Ah, high school. Those ripe and rare salad days. The virgin landscape of yesteryear. That delightful time when anything can – and does – occur. When all roads are open to you, and everything is possible.
It was during this impressionable time in my life that I explored every creative outlet I had in my body. I acted, I sang, I danced, I composed music, I wrote plays, and of course – I wrote fiction. Although recently undertaken as a solid professional goal, the urge to write was bred in me long before a whisker showed its face on my chin. Now, there have been little stories swimming through the river of my mind for as long as I’ve been a sentient being, but it was in high school that the idea of THE NOVEL first reared its head.
THE NOVEL came to me one day after watching a performance of Puccini’s La Boheme at a waterfront amphitheater. It was a beautiful evening, and Rodolfo and Mimi sang of their love as the sun set behind them. I was with my first love, and I had never felt more alive before. I went home and immediately knew what I was meant to do with my life.
Well, not really. That never happened.
Really, I have no idea where or how I got the idea for THE NOVEL in the first place. But it appeared one day and I said, “Hey, that’d be a cool book.” So I sketched out some ideas and wrote a chapter or two in a journal and promptly forgot about it.
Cut to my sophomore year of college four years later. Going to school in Philadelphia, I was working part-time at Adventure Aquarium across the Delaware River in Camden, NJ (which, at the time, was considered the most dangerous city in America – fun fact). Every day I had to get on the PATCO train which connected the two cities and ride it across the Ben Franklin Bridge. While on this commute one day, I suddenly remembered THE NOVEL. (I should mention I was going to school for musical theatre at this time, so I had entertained no intention of writing. Ever. Not that I was against it – it had just never occurred to me.)
Being an ambitious lad with an hour of nothing to do every day while commuting, and not being one of those silly bookworms who read on the train, and not being one of those crazy teenagers who listen to music on the train, I decided I liked the romance of writing a novel on the train. I found my old red notebook and set to work with a serious mind.
I plotted out THE NOVEL and created a map of the world (Yes, it was an epic fantasy. Of course.). I wrote a few chapters and was so pleased with the novelty of it all. This was so different than going to voice lessons and dance class and crying in Meisner studio and dealing with hot girls who were actually crazy. Alas, all good things end, however, and my time at the aquarium drew to a close. I typed out what I had written and saved it on my computer. And promptly forgot about it again.
So it went for the next few years – I graduated and got my first professional acting gigs. I fell in love, fell out of love, moved in with people, moved away from people, had other day jobs, and eventually moved to New York. During all of this, THE NOVEL would stop by my head to say hello every now and then. I wrote a couple of chapters between acting gigs, I rearranged a bit of dialogue when going through a breakup, I edited the map anytime I saw a cooler map in another epic fantasy book.
I actually got a lot of writing in during Army basic training. After the day was over and our drill sergeants released us for the night, I’d sit up in bed with my little notebook, scribbling away about fairies and magic with my M-16 semi-automatic rifle by my side.
Anyway, there came a point when I realized I had finished the darn thing. So I said, “Neat!” and promptly forgot about it.
Cue me making the decision that I’d like to start writing fo’ realsies. THE NOVEL is ecstatic. Happily, I read through it, prepared to start the editing process. I am appalled.
Here is the problem with beginning a novel at 16 and finishing it at 26: it was written by at least ten different people.
I could point out exactly what section each author wrote. And not because I remembered when I wrote what. It was because it was so blatantly obvious. I will highlight a few of these authors:
The 16-year-old wrote like Tolkein or Dickens: long, luxuriating sentences that carried such weight of import that you wanted to take a nap after every period. You lost track of the subject of the sentence after hearing how beautiful it was in the moonlight.
The 21-year-old wrote like David Mamet: whole chapters filled with dialogue. Occasionally there’d be a “he said” in there, but that was about it. Otherwise, it was action-action-action.
The 26-year-old wrote with a sense of motivation: whole pages where we followed the characters’ thoughts and feelings, their wants and desires, and then a little blip about what them doing something to get it.
It was like somebody with multiple personality disorder wanted to write a book.
So here we are, a year later, and my agent suggests (not wrongly) that I give it yet another go-through to clarify some points. Sigh. How much longer shall I continue to edit, trying desperately to unify these many voices into one? Only time will tell.
Hopefully it’s not another ten years.