A Writer’s Process

After I wrote my last novel, “Truth Is” under the pen name Merre Sargeant, I swore to myself I’d NEVER do that again. Write a novel. Sometimes writing is a curse. It’s like worms crawling around inside you, where you need to purge your newest thought or idea, and in the USA, freedom of speech is allowed. But, writing is the hardest task a person has ever attempted insofar if you have talent for writing. I dislike writing poetry because I’m horrible at it, but unfortunately, I have no trouble crafting short shorts, short fiction, essays, memoirs and long stories. My first novel, “Imperfections” was written on an old-fashioned Royal electric typewriter, where in the midst of the story, I switched to an Apple computer. I taught myself how to work a computer while writing “Imperfections,” a story about a teen, on the verge of puberty, whose father comes out. I used a local printer – long before the idea of self publishing came about, and did my own marketing using bookmarks and postcards to hand out. Back then, there was no Amazon or websites to market your novel. As a so-called self publisher, I was cutting edge nothing. Of course I was never discovered, but that’s okay, I just wanted to give my characters voice. Plus, in the mid-80’s, gays everywhere were coming out in time to die of AIDS. If I’d had any marketing savvy, I could have used my book as a hand out tool at AIDS fundraisers. “Truth Is” is now an embarrassment to me. I got too emotional while writing it, fell in love with my characters, and was unable to stand back and see what needed improvement. I used a Canadian Indi Publisher who promised to sell the book, a paperback, on both Amazon and the Canadian version of Amazon. I hired my own cover artist, and formatted the text myself. I shelled out about %3000 from start to finish, including hiring an editor, and hosting my own book signing party. Never again will I used a foreign publisher. I’d forgotten all about Customs, which is where my book got hung up for five weeks. I’d planned to sell copies at my book signing party, but they’d been lost in Customs, and my cheap friends bought not one book. Even my employer insisted they get a free copy, and then refused to acknowledge that I’d written anything at all. My book was similar to the theme in “Room” by Emma McConough, only the plot involved a custody kidnapping and a male protagonist. The main gist of the book is that everyone says the words “Truth Is” but then lie. It’s still available on Amazon Used and New for about 10 cents. Though my book was sold on Amazon, I also boldly approached small time bookshops for shelf placement, getting told both yes and no depending on the kindness of the shop owner.

I wrote this original version of “As You Were” in six weeks flat. But I needed to do massive character development, and the more I developed a character, the more I added to the plot. One plot quickly became 10 evolving plots with new characters. I was then taking a Fiction Writing Workshop, and the professor very generously took me under his wing to show me how a lot of plots actually add to the success of a novel, versus the old traditional version of one plot. This professor gave me an hour of his time for 1.5 years, excluding summers, to help me make my book a contender in the publishing world. Then I got the idea to offer each character his/her own narration. From there, words grew from a tidy 50,000 to 638,000. No one has a need to use that many words to tell a story, one queried editor told me. Cut and slash. I did, but then I had to sequence my chapters so that one event didn’t come before another event that had not yet occurred! What a mess! I now have a friend trying her hand at editing to help me, so that 2015 is the year I publish, not 2020.

Here’s an excerpt narrated by Ali, Will’s wife: If I’d been Will, I’d have muscled my shoulders, jaw pulled taut, spittle lacing my lower lip. If anyone tried to contain Bean against her will, I’d like to think she’d grow wings, screaming and butterflying her way through the water. Matt, cleverer than his father, would be calm, complacent, all the while plotting, planning an escape, his eyes revealing nothing until the last moment, when he’d slip through the arms of his tormentors. Merry, still young, would burst out crying until she got her way. Then she’d find a pencil and paper and start counting. Two bobby pins in the corner of the rec room, 5 flat screen TVs, and over 1000 various colored pills in bottles behind a heavily locked steel door in the medicine room.

The above paragraph was edited and rewritten five times.


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