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The Home Stretch
The peace that comes with finishing up the rough draft
It took me six years to write the manuscript for my first novel, From a Dead Sleep. Most of it was done in my spare time as I worked full-time as a system analyst. The writing was a long, winding journey that consumed countless hours, and drew out creativity I didn’t know I had. It allowed me to rise to what seemed at times to be an insurmountable, self-imposed challenge, and produce a work of art that I was (and still am) immensely proud of.
And almost no one during that time knew anything about it.
My wife knew… kind of. It’s hard to keep a passion that takes up so much of your time a secret from your significant other, and it probably wouldn’t be very healthy for a relationship to even try to. But I asked her to keep things on the down-low, and she (for the most part) did.
The reason had to do with expectations, pressure, and even a little bit of pride.
I had no expectations for the manuscript, so it seemed kind of silly to build expectations in others. With expectations comes pressure. In my case, I didn’t want friends asking me how the project was coming, or what the story was about, because I didn’t want to feel the pressure of having to complete it by a certain date… or even having to complete it at all.
I also didn’t want to come across like one of those characters on television or in the movies who keeps talking about the screenplay he’s written, that his friends secretly surmise is going absolutely nowhere. That’s how the pride part played in.
For me, writing the book was a personal thing. I wanted it for myself. It seemed that sharing it with others before it was complete would have, in a way, cheapened it. It also might have even interfered with the creative process, since I know at least some people would have felt inclined to pitch me ideas. So, I waited… and waited… and waited.
The most satisfying stage of that personal journey was the near-completion of the first draft. Not so much the actual completion, but the near completion. It was that moment, with only one or two chapters left (but outlined clearly in my mind), when I realized I had reached the top of the mountain, and was now gazing — unhindered — across the sprawling landscape below.
Or perhaps, as in the picture above, I was relaxing in a hammock with my manuscript resting in one above me, watching the sun lower and a beautiful day come to an end. Okay, that imagery doesn’t work quite as well (and is even kind of goofy), but hopefully you understand what I’m saying.
It might sound like premature inflection to some — a clear case of counting one’s chickens before they’ve hatched. But to me, it was a calming moment — a satisfying signal that the obstacles were gone and there was smooth sailing ahead.
I experienced that same feeling, at the same stage, in the writing of my subsequent books. And I feel it now… as I wrap up the first draft of the next Sean Coleman Thriller.
(That’s my way of saying I’m just about done, folks.)
But unlike with the first book, I’m at least somewhat comfortable sharing my progress with others. While being asked about the release-date has worn a little thin (especially since it can’t be determined until I’ve finish the writing, and it’s accepted), I do recognize the question as a compliment. When you’re writing an active series that people enjoy and care about, their anticipation of the next installment is a good thing. It’s an affirmation of your work.
Of course, the journey isn’t over. Those last few dozen pages of Sean Coleman #5 (I promise it will get a title soon) aren’t going to write themselves. Once they’re complete, it will probably take me about a month to augment the rough draft into a final draft. That’s where I’ll work on cleaning up some minor story inconsistencies, adding some extra flavor to the characters and settings, and enriching the syntax. I’ve found that focusing on a single chapter a day works pretty well.
Next will come the submission of the manuscript to my publisher, and if things look good… the editing, proofreading, cover selection, and the rest. And yes, I’ll have a release-date that I can share.
But for now — until the weekend’s over, I’m just savoring the home stretch.
Very rarely have I watched a television show that made me want to be a better person. In fact, I’m not sure if it had ever happened until just last week when my wife and I watched “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+. It stars former Saturday Night Live cast member, Jason Sudeikis, as an American football coach who’s hired (for unknowingly nefarious purposes) to manage a different type of “football” team in London.
While the first episode left me only lukewarm, the season really picked up after that, and unfolded into something truly special. The creators pulled off a unique balance of quirky comedy and endearing moral themes (like grace, disarming kindness, and building up others). It was incredibly well written.
I won’t say much more than that, but one of my favorite columnists, David French, actually had quite a bit to say about the show… and why he believes it demonstrated to viewers “what the world should be.” That’s a pretty big statement, but I believe he’s right, and I’m glad a second season has already been announced.
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
One of my favorite quotes:
Last week’s ‘Daly Grind’ newsletter caught the eye of talk-radio host, Mark Reardon. Mark had me on his KMOX (The Voice of St. Louis) show on Tuesday to talk about the national aluminum can shortage. It was a good time that you can listen to here (I come in at the 23:20 mark).
Obligatory Dragon Shot
A little soft shoe from the aquarium last week.
In 2019, I was excited to hear that The Rembrandts were putting out a new album — their first in nearly two decades. I was a big fan of the acoustic-rock duo in the early 90s, a couple of albums before their work went as mainstream as mainstream can possibly get with their recording of the Friends theme song, “I’ll Be There For You.”
Just between you and me, I never really cared for that tune. In fact, the same goes for the show itself (insert your gasp here). But I thought most of their other stuff was great. Phil Solem and Danny Wilde had amazing chemistry, and I was looking forward to the reunion album.
I was not disappointed. The Rembrandts’ sound is timeless, and “Via Satellite” is packed full of well-written, lyrically strong songs that I wish would have received more airplay. My favorite on the album is “On My Own,” the chorus of which was stuck in my head for months.
By the way, I actually got to interview Phil Solem (who’s a great guy) shortly after the album’s release. You can check it out here.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Also, if you’re not caught up on my Sean Coleman Thrillers, you can pick the entire series up at a great price on Amazon. And if you’re interested in signed, personalized copies of my books, you can order them directly from my website.
Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!