Today, I am.
January 30, 2017
Late in 2010, I finished writing my first novel. It was super religious (as was I, at the time) — pages and pages of Church history and people talking about theology. It was just a “light little mystery” and I guess it was pretty boring. I revised it several times and sent it out to 26 literary agents, most of whom ignored me. A few wanted to see more but no one seemed that excited about it. I’m glad it never got published: it was kind of an embarrassing mess. It was called “The Empty” and was about a guy named Isaac whose head injury gave him some special powers.
My second novel was the sequel to “The Empty.” It was called “The Pursuers.” It was also about Isaac and his friends and was 151,000 words long. Even though I finished the first draft, I never revised it because there was a subplot in it about a monk that time travels that really caught my attention.
So I started working on my third novel, called “The Seraphim Bells.” It was set in a monastery near Los Alamos in 1945. Georgia O’Keeffe and Oppenheimer were in it. I got it all plotted out and wrote about 45,000 words and then bogged down. It just wasn’t going anywhere. There was a very interesting character in it, though: a Russian church bell named Tatiana who was ill-tempered and as likely to kill you as not.
Then, in 2014, I saw an ad for a week-long writing workshop that I wanted to attend. But you needed to bring a finished draft of your novel to work on. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to try to finish “The Seraphim Bells” or workshop “The Empty” and/or the “The Pursuers.” I asked my first readers what they thought and they all said: “We want to know what happens to Isaac.”
You gotta listen to your readers, even if there are only four of them. 🙂
I started reworking “The Empty,” this time in first person from Isaac’s point of view. And decided that the time-traveling monk needed to be in this one. And his bell. I ended up with a complete rewrite. Much less Church history and overt theological conversations. Much darker. More evil. Way better. Way smellier.
I never made it to that writing workshop. Life intervenes. But today, almost one year after I finished the first draft, I finished the second revision of that book about Isaac and Micaela and their friends and his cats and the monk who time-travels and that bad-tempered bell. I’m calling it “Scent of Time Passing: The Horologion, Book I.” It was the hardest thing I have ever done and if you have ever tried to write anything, you know I’m not joking. I quit for a while, plagued by self-doubt and other demons, but a few friendly words from people who believe in me kept drawing me back to it. So even though the last 8 pages turned into 25 and instead of trimming the whole thing down, I somehow managed to expand it from 112,658 words to 126,188 words, I finished this revision. That’s about a 420-page book. Might be too long. I can cut more later. Maybe there is too much about the cats. 🙂
I’m gonna put it aside for a while now, maybe a couple of weeks, maybe a month. There are a few more layers I need to apply: the significance of Micaela’s tattoos; the Chimayo witch; foreshadow Tatiana’s powers; expand on Isaac’s super-smeller; and introduce more sights and sounds of the Katofli. And then a polish, making sure I’m not using the word “shrugged” too much. After that, I want to send it out to a few people who can give me some nice, harsh criticism. Then we’ll see what happens.
In the meantime, I’m going to start plotting “Touch of Time Tolling: The Horologion, Book II.” It’s Tatiana’s story: how she got away from the Bolsheviks and ended up in New Mexico. Should be weird. 🙂
I’m very happy about this. This book may never go out into the world. It may never be read outside of my circle of friends and I’m good with that right now. I may not be calling it art but I made something I’m proud of. I dug down deep and finished something hard. I may not have always been a person who finishes what she’s started–but today? Today, I am.