Who is this guy?
Hi. I'm Mark Wakely. My first novel, An Audience for Einstein, was just published by Mundania Press, here: http://www.mundania.com It took over two years to write- part time, of course. Before that, I wrote two others novels that went nowhere, and want to start these entries by discussing those early efforts since more than anything, they make this blog possible.
My first novel- a bloated beast I undertook with great trepidation- still has a heartbeat; I'm in the process of rewriting it to restore it to health. (The reconstructive surgery is going well.) It became bloated because- like many new authors who have never attempted a novel- I wasn't sure I could go the distance. Novels are really, really long, I knew; novels are complex and convoluted; novels quite often defy completion, particularly when written by nervous neophytes like me who wonder if they can even imagine the finish line, much less cross it.
To say I underestimated myself would be an understatement.
What I discovered instead is that- given half a chance, and a writer's over-eagerness- just about any novel can mushroom to unhealthy proportions with too many spontaneous sub-plots, tempting tangents, and minor characters who refuse to relinquish the stage. There were times when I felt like a helpless observer as I wrote, the word count racing upward to nose-bleed heights, the final chapter I had in mind growing more and more dim and distant instead of brighter at the end of the proverbial tunnel. When it finally (mercifully) did come to an end, I felt wrung out, depleted and depressed. Fortunately, because I write with care (even my first drafts,) the rewrites went much faster, although the patient hardly lost any weight since I was still overwhelmed by my towering creation and wasn't sure what to cut exactly, or even where to begin. So, all I could do is stoically bundled it up, and send that not-so-little piggy out to market to see what "they" had to say about it.
To my great surprise, I received some very kind words, if no publication offers.
Honestly, those kind words floored me. I had always assumed I would bravely paper my walls with cold, impersonal rejection slips so I could gaze at them smugly years later when I was an enormous success. What I got instead were mainly typed or handwritten notes telling me no thanks in either the most apologetic way, or the most encouraging, as in the totally unexpected "please send us your next book."
Up to that point, I wasn't sure there would ever be a "next book."
So, I came closer than I thought I would with that one. Why? Because the two main characters I had created were alive. It was their heartbeats I heard then, and still hear, and which makes wading back into that quagmire to rescue them worthwhile.
And then there was a second book.
This time, I thought, I'll be smart. I'll be prepared. I'll have this book in such a tight strangle hold it won't dare expand without my explicit, written permission. I read all kinds of "How To Write" books- good and (mostly) bad- (more about them in future entries) and wrote a detailed plot. (Hell, it was a manifesto, that's what it was.) I even workshopped it- an experience in itself- as I methodically stamped out each measured chapter. After all that planning and preparation, the final manuscript that emerged was almost an afterthought, but I hit my goal almost precisely: 60,000 words. Never mind that the characters were D.O.A., or that the plot skeleton was not only showing, it was all bleached bones; I had set a goal and reached it. I was finally a disciplined writer who would never, ever again be dictated to by his material.
I sent the book out twice, got two printed rejection slips without any kind words (and which I did not put on my wall,) and then filed the manuscript into the deepest, darkest desk corner I could, never to see the light of day again.
But wow, was I disciplined. Or so I thought.
More next time about my first try at being a novelist.