Here’s to clean pants and finished novels

Tony Soprano once told Dr. Melfi that doing therapy is like taking a shit.

As a veteran of the DSM-IV style of shrinkage, I’m not sure I agree.

But, I will say that writing a book is like trying not to shit your pants in public.

Frantically hurrying to finish. Sweating and fussing. Trying like hell to get where you need to be without making a mess. All the while worrying what people are going to think of you when it finally comes out.

After approximately four years of work, nearly a dozen passes with revisions, editing, etc., my historical adventure novel is done.

I actually finished the book on Monday March 26 but have been so busy with the newspaper job and reading down my ever-growing tbr pile and compiling query packages for literary agencies, I haven’t had time to write any personal essays here.

That’s why I’ve been MIA.

Hell, I even gave up my Facebook account (in part) to help focus on finishing because I am one of those people who spend waaay too much time looking at what you had for dinner, and scowling at people who are the same weight as they were in high school, and rage-reading dumb political opinions. (dumb = disagree with)

After sending the novel to a professional reading service last summer, I spent the better part of the last 11 months making the cuts, additions and various smoothings suggested.

I utilized the folks over at www.frostbitepublishing.com, and they were great. I contracted three of their beta readers and received pages and pages of useful criticism. (Contracting beta readers isn’t nearly as painful as it sounds. Little penicillin clears it right up.)

True, it was a scary amount of work.

After having already spent many hundreds of hours staring at the manuscript, I wasn’t sure I could survive yet another go-around.

I don’t know how many times I cried and threatened to quit writing … but it was a lot.

Anyways, I implemented 99% of the proposed fixes and then did two more passes of revisions/edits, and spent a fair amount of time rewriting the opening.

The once 99,000-word monstrosity now clocks in at a dainty 87,977 words.

Mercifully, the final ending (the final, final, no-really-this-is-final, OK-I-can’t-take-this-anymore-and-I-quit-final-final-final-ending) came so easy and natural and delicious that I just know it’s right.

Until an agent or publisher tells me to change it, that is. Which I will gladly do because I am super easy to work with. Hint-hint!

Funny, I’m not a believer in magic or signs and symbols but, on March 26, the day I finished, I went to my email to see how long I’d been working on the damned thing.

I found a September 2015 missive from me to me which had a file containing early sketches and notes that read: “Begun in earnest on March 26, 2014.”

Four years to the day.

Of course, I’d lived with those ghouls—the father, the daughter, the fortune-hunter, the kindly Frenchman, the murderous henchmen—in my head for a good three years prior to writing word one.

It was a big literary antebellum adventure spanning many miles and many decades and I knew I wasn’t ready back then to write such an ambitious piece.

I was still penning essays about farting and dysfunctional Christmases and the lighter side of mental illness and farting. I’ve really grown since then.

I didn’t have what Stephen King calls “the tools.”

Do I have them now?

Only time and boilerplate rejections and cease-and-desist letters from frightened publishers will tell.

Most of the time I feel like I built a rich and entertaining story people will enjoy.

Though, there are days I suspect I’m still the kid who pooped his corduroys at the Fashion Square Mall.

For now, I’ll be querying agents and putting out newspapers (just published our 450th issue this week) and working on my new novel, which is sorta “Of Mice and Men” meets “Dexter.”

God, I wish I was kidding.