In February to kick-start BLACKHEART revision 4.0 I decided to clean off my writing desk. Not an easy feat considering there were 24 chapters (more or less) of feedback, plus copious notes, diagrams, journals and research books all heaped together. My solution was to dump everything onto the hideous red carpeting that covers my subterranean office floor, then sort out everything salvageable and toss/recycle the rest.
Seeing everything spread out on the floor together (see pic above) made me realize something: writing a novel has really been a journey.
Here are some of the places that monster known as novel has taken me over the past few years:
1. Workshops and classes at The Loft Literary Center (http://www.loft.org/) to hone my craft while meeting many fabulous instructors and writers—including the astounding Scribblerati (my writing group).
2. Bi-monthly critique group meetings to have my work examined and held up to the bright light of constructive criticism and where I likewise return the favor.
3. At least two Writers Conferences—one in Madison, WI (http://www.dcs.wisc.edu/lsa/writing/) and another in Maui (http://www.mauiwriters.com/conference.php), one of which put me at a table with both a New York agent who loved my (at the time) half-completed manuscript and an editor who made me realize how badly I needed to practice pitching my work.
4. Numerous book stores and library visits resulting in finds like: Star Wars, The Magic of Myth (Henderson); Zen and the Art of Writing (Bradbury); Writing Down the Bones (Goldberg); How to Write a Movie in 21 Days (V. King); On Writing (King) and many, many more.
5. The halls of religion. You can’t write a book full of devils and angels without occasionally going to church.
6. A casino at 3AM; a truck stop at midnight (both to write scenes that appear in my book).
7. A visit to an abandoned granary in St. Paul (since demolished).
8. An obscure art show titled “Hell.”
9. Lunch time DVD viewings on the craft of writing screen plays.
10. Frequent visits to art/office supply stores for notebooks, pens, toner and laser paper.
11. Cafés, coffee shops and restaurants for lunch time writing sessions.
12. Book readings/signings featuring Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Brian Lumley, Anne Rice and many others. If you want to learn something look to the masters.
13. Scads of little towns in MN and WI to meet up with my friend and fellow novelist, Peter (note: never go to Hastings on a Sunday. Who knew that entire towns close for the weekend?)
14. The Internet. Thank God for Google, the writer’s best research assistant.
15. Late nights, early mornings and sometimes entire Mondays spent at my writing desk staring at Microsoft Word and/or filling up another notebook with words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, scenes and chapters to what now equals the 400 pages that are my book.
Now that I’m heading into what I hope is my final revision of BLACKHEART I will miss some of these rest stops and familiar haunts that have marked the way in my journey to come up with a finished novel. But—once it’s finally finished I’m also looking forward to the new places and adventures my next book will take me to.