Yesterday, Sunday, I finished reading through the manuscript of “And it’s only Love.” It has ended up (still) 352 pages, and 99,570 words. My method of writing line by line, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, and not moving on until satisfied with the immediately preceding, left very little to be changed or fixed during this read-through. Found maybe half-a-dozen typos (which always surprise me, given the meticulous and multiple readings each page gets along the way), and decided to be a bit more critical with the use of semi-colons. In a crucial scene some twenty or thirty pages from the end, I realized there was some ambiguity in the dialogue that needed to be repaired; that took the addition of four lines. Then I argued with myself for a while over whether or not to add an “afterword,” which I had considered off and on along the way, tried one out, then rejected that idea. So that’s it. I’m done and moving on.
My wife (she is the beautiful woman in this picture) has just started reading it, and after a few pages has pronounced it “very autobiographical.” This is not true. She has been living with a novelist for twenty-eight years and ought to know better by now. She knows the difference between “autobiography” and “writing what you know something about.” This is the latter.
The major character, Tom Valen from my novel Possessed by Shadows, is around my age, or the age I was at the setting of the story, he is a philosophy professor in both books (as I used to be), he is a climber, he lives in places I have lived, he says things I have said (and my wife remembers often too well), and he has friends who are like friends I have. But if this makes it “autobiographical,” then almost every novel is autobiography in essence. I do not think this is the case.
Although I like and have always liked Tom Valen, so I don’t too much mind being associated with him. But in this case, I am awfully glad to have not suffered what he is suffering. And he is a better man than I am or have ever been. (Fantasy is a fine thing; we can dream ourselves better than we are.)
My agent is on holiday; I will send the mss to her at the end of the month.
And then what?
This will be the first time in a writing career that has lasted thirty years that I do not have a novel “pre-sold.” Each novel from my first on has carried a next book option in the contract, and that option has always been exercised – seven times. But not this time. After my small publisher relinquished commercial decision-making to the world’s largest publishing conglomerate, I do not have an option for the next book; that is … this book.
There is an irony here. This book is the most logical follow-up to the last book of mine they published; it is its sequel. I cannot judge if it is an appreciably better book than Possessed, but it is distinctly more complex and plot-driven. So it is probable that the sequel to the best book of mine they published will find a home somewhere else.
At least I hope it does.
But I am done with it. Shed of it, as folks like Brad would say (which is pronounced “shit” of it, if being correct).
Now I am going back to the memoir-based novel I wrote before “Only Love,” which on the good advice of my agent has a changed title: from “Island in the Pines,” to “Blossom.” The novel began its life as a memoir, so when I decided to make it a novel instead, I maintained the 1st person voice and restricted point of view. The only option for a memoir, of course, but it did not serve this novel well. So before this mss goes out into the world, I am going to start at the beginning and write it anew, with a 3rd person voice and a less limited point of view.
So in a while I am going to have two novels making their intrepid way into the bowels of the beast which is contemporary book publishing.
I have not yet decided if I will ever write another.