The writing process for this novel was full of adventures for me, as writing it entailed so much research. They’re going to a bar in April 1996. What were the hot bars back then? What topped the charts that month? Someone works at a paper company. How is paper made? Most of the research was done while writing the first draft of the story.
Writing style was another point of research. How should I portray conversations that happen in the book? How do I avoid overuse of “he said”, “she said”? Does the question mark go inside the quotes? It was an experience to move back in time and dust off my copy of Prentice Hall Handbook For Writers 9th edition, a hardcover book that definitely shows its age and signs of use. I know, it’s easy to look everything up on the internet, but there’s a nostalgic feeling in thumbing through a reference book on paper.
As you may have gathered from my about page, I wasn’t born in the U.S. I migrated to the U.S. from Iran when I was 16. My English was very sub-par when I arrived here, to the point that when I enrolled in my local high school as a junior, I had to postpone U.S. History until my senior year. The 800+ page U.S. History book looked pretty much like gibberish to me. My English teacher for two years, Mrs. Knight, as well as my ESL teacher, Mr. Davis — who spoke fluent Russian as well as a few other languages — worked really hard to help me catch up to my grade level. In my senior year, I was a member of the speech club and went to competitions. My role? A scene with Willy Loman of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, alongside another student who played Biff. Imagine the horror on the judges’ faces when listening to an Iranian boy act as Loman, with a thick accent, pronouncing ‘W’s as ‘V’s, and ‘Th’es as ‘D’s. That was an experience.
Still, when I went to study for my B.S., I couldn’t place in English 101 and ended up in English 095 and 096, along with other students who just weren’t ready to take the same English everyone else took their first year in college. I have to credit my instructor of then, Ms. Connie Jean West, with making the largest effort in helping me progress in my comprehension and writing skills. Don’t get me wrong. I hated having her as a teacher and dreaded turning in papers, because I knew there’d be red marks all over the paper, correcting every – single – mistake in my writing. She’d probably shudder right now if she was reading this blog, as I’m sure it is not up to her standard. But boy! Did her toughness help. My English continued to improve over time and — well, there you have it, a novel.
Another factor that was hard to wrap my head around was that the book evolved on its own, separate from my writing it. That is a hard concept to grasp, but suffice it to say that by the time I had written the first half of the book, the second half did not want to go where I was trying to direct it to. The original ideas I had of the book transformed greatly over the course of the 6 weeks it took to write the book. That, in and of itself, was an epiphanic experience on its own.
The first-draft editor was my wife, who diligently read between 5-10 pages I had written each night and gave me her thoughts. Her input was very valuable and helped guide some of the writing. I pressed forward and finished the book in 6 weeks. A couple of weeks later, I approached my editor, who agreed to edit the book for me.
The book had issues, specially with its telling of two or three stories at the same time. My editor suggested that I revisit the timeline and the jumps in time so that the book read better. Procrastination can be an awesome power, or a devastating plague. The latter ruled in this case and the book sat on the shelf — or in my hard drive to be exact — for 4 years. On a whim, I talked with my cousin who had studies art and asked if she’d read the book and let me know her thoughts on it. She did, and based on her input and my editor’s, I revamped portions of the book and shuffled much around. Still, I let the book sit on the shelf for another 6 months.
Then, a friend of mine, Bill Leibforth, published a book titled Baseball’s Forgotten Black Heroes. That was the nudge I needed. I contacted my editor, set a timeline for editing, and worked through a couple of revisions. The input from my editor was immense. Some skills in writing I haven’t mastered after having lived in the U.S. for over 35 years just come naturally to her and the book is so much better because of her changes.
At this point, I am almost ready to submit the book to Amazon and get it out there. This is the process it took to write True Lovers’ Knot.
Lessons learned for my next book?
- Incorporate everything I learned from my editor on this book ahead of time for next book: this includes quote structure, minimizing repetitiveness, removing extraneous writing among a few other things.
- Read the book through and through before giving it to my editor: read the book as if I weren’t the writer. It’s a hard thing to do, but I believe it must be done, or it must be done for now, at least.
- Do not procrastinate: every second I’m not working on my book is a second longer before I can get it published.
- Intertwine my time with others: there are times when my editor is editing and I have nothing to do. Schedule other things I need to do — web site, trailer, self-publishing — during these times.