A Long Time Ago
It was the summer of 2007 when I sat down with an idea and decided to see what I could do.
As we all know the idea of writing a novel is much different than the actual work and when the time comes to turn a dream into a reality it can be a tad intimidating.
At first my little idea didn’t amount to much. A few lines here, a paragraph there. But soon those lines and paragraphs turned into pages.
Lots of pages.
What a Mess
As I look back most of it was a rambling mess but the experience taught me what it takes to sit down with an idea and put it to good use.
The thought of taking this particular novel serious never occurred to me. Not once did I fantasize of a book tour, New York City agents or armed body guards shooing away the groupies.
Did I just say shooing away the groupies?
I thought the opening of the novel was good and the ending decent but the middle slowed which explains the rambling mess.
As time went on and life got in the way the novel was forgotten. The kids were little, my wife was transferred and for a while things were hectic.
Dusting if off
Fast forward a few years later we returned to Eugene, Oregon. I entered my first writer’s conference, made my first connection with fellow writers and was invited to my first writers group.
In order to be accepted I had to submit a sample of my writing. Remembering the old novel I wrote I shook off the dust and submitted the first few chapters.
A week later I was accepted. In that group I met my future editor, Molly. Needing the practice she asked to read the entire novel. Say no more, I stated and proudly handed her my mess.
A mess it was we both agreed. She made suggestions and corrections. I wrote countless rewrites but no matter what we did something was missing.
I came close to deleting it a few times but something told me no. Looking back I wonder if the characters were telling me to wait.
A tiny whisper from the pages below that somehow caught my ear.
If that’s true I’m happy they did. One evening out of the blue their voices were heard.
About a year after I joined my group I was practicing my beta reading skills with another writer. We would meet every Friday night at a bookstore and share our notes.
At times her teenage son came along. He always sat in a corner far away from us. His headphones on, his laptop busy.
Thinking back he was as close to invisible as one could get.
One night his mom and I finished up early. We decided to join him and, as his mom put it, shake some conversation out of him.
A genius hidden in plain site
Small talk was not his thing but resurrecting my novel was.
I can’t remember how the subject came up. A passing comment, a mixture of hope or regret. Whatever it was my dying novel caught the young man’s ears and imagination.
He immediately saw what I was trying to do. But it was more than that, he also discovered the missing layer that I couldn’t find.
I wrote everything he said down. I remember grabbing pieces of scratch paper, napkins and discarded bookmarkers. I’m surprised I didn’t write on the palm of my hand.
When the evening ended I thanked him. My dying novel was not only brought back from the dead it was now on the track team.
He returned my thanks with a boyhood blush and a quick return to his laptop and headphones.
So what does this all mean, you ask?
For one, never throw away a piece of work you view as garbage. And two, the genus in the room might very well be a skinny, shy kid in headphones.