I remember when I first started writing. I was looking for all the information I could find on getting published, and I came across Robert Heinlein’s rules of writing. I sat up and took notice as soon as I saw the name Heinlein, one of my all time favorites. The first rule of writing was to sit your ass in a chair and write. Sounds pretty simple. If you want to become a writer you have to write something. I can’t remember all of the people I have talked to over the years who have told me they wanted to write a book or novel. They had wanted to for many years, but not the first word had been put on paper (or hard drive as the case may be). It takes a lot of motivation to actually sit down and put together ninety to one hundred twenty thousand words of coherent story. The motivation for my first effort came from anger and desperation. I had been released from the University of Alabama just before I was about to go on my internship, a PhD in Clinical Psychology the goal. At the time I placed all the blame on the Psychology Department. I still think they are burdened with the majority of the blame, but that is another story. Later I got a job with a Methadone Clinic in Tuscaloosa. I was fired one month into the job for trying to actually do therapy with my clients instead of just signing their papers after letting them watch a video. That and making a comment to the other therapist, my supervisor, that she really wasn’t doing anything. So I left that job in righteous rage, no prospects ahead, newly married and with a family to support. And I sat down and wrote, everyday for two weeks. At the end of that time I had an eighty thousand word first draft of an expose’ of academia called The Tower Of Psychobabble. In my naivete I started shopping the manuscript around to agents, and got an offer to look at the book. Then, as luck would have it, the agent received another manuscript with essentially the same tale, from a California University, just before mine got to her mailbox. So much for my fortune as a whistle blower. I later wrote two more whistle blowing books about the mental health system that I worked in. But after that first effort my mind turned to fiction.
The second rule of Heinlein was to finish what you started. I finished three more novels that first year and proved to myself, after many mistakes, that I could plan, plot and finish a bookl. One, Diamonds In The Sand, was good enough that with a little rewriting I have put it out as a free eBook on my site. Another, The Convoy, may be released someday, but requires much work before I want it with my name on it out where the public can see it. Another, a two hundred sixty thousand word epic, I relegated to the category of practice. In the next couple of years there were several more completed novels, and several that were never finished. I remember researching one that was to take place in Tanzania, using a Masai protagonist. A story about Were Hyenas, I research the Masai and their legends, their language, every fact I could find about a place I had never been. I never finished that book, though I had plotted it through to the end. I don’t even know where the file is of the work I had completed. Another book, The Beast Of Barnards Star, was to be a tale of a vampire who relocates to an colony around another star. Also never finished.
To date I have written over twenty book length manuscripts. I have also written some that never made it to the end. In 2010 I wrote five manuscripts, two of exceptional length. This year I plan to rewrite all of them, try to agent the three standard length novels, and self publish the two of exceptional length. I hope those two will become the first books of long series. And in 2011? Well, the story is not so good for that year. I started seven novels, and finished none. It was just easier to start something new than to figure out the plot problems twenty or thirty thousand words in. So I violated that rule of Heinlein’s, not finishing, and have a mess on my hands. In December I started back on one of the books, and am now up to sixty thousand words. Now I remember what a rush it is to see the novel starting to take shape. Two thousand words a day add up, and the increasing page count lends a feeling of accomplishment. And I know when I am near the end the daily word count will go up, as I rush to finish the book. In the last week I have thought of three new ideas for books. Maybe someday, but for now the resolution is to finish what I started, gets these 2011 efforts completed, and then move on. There will be time enough for new ideas, later.
Read The Deep Dark Well and The Hunger, at the website, Imagination Unlimited (http:dougdandridge,net).
Check out the Future Headlines at Phuturenews.com.