Why A Novel?

Hello again!

I’m going to continue the story of how The Railroad Man came to be, but first I must let you all in on a little secret.  Most people who know me are aware of this little quirk of mine.  I know that most people who are interested in reading this novel are avid readers who devour novels one after the other.  And most people who write novels are avid readers themselves.  I am not!  In fact, the last novel I read was Huckleberry Finn as part of my Freshmen college English class in 1980.  We had to take a theme in the novel and try to find what its meaning was.  Since the principle setting for the novel was the raft trip down the mighty Mississippi River, I chose the river and how it relates to the way life just flows along, meandering from one place to another and taking a person along with it for the ride.  It was total college level B.S.!  But I got an A for my report.  Guess I should have known then that I was a fairly competent writer!

It’s not like I don’t read ANYTHING.  I do read magazines, newspapers and the like.  But when it comes to books, I usually read non-fiction histories, mostly of railroads that interested me.

I have a problem when I read.  I get fidgety, uncomfortable, and distracted.  I’d rather be using my hands to create something with.  I like to build models, to draw, to work on my car, and to write.  I also prefer more visual past times to reading.  I like to watch movies, sports, or a quality television show, of which there aren’t too many these days.  To be totally honest, I always envisioned The Railroad Man as a film, first and foremost.

So why a novel?  Well, the dream of seeing my story as a film was born and died almost in the same instant.  I knew being from New Jersey that I’d have less than a zero chance of selling a screenplay to a movie company based across the country in Los Angeles.  But then I thought that since New York was the publishing capital of the world, maybe, just maybe, I could write this story in novel form and see if I could sell it.

There are some out there who probably think that I was crazy for going about it this way, that since I didn’t read fiction, how could I possibly write fiction?

Many avid readers dream about one day writing a novel of their own.  They are a fan of a certain author or authors and they start thinking that, “I can do something like this.”  They may have a very good story idea and a clear vision for how they want it to play out on the pages.  Then they fall into the big pitfall:  They try to imitate the style of their favorite author like, say, Tom Clancy.  And that’s where many writers fail, because the hard truth is the only person who can write like Tom Clancy is Tom Clancy, rest his soul.

Since I had no favorite author, I had no one’s style to emulate.  I therefore had to “wing it.”  And in the process, I created my own unique style.

But my writing style had to be matured, aged.  This became very clear to me when I reviewed my proto-manuscript from 1990 after leaving it in a box for eight long years.  I thought I had a better handle on things when I began the new, current version of my story in 2010.  Unfortunately, that would not be the case.  Its first draft was a monstrous 125,000+ words!  So even though I had no favorite author who’s style I was trying to imitate, I still had fallen into the writer’s pitfall.  Like I said, I basically read mostly non-fiction histories.  These were written in a very scholarly, wordy fashion and my early writing style reflected that.  It was too long-winded for a suspense thriller!

This was pointed out to me when I joined a writers group on line called Absolute Write.  The fine people there have been, and continue to be, some of the most gracious and helpful in educating me in the craft of writing.  One of my early contacts there named Stan Miller really went the extra mile.  He pointed out the flaws and helped me do what I thought was the impossible:  To cut my 125,000 word heavyweight manuscript down to a taut, fast-paced 89,000 word streamliner.  (Some railroad analogies there!)  The editing has continued for the past three years, and now here The Railroad Man sits, on the threshold of publication.

More later.  See you then.

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