“But writing letters by hand in the mornings when he should work or exercise, is the quickest way for a writer to destroy himself that I know.” -- Hemingway, in a letter
I am certain that this applies to blogs as well. But the third draft of my new novel, the Object, is now in the hands of several special readers, and I must attend to other tasks in its interests . Tasks such as writing a journal entry to bring you, dear patient one, up to date.
I started writing this book five years ago. Due to professional and personal duties, my work was interrupted. In June 2010, I finally began to work on this novel full-time It is my seventh novel. After two solid years of writing & cutting, I have a 576-page third draft.
Not only did this book take an unusually long route, its non-linear narrative imposed tremendous variability. Normally I would do research for six months, then write the first draft straight through. This book was written on a chapter-by-chapter basis (each chapter is from a different narrator’s point-of-view), and the paint on the chapter order isn’t dry, so I have not yet read the entire book straight through from beginning to end.
Which brings me to my novel’s current status. My special readers, and their beautiful fresh eyes, have the best chance of deflecting my novel towards betterment. Although I keep hinting that my curiosity is crippling, they have not volunteered much. The wee drappie o’t which has trickled down, I’ll share with you.
“Cherub” will be the new first chapter and “Prey” will move back several hundred pages, in agreement with my primordial instincts. I wanted to see if “Prey” worked as the first chapter, and have learned that it doesn’t. That alone justifies my special readers. The only other thing they’ve told me is that the book is funny.
I am not allowing myself to peek at my novel, letting it rest like a medium-rare sirloin. So at this moment in the world, only my special readers are making the book go right now. The story is only alive in their fragile eggshell minds. It’s like lending someone your bike and they ride off into the dusk and you hope they come back before you’re called in for dinner.
Their job is to find all the things wrong with the book and this should keep them busy. I already see a hole that needs filling, and am planning out a new chapter. Hopefully, I won’t have to add much content, but rather shape & refine what’s there.
The Plan: after incorporating my readers’ notes, I will write the 4th draft, its final draft before submission. With my shotgun-submission style yielding a 99% failure rate, I have found a particular literary agent who I believe will both love my book and guide my career with sagacity. I’ll be applying my new laser-submission style to this one particular agent with a query letter I hope to be able to send early this summer.
The next update, I imagine, will be after I hear the results from my readers. Stay tuned.
On a very different note, my step-grandfather Grandpa John is being buried today. He is very much the embodiment of “The Greatest Generation.” My last grandparent, I have been thinking a lot about him. They simply don’t make men like this any more. My stepbrother Josh Adler wrote a moving tribute. I quote from portions here:
“My beloved grandfather John Adler passed away on Monday night, at the age of 95. Grandpa John was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to recent German-Jewish immigrants, and he lived in A.C. almost his entire life. Both his parents died in quick succession when he was 8 years old. He was raised by an aunt and uncle with a large family. He started his first job, delivering laundry, at age 8, and worked virtually every day of his life until he was nearly 94, when a heart attack sent him to the hospital, and to a doctor, for the first time.
John grew up in Atlantic City in the 1920s and 30s, in the glamorous era of prohibition, a setting made famous in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” Grandpa lived the real Boardwalk Empire. His uncle recruited him early to assist in the family bootlegging operation, and John was driving the moonshine deliveries by age 12. When the authorities caught him, they had to release him as a minor and he’d go right back to it. He would throw counterfeit whiskey bottles in the ocean overnight so that customers would mistake the fake product for real Canadian contraband, covered in seaweed and brine. Grandpa knew some of the real-life characters that inspired the Boardwalk Empire show, including Nucky Johnson, and John personally installed the electric lighting for Nucky’s wedding. (It should be said that the bootlegging days were the only time John skirted the law, he was straight as a rod and had no tolerance for dishonesty or turpitude.)
[John Adler helped build a very successful electrical supply company, which wired all the casinos on the Boardwalk.] Building casinos sometimes put my grandfather on the other side of the table from Donald Trump, whom Grandpa John detested for the poor way that he saw Trump treat his family, his employees, and his contractors (whom he never paid in full). When John Adler and Donald Trump faced-off in negotiations over the Taj Mahal, then planned as the largest and most expensive casino ever, John walked away from the deal rather than waive Calvi’s lien rights to win the bid. Trump caved and gave them the lien rights. Calvi was the only contractor to obtain lien rights, and was the only contractor Trump paid in full for their work.
John continued working at Calvi every weekday until he was nearly 94, starting each morning before dawn with his traditional sliced grapefruit, then a 45-minute walk on the deserted Boardwalk, then a short drive to his office near the casinos.
John Adler was one-of-a-kind, a legend and a hero to his family. We should all be so lucky. We love you, Grandpa John.”
One image has appeared in my mind, in thinking about Grandpa John. I have tried to pin this image down as a haiku.
Beneath quicksilver clouds,
a three-masted schooner
saws into the waves