So Book Number One is busy being evaluated by an editing team; I'm waiting to find out if the plots, characters and themes work out quite like I think they do. While I wait, there seems little else to do but consider and write what may be Book Number Two someday. I have to say I face a slight handicap in comparison.
Book Number One is, at its core, a story that I've been carrying around since well before high school. It began life when I and a friend, both of us comic book enthusiasts, decided to try our hand at the medium. Whatever our good intentions, there was little hope that a couple of teenagers would possess both the talent and wherewithal to make that work. And, indeed, very little of consequence came from the endeavor. The one exception--at least for me--was an idea I had for a non super hero book; in planning this comic book, a finite series, I developed the same characters, story points and themes that ultimately made their way into the final version. It won't give away much to say the premise was one rooted in science fiction, and it takes place in a not-too-distant but unspecified future. I even planned to wink at the lack of temporal specificity with my version of Max Hedrom's "23 minutes into the future"; the narrated phrase--and the intended only narration within the book--"Still to come..." would start each issue.
The comic book effort was abandoned, but the idea remained. It existed only in that nebulous way ideas do, and in the years immediately after it never forced itself on me; the first two books I tried to write--high school efforts, both--were as unrelated to that nagging kernel as a hockey puck is to a beach. It may be fitting, in a way, that neither of those first two efforts produced anything that I consider viable today.
Finally it was in college, in the midst of the kind of profound angst that only college can generate, that at once I knew this stubborn idea needed to be put to paper. And so I wrote. And where previous efforts to take the idea somewhere--anywhere--had resulted in failure after a page or two, this new effort saw the first chapter done in a couple hours. Over the next four or five months, the very first draft of what may some time soon be my first book was finished. I revised and revised and revised. I threw myself into trying to publish the traditional way. But, as no progress was made on that front, I was distracted by the daily grind of college and life, and the manuscript was set aside; I will never know quite why, but I ignored that manuscript for a long time.
Revisiting it years later, I found I loathed the style and composition of the manuscript; I could very well understand why it had never been published. So I did the only sensible thing: I started over. The ideas remained, but the words needed to be replaced. Except where that first chapter had come so easily once upon a time, now nothing came easily. I moved on to other prospects.
It was a dream of all things--a nightmare--that made this book happen. Once again I started from scratch. The idea, the characters, the themes all remained.The nightmare, which in fact makes a guest appearance in the book and is arguably the inciting incident--at least for one of the characters--had crystallized in my eyes, for maybe the first time, what I wanted this book to mean. The writing was slower than I'd have preferred; not currently making my living writing books, it was too easily to get distracted by what I am making my living at--and, of course, ever-present life.
And now I sit looking toward the follow-up to a book that may have written itself in my head twenty years ago. And while the most basic concept is based on what would have been the title to the sequel finite series in the comic book medium, it is imbued with none of the personal history that its predecessor is; I haven't spent a decade or two working out details, and the prologue did not come courtesy of a nightmare. I can only hope Book Number Two proves as interesting when its ride is over.