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Friday, July 1, 2011

At the Crossroads

As I sit here, about to do the final read aloud of my novel before I ship it off to layout, I thought I would reflect a bit about the road that led me here. Almost 2 years of my life has past, virtually in the blink of an eye, since I decided to pursue writing full time. Like most writers I think, frustration pointed me in this direction, though I believe the randomness of life had a hand in it also. I remember watching my favorite science fiction TV series at the time, The Tomorrow People, circa 1970’s version, and feeling extremely frustrated that people around me hated that series. Little did I realize, that I wasn’t perceiving a fan fiction induced delusion, but an entirely new novel that was being written by my mind. It’s no wonder people thought I was nuts for liking it.

I also was experiencing extreme frustration from not being able to convey to the bystanders what I was seeing and certainly not being able to write it down in any fathomable way. I remember that fateful summer day when out of sheer boredom, I flipped on the TV to watch even more boring stuff. I naturally gravitate toward documentary type specials, and on that day there was an interesting one with J.K. Rowling being interviewed about how she wrote Harry Potter. I was amazed how many books she wrote before she actually wrote THE book. I rolled that over in my mind, thinking gee, that would make books much easier to write if you didn’t have to think about the details of the setting, the characterization of the character, and the overall plot line—if that were already laid out for you, then that would make writing a story a bit of a slam dunk. I rolled all of those concepts around in my mind for a few minutes, and then, in a strong epiphany, I said, “Nah, what a drag.”

But one thing did stick with me—well actually more than one thing but I am not willing to admit it yet—and that was the concept of writing a story out of order. You see, one of the major writing blocks for me was that I would conceptualize a fairly detailed story, then start plodding through from the beginning, writing the necessary introduction, all the while writing the ending in my head, and then feeling like, “What’s the point, I know how the story will end and it will be a long slog until I get to my favorite character anyway.” So I would just quit, having had the satisfying fantasy of a great story and the fantasy role playing of being a novelist. But on that fateful day at the convergence of ideas, I had a spark, zap.

Well, actually what I had was an autistic obsession, love affair, whatever you want to call it, with a program called OneNote. Now, while it won’t do something wonderful like spit out babies, it does have effectively a 3 dimensional notebook with endless complexities one could get drunk on for hours. I really get into mechanistic things—including babies too but that is beside the point. With this program I could create major tabs across the top of the screen: characterization, story, time line. Under characterization, I would make a tab for each of the characters. No need to sort things out. Want to add a new character at any time, just make a new tab. Only want to jot down those character details that I have a freakish fascination for, no problem, just click new tab. I have to say that clicking new tab under that section of the notebook has become a rather euphoric experience. I just love hearing an editor scream in agony, “Not another character, aaarrrgghhh.” I really do keep score on such things. It’s one of the few pleasurable things left to me—I’m getting to an age where babies are kind of hard to come by.

The time line tab is very interesting, especially to one such as me who can’t be linear about anything—it can be used to linearize the nonlinear mind (did I use the word linear enough?). Just click a new tab for a timeline milestone, type some junk, then drag the tab to the right position in the sequence. Want to change the timeline, no problem, just reorder the tabs. Reordering the tabs into a nonsensical order can be quite entertaining. I suspect that some really popular novel writers use this technique to reorder things until the timelines are so bizarre that their fans will spend hours trying to decode the deep meaning of their story. Score again.

Of course, the story tab, well that’s just boring, so I won’t talk about that one. Writing only the details I needed, and starting on my favorite chapter first, allowed me to break my lifetime of writing block and commit my mental novel to paper.

So we arrive at the present day. I want to thank all those kids (and some adults) who suffered through the early versions of the manuscript. Your enthusiastic comments were the big motivation that kept me going all the way to the end of this monstrous 4 book saga. Although this is just book one that I am fixing to publish, you have already made a big difference. And I want to thank those kind publishers who bothered to the write words of encouragement in their rejection letters that gave me the next big ideas on how to improve the novel. And to all those publishers who couldn’t be bothered with kind words, all I have to say is, you’re boring.

It is kind of risky launching a new genre, “Gifted Fiction”. I can understand that a publisher might not want to take the risk. I calculate for the middle school age range, there are probably only about 780,000 potential book-a-day readers—slight exaggeration, maybe book every two weeks if they are in a good education program and completely challenged. Of course, with the budget cuts cutting funding for gifted education, there might be more book-a-day kids pretty soon.

So I just want to say thank you to all those gifted readers who gave me the courage to launch myself into this brave new world. And to those nongifted readers, a book will soon be available to launch you into a world that you never knew existed.