Blog. What a hijjus word, don’t you think? It’s such an awful word, I hate to think I’m going to try to be the author of one.
Wasn’t that one of Joan Crawford’s last pictures?
Anyway, I figured it was only appropriate for the first entry in this, pardon the expression, blog, that it should be about how I got here. Not really “My Life Until Now,” but just an account of how I ended up, surprise-surprise, calling myself a novelist.
In other words…
An Origin Story
And every word of this is the truth, I sweartogod.
There I was, walking up Ninth Avenue, minding my own business, when out of nowhere—ker-powee—I was struck by lightning.
And when I woke up in the emergency room of New York Presbyterian, I was covered in burns and I’d lost my sight, but I had a terrific idea for a book.
It was just like St. Paul.
Except I wasn’t really blind (I made that part up), and there was no actual lightning (ditto), and of course Paul didn’t have an idea for a comic novel. Instead, he was inspired to write a bunch of fairly dreary letters to people who probably weren’t standing by their mailboxes hoping to get another envelope with Paul’s return address on it.
That didn’t stop ol’ Paul. He kept right at it, writing willy-nilly and pell-mell. Letters to the Romans, Letters to the Corinthians (“Dear Mr. & Mrs. Corinthian”). There was no stopping the guy.
I, by contrast, well—actually, now that I think about it, what happened to me was nothing like St. Paul at all.
I wasn’t even on Ninth Avenue—I just put that in there to give the story some ambience.
What really happened was this:
I woke up one Sunday morning, and realized I’d been lying there for a while thinking about two guys, Roger and Fletch, about whom I seemed to know a lot. But I had no idea what to do with them. My writing career until then, such as it was, had been in musical theatre—but one of the things I knew right off was that Roger played violin.
I was all like ‘no way jose.’ How was I supposed to write about a guy who plays violin? And Roger was all like—well, like nothing, he just hammered a couple notes at me from the Bach Chaconne, because he’s sort of a quiet show-off like that, although he’d never admit it.
So I was stuck with a violin player, and it seemed pretty clear to me that violin players don’t sing. They play.
So within a few minutes of waking up, I abandoned any hope of crafting a musical out of this pair. (Yeah, yeah, I know, there’s Thomas Jefferson in 1776, and he played violin, but I didn’t think of that at the time, or this might have all gone very differently.)
So—a novel maybe? Of course I had no idea how to write a novel, and I had no reason to think that I could. Plotting was never my best thing. The plot of a two-hour musical, when at least half of that two hours is spent singing and/or dancing, is a pretty skimpy thing, and nothing at all like the narrative requirements of a big fat novel, or even a slight one.
But still, these guys were in my head and they weren’t going away, so to be safe, I decided I’d better start writing this stuff down. And I didn’t tell a soul.
I finished a puny, awful first draft of about 44,000 words (for comparison, the final book is about 89,000), and my first thought was, “See? I was right! I can’t write a novel!” I felt strangely vindicated in my failure.
After reading through it again, however, I realized that, being a playwright, I’d written all the dialogue and very little narrative.
Thus began the process of rewriting, which for me means working through the draft, marking changes, making the changes, and then going back to the beginning and doing it again.
About a besquillion times.
And the next thing you know…yeah, well, that’s another story.