos and inconsistencies. I was pretty discouraged. And then I wasn’t. And then a day later, I was depressed again. This went on for weeks. I finally made the decision to have it shipped off to an editing service for some professional corrections and a critique of the narrative. That usually takes a few weeks, so with my free time, I started to work on a cover for the book. The service I use has a bunch of different templates that you can use, and there are also some other sites on the web that do the same thing for a nominal fee. Or you can hire a professional to create a cover for upwards of $1000 bucks. You can probably guess which route I took. I made up a few different covers with a musical theme, and some friends came up with really cool ideas as well. My friend Felipe came up with a really cool photo of an old weathered guitar leaning up against a piano.
The draft came back with a pretty decent critique and about 500 new corrections. This may have been the most poorly written book in the history of the english language.
I cleaned it up some more, and then I sent a copy to friend and fellow author, Shiela Sweeney. Lo and behold, she liked it. She had some good criticisms, but overall she liked it. Finally, I was feeling confident about the story. By this time, it was late in May and the July deadline was coming up fast. I shipped a digital copy off to Amazon to have their service print up a test copy for me. I still hadn’t decided on a cover, so I used the most basic template they had; a blank cover, no picture, just the title and my name in black on a pale background. It was as plain as can be. I was leaning towards another idea that I had, but I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger, so the test copy was the one that arrived in the Amazon box a few weeks ago.
When I opened it, my lovely wife said – “I love the cover.”
I looked at her, bewildered.
“That’s not the cover. I just wanted to print it out to check the formatting.”
“No, it’s great. I really like it as is.”
Now, I love my wife, but at times like these you can’t trust the person closest to you to be honest, certainly knowing how fragile I was. When her son came down the stairs and glanced at the book and said “nice cover”, I just assumed that she texted him and told him to say it.
When my Aunt Mary came over a few hours later and exclaimed, “I love the cover,” I knew that there was a conspiracy afoot.
On top of all this, the formatting was wrong. I had to go back and resize the pages and reset the fonts, and tweak this and tweak that. To make matters worse, we were going on family vacation at the end of June, so I wanted to have the project finished and completed and a new proof copy in my hands by July 1st.
The 2nd proof copy came, and although I still wasn’t thrilled with the cover, I posted a pic on Facebook, and a lot of people seemed to like it. I was starting to grow comfortable with the plain, vanilla wrapper. I read through the book for the 640th time, and everything looked perfect. All I needed was someone to give it a quick read to catch any misspelled words and then it would be good to go. I put out a message on Facebook asking for someone to give it a read, and the lovely and talented Tom Harkins agreed. Tom raced though it in two days and sent it back to me with a glowing review…
And about 100 more corrections. I was starting to think that maybe the cats were walking across my keyboard at night.
I finished up the last of the edits on Sunday night. Monday was the deadline to have the proof in, if I wanted to have a bunch of copies in time for the Stroll. I scanned though it one more time, and reluctantly (and fearfully), I uploaded the file and hit send.
My first novel, Pretentious, is now done. It will be on Amazon soon enough, but Zack Miller and I are hoping that you will all come out on July 22nd to say hi, and purchase your copy at The Bookmark Shoppe on 84th street. I’ll be there with a bunch of other local authors. I’m confident that you won’t be disappointed. I think you’ll enjoy the book. I know I do.