Friday, July 13, 2007

Journal of a “Novel”-Entry 34

Chapter 3 Finished, Tough Road Ahead Gets Even Tougher

It took almost seven months, but I finally completed Chapter 3 of my novel, “The Fiery Cross, Revelations”, at least as complete as it is going to get, for now. It was a hard chapter and it was made a lot tougher by the move of my whole family and life in those months. It’s hard to tell if I lost a lot of critical momentum or not; surely I did for a while but I don’t know if it has long-term consequences. Time will tell. But I would say generally that the more I work on this manuscript the harder it gets to write and research and ‘get right’, and I have no idea if I am even getting it right.

Do I enjoy trying to write this novel? I do and I don’t. On the whole, I do, otherwise there wouldn’t be much point, but it’s very, very difficult, and there’s nothing like your own experience to teach you that I suppose. Everything I’ve ever read that was written by successful writers about writing novels has said that it is a hard thing to do, so I can’t say it’s a big surprise that it is hard. But I would call writing a novel something that falls into that clichéd category of ‘If it’s not hard it’s not worth doing’ or something to that effect. In other words, it’s good that it takes a lot of effort, and you hope that the effort is worth the time and stress that it costs. Therein lies the problem of course.

Here I am about sixteen months in to the writing of this novel with four chapter-length sections (a Prologue and Chapters 1-3) to show for it and about 180 pages of double-spaced prose. That’s not too bad of a show of progress, especially considering my track record of writing novels, which is nonexistent because I haven’t written any. I did write about 325 pages of an attempt at one in 2000 called The Faith and Fire Within that I used as a thesis to obtain my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, but it was a miserable attempt, overwrought and directionless and fizzled out quickly like a tracer round from a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that fails to strike the target downrange (Duke will appreciate the lame simile).

The problem is the longer the story goes the more I feel like I have to write, the less time I have to write it in (it seems), and the more difficult it seems to be able to make a reasonable commitment to getting the book written. If it took me 16 months to write 4 chapters, and I see it as at least a 15-chapter book with an Epilogue, we’re looking at 5 years of writing. That’s a long time. I will be somewhere around 41 when it’s done if I work at that rate and keep it up. On the surface, I don’t mind if it takes 5 years to write my first novel, it takes many writers as long or longer to do so. It took Gustave Flaubert 5 years to write Madame Bovary, his first novel. My problem is that I wonder if I will have the will to keep it up, the discipline to work on it that hard for that long, or even the means to. My family grows, work increases along with extracurricular stuff, and the financial burden is heavier all the time, so it’s hard to devote time or resources into getting this done. If I do pull it off, it will be without question the most impressive thing I have ever accomplished - even if no one but me knows the effort, time and discipline that it required.

Nonetheless, no one is holding a gun to my head and saying I have to write a novel or perish, so I’m not complaining. I am rather just speculating openly on where this is all going, where it needs to go, and what it is going to take to get it there. If I am going to finish this novel I must look at it as my life’s work. It’s that simple. If I do finish it, somehow publish it, and go on to produce other books in the future, so much the better for me, but I can’t see future books as my life’s effort; I must think of only this one in those terms. If I don’t tell this story, nobody will, and that very well could be the final result of all this. I have innumerable doubts about the novel, whether it’s boring, or historically inaccurate, or badly written, or some combination of all of the above, and the progress on it is so slow that it seems like it’s insurmountable at times. But, there’s something that compels me to do it and the same thing has been working on me since at least 1999, and I don’t know what you call that thing, but I am trying to listen to it. Perhaps it’s a sense of calling, a belief that this is why God sent me here, to write this story and write it as well as I can.

I’m not much of a quick study, and I never have been. In high school I was a weak student but I finally learned in college how to apply myself and get good grades. At 36 going on 37 I am too old to be a phenom or a prodigy. All through my life if I have succeeded at something it has been after more time than it takes an average person. I only have a small measure of literary talent, but I believe I own that small measure. It’s all I have to work with, but it’s mine. I got it from God, and He wants me to use it. A few people have published my writing, enough for me to think that if I work hard enough at it I can put together some good sentences. The only possible way for me to finish this novel is little by little by little and by unglamorous, dogged persistence. It is a very long and difficult road and literally the only way to get down it is to drag myself there inch by inch.

Thus, on to Chapter 4. Right at the moment, whenever that moment arrives, I am conducting some additional research on ‘the Black Giant’ oil field in Texas that was discovered in 1930, and I am going to do some more reading and note-taking on the ever-thrilling subject of the history of Township Trustees in the civic Government in Indiana. For now the only hints I can give are in bullet form since the writing hasn’t even started yet, but in this chapter I am hoping to include the following:

- a jump ahead from 1924 (finally) to 1925-1927, heading toward the conception and birth of Luke Brogan
- more about Peter Heinricks’ adventures in Oklahoma and East Texas
- the fall of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana
- Myron Devreaux and his efforts to make his way into local politics

We’ll see how much of that actually ends up in the story. Back to the grind, as they say……

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