Friday, May 29, 2009

Time Out!

Brief history of a novel:

I never give up on a piece of fiction that shows promise. Witness my short story "Visitation" which bounced around various markets before finally landing in the pro anthology CHILDREN OF CTHULHU almost twenty years after I wrote it. It was a good story and I knew that eventually someone would accept it.

My first agent was Richard Curtis, a gent with an impressive client list and a good reputation. After trying to get me published for some time, he gave up on me and dumped my name from his client list. It was, as they say, merely business.

After signing with a new agent I started work on a horror novel that was called BEAUTIFUL BOY. The opening chapter always impressed everyone who saw it or who heard me read it. (I read it aloud at a couple of horror conventions.) My then-new agent liked it so much that she took the outline and the first chapter and told me that she was going to try to sell it based on those items alone. And then she went crazy, but that's another story, and one that I probably won't ever tell, anyway.

Because I was suddenly without an agent, I decided to shelve the book. Every so often I would haul it out of mothballs and read it and be impressed and recall why I'd thought it was an important project in the first place. And I'd put the old nose to the grindstone and start writing again. After a while, the subconscious stuff percolated to the surface and I realized what I was writing:

an anti-racism tale.

And, as the topic alone is scary enough, I was frightened that I didn't have what it took to write that kind of a thing. So I scared myself off the project and shelved it yet again.

Time passed. Years, in fact. One person who'd read that first section so long before asked me why the book wasn't a best seller yet. I had to admit to him that I had never finished it. He was disappointed and suggested that I work on the book.

After some time, I decided that he was correct and made it first on my list as soon as I completed THE FLOCK. Of course when that book was done and my new agent had THE FLOCK in hand, I picked up the pieces of BEAUTIFUL BOY and started in again. By this time, the "book" stood at around 17,000 words. So I wasn't actually starting from nothing, but neither was it the bulk of a novel. And the concept and my ability to make it work were still scary prospects for me. But I wanted to see it through and dove into the novel yet again.

My agent at that time didn't like it. Well, she didn't actually say that she didn't like it, but she was not, let us say, impressed. Without my agent's enthusiasm for the book, I didn't see it faring much of a chance at publication. I set it aside.

I worked on a project called FAMILY. But BEAUTIFUL BOY kept tugging. I started a book with the working title ASSASSIN, and BEAUTIFUL BOY was there nagging the hell out of me. It wouldn't leave me alone.

But then I was writing my zombie novel THE LIVING END and tried to ignore the characters in my long-suffering uncompleted novel and put my focus with dogs and zombies. I kept plugging away and finally completed THE LIVING END in short order once the book was suddenly my lone project (it had begun as a collaboration that failed).

So, finally, I was ready to face the novel I had always called BEAUTIFUL BOY once more. I've been hard at work on it since early this year. After many false starts, after many years, after being afraid of the book, I'm just at the end. To hasten its completion, I'm taking some time off from the "real" job to run to a part of the North Carolina high country that I've never seen. I'm going to park my trailer beside a mountain stream for three days and put this project to bed, properly, at last.

As for the title, which I discussed here, I've yet to solve that particular problem. But I hope to see a proper title for it very soon.

You know I won't hole up in the trailer the entire time. I'll get some hiking done.


Jack said...

Good Luck finishing up the novel! Where are you going camping?

HemlockMan said...

Likely Mortimer. 90% sure.