I've written 6 books, so I am used to playing the waiting game as the time gets closer to the launch. All of those other books have been collections of nonfiction humor essays that got their start in my newspaper column, so they had already stood the test of readers comments. This time it's a novel, a totally new medium for me.
I started writing this story while taping the TV series The 3-Day Novel. I was locked in a big-box bookstore in Edmonton, Alberta from midnight Friday August 31, to midnight Monday September 3, 2007. I, along with 11 other writers, had to create a full novel bringing nothing with me but a single page of notes. In 72 hours you aren't going to write a full length novel, the point was to write a solid beginning middle and ending to a story. In my case that was roughly 28,000 words with very little sleep.
The network did provide us with beds during the weekend, but I spent very little time in mine. There were 3 reasons for this:
- I wanted to spend as much time as possible writing my story.
- I did not want to see myself on the TV series sleeping, because according to my wife, there is a slight chance that I might snore... loudly.
- I am 6'4" and weigh roughly the same as the front four of the Green Bay Packers, and the beds they gave us were IKEA children's bunk beds. I've had more room in a seat on a Continental airliner.
On more than one occasion, sleep deprivation resulted in me having conversations with my fictional characters, and arguing about the direction of the story. It;s somewhat disconcerting to lose an argument with a fictional character.
Aside from the intrusions by the store's customers during opening hours, the ever present TV cameras, a panel of three judges interrupted us in a regular basis to take part in speed writing challenges on the topic of their choosing and exciting, must see TV like spelling bees. They also judged our final product.
One of the judges, Minister Faust, and I got along quite well, and have since become good friends. He said reading the story was like taking an intensive course in plot development. The other two judges... not so much. One chewed me a new bodily opening when she didn't like the topic of the piece I wrote during one of her challenges. I knew at that moment that I wouldn't be winning the event. The third judge didn't understand a literary device I used at the end of the story.
Still, it was a good experience, partially because I finally tried my hand at fiction, something my friend Ridley Pearson had suggested I do back in 1999 after our mutual friend Dave Barry had written his novel, Big Trouble. It was also a good experience writing with the other cast members, several of whom I remain in contact with frequently.
I took several months to plot out the full story. I left the weekend with approximately 28,000 words, and needed to bring it to roughly 75,000 words to turn it into a complete story. I've spent close to 2 years trying to find a home for it. As I said in a previous post, all to frequently I've heard from agents who said basically the same thing, "It's a fantastic story and you are a wonderful writer... but." The concept of a mystery novel with more than a liberal dose of humor is apparently outside their realm of experience.
The Canadian publishers I approached all said they were not interested in the story because I didn't set it in Canada. The characters in the book, especially my protagonist, simply would not have worked as Canadians. The one Canadian character in the book didn't matter to them, because she was working in the USA.
So now we are down to the final days before the story is released to the reading public, and as I said at the outset, I'm more than a little bit nervous about it.