Well, cover letter is getting proofed by my editor, synopsis is ready to print, manuscript ready to print, envelope addressed……… and yes, here we go, the first mailing goes out today to a literary agency.
Having a developmental editor going over my manuscript since March of this year, after having spent countless weeks and months drafting the book, and scrubbing and rescrubbing the book, again and again until we can’t at least at this moment find anything else we can alter or correct, it is easily, without any doubt, the most intensely written prose I’ve ever worked on.
I’ve learned an enormous amount. And, by the way, if you are writing a novel? I’d recommend not being too fussy about the first chapter in the initial phase as you’ll have to go back and refine and foreshadow much of what is hardly imagined once you’ve plunged into the body of the book.
I spent weeks on a first drafting of the first chapter years ago now and much of that effort and prose has been so substantially altered it was somewhat of a waste of time. I ought to have got on with the thing.
My unedited manuscript came in at 256 thousand words, the novel is now down to 157 thousand words, and that doesn’t count all the countless other pages that were part of revising and part of the initial drafts… Of the 157k that remain, some 25 thousand of those words have been studied, altered, revised, changed, and contemplated until everyone involved has had their heads nearly explode from the thing. What a process. On to the next challenge!
Back to work now. Weekend dashing south to Palm Springs and returning north late yesterday. Serious business this week. Final bite of the first 50 pages, and then a meet up with my editor to coordinate ideas on the final draft of the synopsis and then away we go…..I should have all my revisions done in a few hours. Had about 1100 miles to look out the windshield and think…lots of that happening.
I can’t begin to calculate how many times I’ve edited the first 50 pages, but after having so many passes through this text with revisions made I’ve elected to pass through the first chapter of my second novel fast, revising just enough to bring it to life, but not grind and polish too much yet. No need to get too much into the weeds. The chances are 100% that much structural framework is in need of balancing and until the structural elements are firmly in place you can’t really polish something that is going to be tossed anyway. It is really just a shell to hold the content for now, add and delete as required and THEN go for the full on fine rewrite.
That is what passes for thinking by this writer this morning.
Sitting with coffee in the morning and watching the sunrise before getting to work on the next book, continue to adjust the first book, and lucky to be here seeing the world unfold in all its worldly ways. What a good looking world we have… sometimes it’s hard to see her good looks, sometimes its obvious. Yesterdays downpour was one for the books here in San Francisco. Good day to write. Plot and first chapter of second novel off to editor.
Have placed my next novel into full drive. Ryan Waters, Ry Waters, is the central character. First scene takes place on San Francisco Bay in September 2008…on a night not unlike this one. I’ve been building a powerpoint presentation of the plot. I’ve 30 scenes and thirty slides. There are bubbles galore, some represent time frame, some emotions, some the inner journey, while others subplot, and still others lists of actions the scene will go through… But, for now here is a look at San Francisco Bay………and the magic that comes with twilight, fog, lights, islands………..
Onward we march. Highway Home was tinkered with by Vicki Weiland and the author yesterday. We gathered at Vicki’s beautiful apartment in Pacific Heights. There on the 9th floor we gazed a bit out to the north and drank in the splendor of the Bay. We’d been delayed in our meetings while Vicki continues to mend and I continued on the road. While away Teresa LeYung Ryan had given a scrubbing to the first 50 pages. Her editing suggestions were sorted through and where appropriate we made revisions to the text. I’ve got another 35 pages to adjust in the next few days that will be done and from there the manuscript will stand in submission form and as Vicki said, “we’ve done everything we can do, it’s done.”
A few comments by Teresa included the following…
“Your descriptions are engaging…. the settings come to life.”
“Many passages are exquisitely written…”
“You end many of your chapters with intrigue….Bravo!”
Hey, come one…. you got to ring your own bell sometimes…. and considering how many times others have over the years been so kind and supportive in my work as an entertainer, and this my journey into the world of fiction, it is appropriate I would think for those following my progress to get a preview of what some of the professional editors are saying about the work I am doing.
Getting a manuscript ready for submission requires a great deal of effort. Errors and uncorrected flaws are not going to pass muster. I’ve been surprised at how many places in my manuscript I’ve detected problems. It can cause a great deal of agony because sometimes the image is 99% there, but still it is not in the end making enough sense to stick and so you lose pieces of the work that simply can’t hold up when really evaluated. And that is after you’ve spent hours and hours playing with the thing again and again, but you just can’t make the thing fly.
I ought to have the thing turned around now in short order and next week with luck away the submissions will go. Aim for 15 out the door on your desk submissions per week… once the whole of this is prepared its as simple as print, put in envelope, and send out. Just do it. Don’t worry, don’t guess, don’t imagine, just do the work the rest will follow.
I’m back in the saddle. Laptop sited in my favorite location in my apartment. I gaze eastward out my windows toward the East Bay Hills from my place in San Francisco. My desk has on it two items. First, a freshly marked up manuscript from Teresa LeYung Ryan. I’ll take it down to the health club and study contents of her comments while on exercise machine. I’ll make some notes and take her mark ups to Vicki Weiland in the next few days and we’ll discuss Teresa’s ideas make whatever adjustments we feel wise and then………..move ahead. Looks like a signficant amount of work, but every passing now of the manuscript brings it that much closer.
Second, while on the road since September 17th I’ve been building the plot to the second novel. I’ve been working on this plot for about six months total. It is complete although it will go through revisions and refinement. It is a work in progress. Feels like I know more than enough to begin. Characters all have names and have been sketched out. Plotting is done. The timeline is complete. Everything I need to aim the story is in place. I’ll take my first swing today or tomorrow. Once underway it will be a relentless process of drafting without letting up. Unlike my last book this one will undergo editing as I proceed.
Pouilly-Fuissé is a famous wine grown in France. It is one small part of the region we know as Burgundy. This wine growing region is one hundred miles east of Paris and stretches another 225 miles south to Lyon. We landed in Geneva Friday morning and rented a car and plunged headlong into our journey! We had to decide quickly what we’d like to do. I had two regions on my list. First, was Pouilly-Fuissé and the other not too far north from there is Meursault. Meursault would likely induce sticker shock and so I opted to avoid the higher prices. Meursault is made of the same grape as Pouilly-Fuissé. In California we know the wine as chardonnay. The French decided to name wine by where it is grown, by the ground the grape comes from, and that’s just shorthand for a much more complex set of evaluations. “Terrior” is the French word that describes the mystical quality the ground has with the vine that in the end produces the grape. So, due to this insight into the interdependence the grape, the vine and its root system the French decided that where a grape is grown is the most important fact of the many involved. I find this all difficult. I have a hard time with all the things I have to remember in order to select a bottle of French wine. Enough!
I’ve been drinking Pouilly-Fuissé for years and never had the chance to look up the region or find out much about the place. From Geneva we drove west 90 miles to Mâcon, France and from there we left the well marked highways and began to fumble and stumble along the back roads that wind south and west of the city. There are just four of villages that make this wine: Chaintré, Fuissé, Solutré-Pouilly and Vergisson. They are all much the same.
Immaculate, clean and well tended to. The buildings all ache of older times. Each village is surrounded by vineyards and on the crests of hills woodlands. Hardly a soul was seen in our walks in each of the villages. Mostly the infrequent French local practicing for the twenty-four hour of Leman was spotted flashing and dashing from place to place. Everywhere we went was solitude, peace and silence. Buying a few bottles along our trek required some guts and linguistic ingenuity. Armed with failing grades and a small French-English Dictionary we plunged headlong into the task. Most places that seemed to sell wine weren’t open. The few places that were open it was hard to find anyone around. When we did find someone things generally worked out. One fellow dashing along lost out on these back roads much the same as us stopped to ask for directions and when he heard our voices he closed his eyes and shook his head and said something in French and then looked up and smiled. He knew how odd we were, but I think he decided we must be exceptional since we had come to appreciate the genius that is the French winemaker.
It is hard to explain enchantment. You know when you are held under its spell and when you are not. I am rarely if ever enchanted in grocery stores, rush hour traffic or the voting booth. In the villages of Chaintré, Fuissé, Solutré-Pouilly and Vergisson enchantment is a constant condition. The doors, the shutters, the door knobs, the streetlights, the ancient rock walls, the clay tile roofs, the fountains, the narrow streets, the flower boxes under windows, and of course the churches, the bells and seemingly everything has been painted, patched, restored, or left weathered yet perfect. It was hard to find anything that didn’t make my heart beat stronger or imagination soar.
The next day I spoke with the woman at the desk of the hotel we stayed at and had a pretty good idea of what might keep all of us from moving here and living out our lives in heaven on earth. It was the weather. Not the weather we experienced, not the blue skies and smattering of white clouds and shirt sleeve temperatures. No, it is the hard times that are about to descend upon the region. It will soon get cool. Then, the clouds will persist. Then, it will get colder and rain will fall and then snow. You will build fires. You will go outside and it will be wet. The vineyards will be barren. The leaves will have fallen. The cheer of a blue sky and green vineyards will be replaced with the gloom of gray overhead and the muck of mud and stiff thick roots and empty branches of the grapevines will be the only thing to greet the eye. In your solitude you will taste despair and long for a glimmer of hope.
That is as it should be. Here is a place for the vine. Here is a place for those certain souls who are constituted and suited well to the task of coaxing out of these Chardonnay grapes something that stirs the imagination of humans who have decided virtuosity and genius might well be found in the pleasures that come with taunting the palette.
To round off our adventures the evening we dined at Restaurant Pierre in Mâcon. Christian Gaulin is the chef and the Micheline Travel Guide honored his work with a two fork rating and then in 1997 came the “supreme distinction—a star in the Michelin!” It was a bit awkward. Between our splendid French speaking skills, jet lag, three hours of time required to dine, and a staff not inclined to my enthusiasms or my wife’s culinary preferences I’d say we had something less than a peak experience. On the particulars however I have to say that Gaulin’s Foie gras dish was more than sublime. It transcended all previous experiences I have had with this dish. Nothing else of the meal came close to this masterpiece, but then nothing else needed to be as good, and if it had been as good? Well, then we’d all likely be lined up in some little city in France, waiting patiently for a seat, standing upon cobblestones from centuries past. This could prove to be quite a problem.
We meandered back to Geneva today. Along the way stopped in Cerdon. There, they make a sparking wine. By chance we discovered there was a village event. They were pouring wines, serving food, and a French woman was thrilling the throng with song. We were taken with this woman’s voice. It was authentic, and to our ear utterly new. Nothing prepared us for the mix of her voice, the French songs she sang, and the unfamiliar music that accompanied her. As was our style we plunged headlong into the gathering of 50 or more souls in this thimble sized village.
I sat on a bench sipping this modest sparkling wine that the village is known for. It isn’t as famous as some of the other wines of France, but in the moment and under the circumstances its taste was exceptional. The French women of the village released their children to dance. Elders sat on benches and soaked in the sunlight. We drank in the moment…sun, song, wine, and our new French friends. It was simple, pure and pleasing. Trapped in the prison of our language barrier my wife and I exchanged glances again and again as we pleasured at the chance to witness how others make the most of being here. The moment had what we wished for. We just wanted to be with all those open hearts and honest efforts to make something that would serve their village well. It was unspoiled and authentic. That is what working with our senses can do for all of us… Fresh air, blue sky, sharp plow blade, happy children, small village locked in a seam of a valley and a simple sensual reminder that what we taste, what we see, who we share life with, and how well we do those things can matter most, and be the only real purpose of our being here.