Thursday, May 26, 2011

Progress Report: The Home Stretch

I'm writing this after only moments ago finishing Chapter 20 of 30 of my new book, and in the moments between then and now, I've already taken the news to Facebook and Twitter, and now here to This is the excitement of a project drawing to a close. This is the vision of another black binder materializing in my office with another snapshot of where I am as a writer inside. This is why I do it, and it's why you should do it, too.

From here on out, the chapters are shorter, and thus, I can more easily incorporate my "edit, insert, read, and move on to the next chapter" regimen with an accelerated sense of progress. I've worked through the clunky prose, passed the point of my sobriety, and now I'm sharing the drive and enthusiasm that the writer of the pages I'm editing right now had when he worked in a trance-like state at the Hoover Public Library. However, this is also usually the time when I start planning ahead, although this time around, my aspirations are more grounded in reality.

Five years ago, and weeks after my mother and I settled into Alabama after Hurricane Katrina, I had in fact had most of Scenes from the Blanket written and edited. Only the final three chapters (if I recall correctly) needed to be written, and I remember carving out a workspace and going to work in the very small apartment I had rented, downing cup after cup of coffee and pounding out the rest of the book. But the planning for the future part was all about getting it published as quick as possible, using the crutch of having survived the ordeal of Katrina as my justification, or more to the point, my reward. I was going to self-publish yet again, and this time, I was going to do it right … whatever that meant.

Well, as I've preached over and over again here on, self-publishing is not the way to go. It creates an instant stigma in the industry, and there is no amount of promotion that can be done, either by yourself or through outside agencies (I actually hired a publicist during this time) that is going to blur the reality of that stigma in the eyes of anyone even coming close to taking you seriously as a novelist. It took two knocks upside the head with this lesson to finally learn it, and it is why this third book will be worked into the system legitimately, and it is the only plan I have for this book as of now.

But this is not to say that I haven't made other plans! They are just the more constructive kind, manifested in the form of a stream-of-consciousness Word file that I started yesterday (this is primarily how I outline my novels) with notes for a fourth book. It will mark a departure for me, leaving this Blanket Trilogy I've created behind as the first part of my literary canon (while, of course, still pursuing legitimate publication for this new one), and marking my launch into a genre more akin to dark comedy.

The new book has a working title, but it will change. It has to. Like everything else in life.