The Fountain reaches an Intersection

The Fountain is in the hands of an editor. Wild Rose Press has been kind enough to take a look at the novel. Their feedback was fantastic (though a tad embarrassing.) If you've read this blog at all, you know that the book started off at 138,000 words. Over time, I became convinced that that was simply too big, so I went in and cut it down to 120,000 words. That wasn't hugely difficult. A short story lurked in the middle that wasn't necessary to the overall read, so, sadly, I snipped it. That's fine. "Hal" will live a life of his own now.

Once I reached 120k, I started submitting to agents. I met with limited success, until an editor (who shall remain nameless) from Wild Rose was kind enough to read the story. Here is a snip from her email: "The story is fantastic, but the technical aspect of the writing probably needs to be improved." Now, that may sound like a painful thing to read, (it was,) but she went on to make some very cogent and kind instructions:

1. Cut the story to ~100,000 words. (Gulp.)

2. Follow some simple rules on an excellent editing sheet that she attached to the email.

3. Let her know when I was done.

With that in mind, I spent about 3 weeks refining the document and got it cut down to 91k words. The most interesting part of the experience? I had heard most of her suggestions in the past, but, for some reason, I had been resistant to take them on. They're simple things like:

1. Limit your adverbs as much as possible.

2. Get rid of junk words like "very, just, kind of."

3. Avoid conjugations of "to be" whenever possible.

(I mention the above three items because I'd been taught them in school. I don't want to spread the rest of her advice without consent.)

I'm not sure why I didn't cop to these earlier. I'd been resistant to interrupt my "flow" when writing. I suppose I'd been convinced that I was some sort of writing genius and that the rules didn't apply to me. Having said that, I went full-bore on making the changes she suggested and the story is much tighter now. The action comes on a lot faster. The reader is able to focus on what the characters are doing, rather than trying to get into the rhythm of my stream of consciousness. Now, I'm wondering why I waited so long to adapt. Funny how learning happens.

It's interesting how often my own ego gets in the way of success. Certainty that I know what I'm doing is dangerous (as stated in other posts.) In short, I'm on-board with the editing changes suggested and have started applying them to all of my stories. If you're looking for advice, I'd suggest that holding on to verbose sentence structure is more appropriate to poetry than to prose, especially for stories that are intended to be diverting rather than didactic.

So, does that mean that "The Fountain" will be published? No. It might be. If it meets her expectations, she'll present it to the Wild Rose publishing committee and see if they bite. If not, I'll suck up my tears and assure myself that it's been a great learning experience. That won't be a lie.

In the meantime, I've started on another novel. I'd promised myself that I would quit, if I didn't get "The Fountain" published, but it doesn't work that way. I can't help but write, even if it sucks.

The new story is called Intersection. The protagonist is a 50-something ex-truckdriver who owns all four corners of an interstate intersection. His family, employees and friends call him Granny. His businesses are: Granny's Truk Stop, Granny's Fudge Faktory, Granny's Motel and Granny's Bar. He's been told that he's having an existential crisis and he agrees, though he's having a hard time figuring out what existential means. I like this story very much and I'm not ashamed to say that it's inspired by two of my favorite authors, namely Larry McMurtry and John D. McDonald. McMurtry appeals because of his light and yet serious dialogue, MacDonald because of the setting. He once wrote a book called Crossroads with a character that has a complex of businesses on the, then, new highway system. Inspired by these two, yes, but the story is all my own.

I'm fascinated by the divided highway system , the trucking industry and the future of truck drivers. The industrial revolution completely wrecked and then rebuilt human culture. It split the nuclear family, instituted the massive corporations that we know today and started the middle and working classes on a nomadic work existence. To me, the U.S. divided highway system is the monument to those changes. It remains the single largest man-made structure in history (~47,000 miles of concrete and steel, blood, sweat and tears, according to my sources.)

The Information Revolution is remaking our society just as violently. In fact, I believe it marks the end of the previous age. The Internet has exploded traditional communities and replaced them with non-contiguous social groups. Today, no person has to go far to find others with like interests. Interested in German trains of the 19th century? Want to dress like a satyr every other Thursday? Need someone to talk to about your fear of cheeses? There's a group out there somewhere. The ramifications of this one change in divisiveness, hate speech, dehumanization, etc. are yet to be understood.

What does this have to do with a divided highway intersection? I like the parallel of the highway and the information superhighway. The collision of the previous generation and the next. We stand at a fulcrum point for an entire industry and an entire culture. My prediction: Within fifty years, the truck driver will no longer be necessary. Artificial Intelligence will deliver our goods and our citizens from point A to point B. The individually piloted vehicle will be a thing of history. The truck stops, the road side attractions, the life of the highway will have gone the way of the English weaving towns before the advent of the steam loom. It's a poignant moment, I think, and worth writing about (even if no one reads it.) Other industries will be equally disrupted. Also interesting is the growing understanding gap between the non-Internet generations (me) and those who have grown up with a computer in their pocket (my kids.)

I'm excited about it.

This post's picture? David, my nephew, explains the racial and class divisive policies of divided highway construction.

Not really. W

e started off talking about big rigs (both my grandpa's drove one.) I think we ended up talking about trains and baseball and how sand is really just small rocks. He's a cool kid. :) This is from our camping weekend at Peanut Island in West Palm Beach. My little brother and his wife sprang for the tickets and gave my wife and I a truly memorable experience. Great place, great camping trip. Hoping to go back some time.

Love you, David!

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