When I first started trying to write novels way back in 1988, I envisioned a series along the lines of the books I devoured, read and re-read as a kid about the Royal Navy, i.e. C.S. Forrester’s Horatio Hornblower series and Patrick O’Brian’s books about Jack Aubrey. By then, Clancy had his first four books out. I was thinking, wow I can do this, if he can, so can I!
My first attempt was titled THE KURILE WEDGE INCIDENT and about halfway through the first draft I realized two things. One, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and two, this book would never get past a review by the U.S. Navy. Back in those days, I still held a high security clearance and anything I wrote for publication had to be reviewed for possible security violations. Back then, the Navy was (and still should be) paranoid about security in light of what it was learning about what John Walker gave away.
Fast forward five years to 1993. The word retired came after the title Captain, United States Navy and I started pecking away on another book called MOSCOW AIRLIFT. In the interim, I’d talked to a few authors who’d published novels and decided to try again. It was much, much harder than I imagined. However, this time, I finished the manuscript and put it on the shelf to redo. I didn’t know what needed to be done, but instinct told me no, not good enough. The question was, what was needed? I didn’t know so it went on the shelf. Actually, to be accurate, onto a floppy disk, then to a CD and now on a thumb drive.
My conclusion was that it was a saleable story and decided to start another. Lo and behold, my first book – BIG MOTHER 40 – came out in September, 2012 and the second, RENDER HARMLESS –was about to be released in March 2014. In the interim, I had completed four more manuscripts – CHERUBS 2, INNER LOOK, a totally revised KURILE WEDGE INCIDENT (in reality, only the title is the same) and FLIGHT OF THE PAWNEE. Hopefully, one day they will all see the light of day.
So back to December, 2013. BIG MOTHER 40 is out, RENDER HARMLESS was due to be released shortly so one of my resolutions for the new year was to apply the lessons learned to MOSCOW AIRLIFT from the first two books. Now roughly 25 years after finishing my first attempt at writing a book, I opened the manuscript for the first time and started reading, editing and re-writing. About seventy-five pages in it, all I could think was “God, what a mess!!!”
The next thing I did was “decompose” the novel to see what could be stripped out and used in a later book. That led to a lot of “buts” such as:
“That was a good scene, but…”
“I liked the way I wrote that, but…”
“The plot is still interesting, but…”
“There are some cool characters in the book, but…”
And the list of “buts” goes on… So, I decided to start over. It seemed easier or maybe less painful! Since then, I re-did the outline and started writing. As I can use some of the stuff from the original manuscript, I am. But, there’s that word again, it is tough because it has to be adapted/edited/rewritten to fit the new plot, characters, etc.
And, as I write the new version, all of the memories and thinking that went into the original manuscript still rattle around in my mind. It’ll be many months before I finish and hopefully the end product, unlike the original will be worthy of being published.