Haunted by the Muses

It's funny how wanting to be a writer suddenly becomes being a writer. Not Ha-Ha funny. Odd funny. As in . . . Whoa! I actually wrote a novel. And it's kind of good.

The best thing about that "kind of good" thing is that people whose opinions I trust have read it, or at least a portion of it, and are extremely complimentary of my work.

I am a member of the Hanover Writers Club, a chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, and at my first meeting, I was asked, "What are you working on?" Suddenly, a switch zapped itself into place, and I was "a writer." I told them--with almost manic enthusiasm--the basic story of my novel, and to my surprise, they were enthralled. Writers are not always an easy audience to impress. We are naturally skeptical when people mention they have this great idea for a book. On June 20, when that HWC meeting took place, I was working on either chapter six or seven of a book I anticipated would be 22-24 chapters, depending on what I did with the "trial" sequence in the book. (Yes, there is a criminal trial in the book.) As it turned out, the book ended up being 24 chapters.

I was told not to self-publish or publish with a small publishing house by everyone at the meeting. "You've got a great book there," was said by someone who has several books published by an imprint (a subsidiary in the publishing field) of Harper-Collins, one of the world's biggest publishing companies. (Excuse my not naming him. I don't have his permission to quote him by name.) I asked this person if he would read my first chapter if I emailed it to him. He told me that "literary" wasn't his genre, but he'd read it if I sent it. At the next meeting he used the word "phenomenal" in his assessment, while giving me a few suggestions for minor changes, which I heeded. 

I finally had someone who did not have a personal relationship with me in any way validate my ability to write. Several of my friends I requested to read my book as what are known as Beta Readers basically told me the same thing, and one of them was an avid reader who barely knew me but had recently met my wife. I would get requests for the next chapter from her frequently, and I found myself working harder to complete them to make sure I got her another chapter to read. She gave advice, which I usually heeded, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Another reader texted me upon completing the book and told me she couldn't stop crying. While it wasn't my intent to cause anyone sadness, I was aiming for a strong emotional response at the end of the book, and tears will likely be a frequent reaction.

But this writing thing is a very odd life. I went for years dabbling in it, but never really having the time to do more than that. I was reminded of a college professor who taught a creative writing class I took who told me not to become a teacher because I would not have time for writing no matter how much I wanted to set time aside for it, and he felt I could make a living as a writer. Now I have time, and I am compelled to write every day, and I feel the need to write if I don't set aside the time.

This blog is basically the result of feeling that need to write for the past week. I've been editing my novel (the first of several author edits) and finally finished that task yesterday. I now suffer from being haunted by the Muses, the Greek and Roman goddesses of the arts. I will soon have a new coffee mug I ordered. On this mug I have this website's address and the sentence, "I write because if I don't the Muses will haunt me." That's a true statement. It's as if someone is sitting beside me, tapping my shoulder and whispering in my ear so that nobody else can hear, "So, when are you going to write something?" Tap, tap. "Hey! I'm talking to you. When?" Tap, tap. "Will you be writing today?" Tap, tap. "If not, what about tomorrow?"

Tap . . . tap.

It really is like that. I mean, how can anyone ignore something like that? So, here I sit, talking about writing and telling you about my novel and why I think it is actually good.

Now, allow me a word about editing, if you please. First, it sucks. Second, it sucks but it's absolutely necessary. (I found more than one sentence that made me think I was the victim of a body snatcher when I wrote them.) And if you end up with more words than you had before you began editing, you're doing it wrong. Upon completing the first draft, I had around 83,500 words in the book. As I edited, I would also ADD words, phrases, sentences, short paragraphs, etc., to increase clarity. I also deleted words, phrases, sentences, and entire chunks. The book now stands at around 81,800 words. It is much tighter now. That is especially true for chapter one, which is no longer exactly what I first posted on this website. If you read it earlier, go back and look at it. Entire chunks of the introductory material before the flashback begins are no longer there. That portion had been around 650 words. Now it's around 300. My next task will be to read through the entire novel and make small changes where I see the need. I intend to have this completed by the end of this month. (A note here: A "late" reader suggested an additional chapter, which I realized would indeed improve the book. I wrote that chapter before setting in for the third and final edit, which took longer than I figured it would for a variety of reasons, some of them involving starting another novel the Muses were haranguing me about. The final word count is now a little over 86,000 words. I even had to change the original number of chapters from 23 to 24 in this blog.)

Finally, tomorrow (September 19) is my birthday. If you are here reading this, please know that I need verifiable evidence of page visits including as many comments and "likes" for my various blogs and fiction as I can get. You can find the rest of my work by clicking "Stories and other writings" at the bottom of any page on the website. I would consider it a birthday present from you (current or belated) if you would leave a short comment. Also, if it isn't tantamount to lying, it would be nice if you would take the half second necessary to click "Like" after something I have written, which includes these blogs. I am not asking you to click "Like" if you don't like it, but if you do, that would be nice. And if you don't know me, you could be giving a gift to a complete stranger. Think how that will make you feel!

Anyway, thank you for reading this as I manage to nudge the Muses away from me for the time being.

Chuck