Friday, February 13, 2009

On The Road To Writing My Novel

For twelve years I was engaged in a solitary process that resulted in the publication of my first novel, “Or So It Seems”. Now, less than a year after its publication, I’m out in the world introducing this book to legions of total strangers.

Funny how the universe spins its web.

When I began writing the novel, I was lost and confused and not at all interested in writing a spiritually framed novel. My marriage had broken up, I was bitter and angry, and struggling to construct a life as a single parent of three wonderful but highly vulnerable children. And so, not surprisingly, the novel that took shape was bitter, angry and focused mainly on blame and payback.

But a funny thing happened on the road to payback.

As many of you know, we are each of us walking two paths on our life’s journey. On the first path we encounter our day-to-day struggles, our deeply held desires, our careers, our family lives, our likes, dislikes, quirks and ambitions. The second path, which you could call our spiritual journey, takes us on a much longer and far more obscure expedition. I’ll leave it to someone more knowledgeable than me to explain where that journey originates or where it is taking us, but its main characteristic is that it calls to and enlivens our deepest and truest selves.

Well, without over-stretching the comparison, this novel of mine, “Or So It Seems”, also traveled two roads in its journey to fullness, publication and, yes, self-discovery.

The point of divergence, where one road ended and another began, occurred after seven years. Truth is, I thought I had finished the novel, thought it was done. But after reviewing it, an agent suggested it needed more narrative tension. If I’m honest, it was a well-written, essentially dull tale of a man putting his life together again after divorce. I understood what the agent meant and sat down to create some suspense and tension by reordering a few elements in the plot.

A funny thing happened when I sat down at my computer, however.

The moment I started my rewrite, it was as if a voice sounded inside my head, telling me “Now you are going to write the novel you were supposed to write.” And then began another spiritual journey. Suddenly this kaleidoscope of new ideas, themes and characters started populating my simple storyline; as if by magic, my tale of one man’s divorce became a complex and humorous metaphor for everyman’s spiritual odyssey. Suddenly, my straightforward, linearly-told story became a rich, multilayered plot. And if you think I was excited or pleased, you’re not even close. I was scared to death. Had all that work, I worried—over seven years worth—been for nothing? It was frightening to think of revisiting my novel at that late date, but then again, some of those new ideas, characters and themes were so interesting, so playful, and so much more relevant to my life’s journey than anything I had written before…

Well, as it turned out, the new elements blended beautifully with the old and eventually, five years later, I found myself the author of a multi-leveled, humorous, surprisingly charming and intensely compelling novel. What one reviewer called, “A Rollicking Spiritual Page-Turner.” What I describe as ‘part odyssey, part oddball adventure and totally fantastic.’

If there’s a theme to “Or So It Seems” it clearly relates to perceptions of reality. How we’re so often distracted by what we see as the drama of our lives, that we rarely notice how that drama fits into our larger spiritual journey. Much the way I, in starting a novel about my divorce, failed to see that I had really begun a voyage of discovery, a journey that would lead towards something much larger and far more interesting than the tale of angst, bitterness and blame that had originally inspired me.

Or so it seems.

1 comment:

  1. Yo, Paul, what's up?

    It was great seeing you at the Bagel Bards. I had so much fun hanging out, yakking up a storm, and it's been so long since I hung out with writers that I was really picked up when I got out of there.

    It sounds like you made a real journey with the novel, which isn't unusual. They grow as we grow, and if it's a long drawn out writing time, we change and they change. I'm glad you rewrote it, too, because a black and bitter novel is no fun to write or to read.

    I hope you're feeling frisky. I may get to the Bards tomorrow, but it's a full day, I have a friend celebrating 50 years tomorrow, so I might not.

    See you soon, I hope.