In the spring of 2014, I moved into an apartment and, within a month, began work on a novella–or, I’ve joked since then, a novel if it goes well–about a guy who moves into an apartment… and starts seeing things, or just one thing: a ghost or some other supernatural being, a woman who assaults him in the night.
That fall, a few things started happening for me. A publisher accepted Nobody Looks That Young Here in September. A different publisher accepted Hamburger in November. In between the two, I met my wife, Pauline. I bought a different apartment, and sold it again when we bought a house. We got married. The two books came out, but needed editing and promotion when they did. The house needed work (and still does). I got promoted at work. Our daughter was born and, just after starting her in daycare and regaining something like our previous routine, an actual, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me global pandemic threw us into a nineteen-week gauntlet of caring for her every day, full time, while both trying to also work full time from home.
Most of these interruptions were good things, and the bad ones weren’t as bad as what others have been through. What they meant, though, was that I put this manuscript down again and again, for weeks or months at a time, three times for so long that restarting actually meant starting over, junking anywhere from twenty to thirty-five thousand words each go-round.
There were periods where it felt stupid to carry on, to try again, to get this thing finished and right before letting myself try anything else, even a new short story. I didn’t start any new fiction for five years.
If confinement was previously just an occasional feeling about this project, the feeling’s been much more literal at times these last seven months–and it may have helped, because I finally got the damned thing done.
There were so many stops and starts, and total restarts, that until two weeks ago, I still couldn’t show a word of it to Pauline. But it’s as done as I can make it, now, and its title seems to be Modern Folklore. In the end its word count came out near the upper limit for a novella, but however it’s categorized, it feels both as short and as long as it needs to be, and I’m happy with it right now.
One challenge met, though, the next one begins, one that’s been in the back of my mind from the beginning: where do I submit this book?
There are a couple of literary and specialized presses I expect I’ll send it to, and a couple of contests, too, so here’s hoping. I’d love to see it published as a standalone.
But on the other hand, have you noticed novellas tend to get published in bunches?
And wouldn’t you know it, I recently had an idea for another, one I don’t think will take six years–in fact, I’ve signed up for National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) for the first time. With thanks to my sister, Dawna, who reminded me just in time, as well as Pauline for her encouragement, I’m charging forward with the momentum and curious to see how far I get. Officially, the goal’s 50,000 words by the end of the month–the minimum length for a novel, apparently–and I feel pretty good about the 5,000 I have so far… William Faulkner claimed to have written As I Lay Dying in six weeks, so who knows, right?
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I hope to have more news to post soon.