Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My novel, 52 years later …what did I learn?

by Tom Mach

© 2009 by Tom Mach

I thought I would share with you an example how years of experience with life, with reading a wide variety of books, with rubbing shoulders of accomplished writers, and with getting great writing guidance from numerous sources, my writing ability changed for the better. I wrote my first novel when I was 17 years old, and it was my crude, uninformed attempt at writing commercial fiction. Although I certainly know now that it is an example of bad writing, I wanted to show you the beginning of my chapter and then give you my explanation as to why I wrote that way. Below are the beginning three paragraphs of this novel…

The Boss’s Son by Tom Mach

Chapter One

It is on a blistering summer day that one finds people of the finest physical composition, defaming summer and everything connected with it. But there is one great reason, one momentous motive, for ardent summer lovers deserting their nature and becoming strict summer haters. These rash converts become so because most summer days are unbearably warm. To put it more bluntly, people get damn sick of the sticky heat of an average summer. To put it more modestly, once again, it seems that Nature was unreasonably cruel to one place in particular—New York.

The poet would express it this way: There was one advantage of the persecutions of the sun on this city. The city did not possess the aspects of a paved jungle; rather it became a monument of mountains in a prairie of pebbles. The sun, with its kaleidoscope of hues, made those mountains a noble work of art.

The man of the city who lived in the city and knew the city would more accurately describe the mountain skyscrapers as something more than towering objects of steel and stone. He would much more profoundly say that they were symbols of business, of man’s strife toward the industry of the nation, and of this way of making a living.

I need to explain something here. First of all, the novels I read when I was 17 years old were the classics. So you can see, I used author intrusion and spent a lot of time philosophizing, writing in somewhat archaic language, just like many of the 18th and early 19th century authors did. Secondly, I never took a writing class and didn’t have anyone critique this for me, so I suffered under the delusion that what came out of my typewriter was what the finished draft should look like.

Speaking of that, I typed this 353-page novel of a Royal portable typewriter. I used carbon paper between sheets. When it came to correcting an error, I had to erase the error with an eraser on both the original sheet as well as the second page under the carbon paper. Obviously, this discouraged me greatly from doing any rewriting. Writers who are spoiled with the computer, allowing them to easily make changes, insertions, and deletions, don’t know the literal hell writers using typewriters had to go through.

An interesting aside to my experience is that I had sent this entire manuscript to a few major publishers (I didn’t know anything at the time about query letters, synopses, or sample chapters), and the publishers actually responded with personally typed rejection letters signed by either the editor himself or his assistant! That wouldn’t happen in today’s market without an agent.

At one time, I was going to toss out this novel, but I’m glad I didn’t. It’s always good to go back and reflect on why you wrote what you did at that age and how much progress you’ve made over the years.

1 comment:

Deborah Owen said...

I so much disagree with you. If I had received your 17-yr.-old writing sample I would have answered you personally, too. Your writing wasn't bad. It was actually quite good, showing tremendous promise, a beautiful, picturesque style, and a future author in bloom. Watching an author bloom is second only to a sunset. You should be proud of that display of inner emotions. I enjoyed reading it. Deborah Owen