How to Write a Novel in 13 Years

The road novel “deep wicked freaky” will be released in November 2012

In the early 1990s, at the outset of my writing career, I was teaching a course at a local college. One of my students was a convicted felon who’d served his time and was trying to get his life back on track. He told me in detail about what he’d been sent up for: driving stolen cars from Phoenix to Las Vegas. From there, I learned how the setup worked, from start to finish. A seed was planted: What would it be like to drive a stolen car across the desert, alone, in the remote blackness?

Years later, in 1998, I’d sold my first novel, ZigZag. I began writing the follow-up in 1999, which was the original template of the novel deep wicked freaky. Getting from there to here 13 years later, however, has been quite a ride—not unlike driving a stolen Porsche across the desert, alone, in the remote blackness.

A decade ago, I was headed for an emotional crossroads and a subsequent internal voyage that forever altered the course of my life. While I had finally achieved my lifelong dream of being an author, I now had equally difficult and vital work on the unseen front. In emulating my heroes—the writers, musicians and other creative artists who struggle with inner demons and mapping a life course—I was right in step.

Around that time, I dreamed the phrase “deep wicked freaky,” scribbled it down upon awaking, and later discovered it to be both the theme and title of the novel I’d already begun. I finished the first draft in August 1999 and, amid untangling various personal discoveries, finished a second revision in June 2000. Looking back, it’s clear the emotional business of the day was clouding my creative abilities. Neither draft was ready for publication.

Meanwhile, like some precocious honor student, my debut ZigZag was off doing amazing things. In January 2001, David Goyer (of Blade, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight fame) began filming his adaptation of ZigZag. He invited me to the set and graciously allowed me to stick around for the entire shoot. While watching John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt and Wesley Snipes bring my novel to life every day, I began a third revision of deep wicked freaky literally on the set of ZigZag.

In July 2001, my agent began submitting deep wicked freaky to New York publishers. Two months later 9/11 happened, and publishing was effectively shut down. Subsequently, it seemed that timing, market forces and world events conspired against the book’s publication. More than a year later, in December 2002, I began a fourth revision, as the book was still evolving. But by the spring of 2003, my own creative juice for the story had ebbed. I put the manuscript aside and wondered if I would ever return to deep wicked freaky.

Over the next years, deep wicked freaky was wholly off my radar. In late 2004 I met a prominent plaintiff’s attorney and began a five-year collaboration that eventually became the legal novel The Rules of Action. Then, without explanation, in early 2011 the Literary Gods rang with a simple and somewhat mysterious directive: deep wicked freaky. It was time to bring the story home.

More than a full decade after the initial idea, I plowed back into the manuscript with renewed clarity, energy and fervor I hadn’t had since writing the initial draft. Timing, of course: the years of work on the unseen structure of my psyche had brought me to a new place of peace and creative freedom. Work continued on the novel through the year and into 2012.

Although not a straight sequel, deep wicked freaky is a follow-up to ZigZag because of the connecting thread between the two books: the strong-willed Jenna Jet from my debut takes the lead in the second book.

This is her voice, her story, her spirit—a triumphant narrative that’s intertwined with my own long journey, wild fancies, dark nights of the soul and a long search for the steadying anchor we each must find. Ultimately, that journey can take much longer than we ever anticipated at the outset, just as it took many years to bring Jenna Jet home. I’m hopeful you’ll enjoy the ride.

I suppose the key theme here is “relentless persistence.” It’s one trait every published writer either has innately or learns to develop. Without it, manuscripts die in dresser drawers.

deep wicked freaky will be released in November 2012 

2 thoughts on “How to Write a Novel in 13 Years

  1. Know my plot, but don’t write an outline- I know a lot of writers like to outline their main storyline, subplots, individual scenes, everything. For me, though, that takes the emotion out of my writing- it makes me feel less like my characters are prompting my words.

    1. I agree: I don’t write any outline. I focus on a great opening first, write the ending so I know where I’m going and then let the narrative, characters and scenes flow from there.

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