In May of 2001, I was unemployed and under inspired. I had been toying with the idea of writing a novel from a great distance but now that I had a lot of time on my hands, I still wasn't getting any work done. So, I took a public bet: I would write 60,000 words of a novel or give my life savings away to the NRA, an organization I deplore.
The only reason I picked the NRA was because I couldn't find a non-profit which promoted underage cigarette use.
Putting what felt like my future (about $3,000) on the line and in the spotlight of friends, family, and then the Boston Globe, forced me to kick out a first draft in 31 days. I posted journal entries, snippets from the book's progress, and a total word count on am daily basis, such as:
Day 15: +2,218
* Total Words: 24,626 of 60,000 *
I revised a number of passages today so I could begin sequencing the novel. I have a prologue, Chapter One, Two, Three, and half of Five done right now. (Sample chapters should be up tomorrow.)
There's actually some structure to this madness. Looking at my total, I realize that I only have 16 more days to write about 36,000 words or 2,250 words per day, assuming I take no breaks.
My carpal tunnel acted up today. I will most definitely have to take breaks.
Today marked the birth of Sage Character #1, Connor's old college prof, Sty Mills. Connor calls Mills to let him in on the joke:
Connor could picture him in his ranch, his boots placed up on a coffee table made of antlers, which in turn sat on a rug fashioned from some poor dead animal. Connor had only visited once, but the way his teacher had fashioned himself into a cowboy made a distinct impression on him.
As a writing prof, Sty had given off an air of mystery. Rumor had it he was named by his father on the rainy Oklahoma night he delivered his son in barn full of pigs. Sty himself did nothing to combat this rumor, though it was far from the truth. Sty was even not his real name. It was Arthur; his parents were New York Hasidic Jews. Sty had gotten the nickname as a child due to his frequent eye infections but he'd used it as having a nom de plume named after an infection gave him credit among cowboys.
Sty gets to ask Connor all the tough questions like, why did you write a book you hate? And, what happens when your audience finds out you think they're stupid.
A friend of mine whose online comic I star in incorporated the whole thing into a storyline where the Paul character is beseiged by ol' Charlie Heston:
Ah, fame is fleeting however and despite almost getting an agent and landing on the Oprah show, circumstances forced me back into the working world before too long and I took the site down. You can still enjoy the synposis and, if demand warrants, maybe even some of chapters again.
NATIONAL BEST SELLER SYNOPSIS
Connor Fahey hits twenty-nine and suffers a crisis. After pledging to publish or perish by thirty, Connor still hasn't landed an agent. When his girlfriend's novel, which he secretly thinks is lousy, is accepted for publication, Connor decides public taste is so inane that he retreats for a summer in Maine to write the worst, and thus most publishable, novel he can imagine.
The result, Divine Bridges of Angels, lands him a top agent, huge advance, and a spotlight in the literary scene. Though initially panned by critics, (reactions which, Connor must admit, he agrees with) Connor takes the book on tour to glowing success. Over the course of a few weeks, he discovers that his audience is truly engaged by the book. They find it moving, evocative, and spiritual.
After his book is lauded by a national television personality on whose show he is scheduled, Connor grows deeply uncomfortable. Audience members use the book as a vehicle to talk about their own lives and open up to Connor, seeking advice more about themselves than his novel.
Connor becomes an overnight celebrity as the very thing he despises: a self-help guru. Audiences pack theatres to hear him read then line up for hours to just to talk to him. Connor's conscience grows more conflicted with each event: the book that is helping so many people is really a lie. Fame plagues him -- fans approach him in restaurants, airplanes, bathroom stalls...
Connor retreats to Maine, which only increases the media scrutiny. A fan, Melanie McDowell, chases him down and with her, Connor begins to experience eerie parallels to what happens in his own book.
DIVINE BRIDGES OF ANGELS SYNOPSIS (The novel within the novel)
An epic journey of the heart and the soul. Young protagonist Paul Griffiths finds himself by discovering his past: a life he thought he left behind. We meet Paul, young, successful, rich... yet like so many of us, deeply unhappy on the inside. Paul gives up everything for the simple life and moves into a small cabin into rural Maine. There he meets Nancy Kimball, a former world's-champion ice-skater, who has been despondent since the loss of her daughter and is now slinging hash in a local grill.
Together, love springs anew in the harsh Maine climate as they find a mysterious book in the floorboards of Paul's cabin which seem to contain hieroglyphics as old as the sands of time. Seeking inspiration from the Manuscript, they are intutively lead to Canada where they stumble upon a peaceful commune of spiritualists who left the US during Vietnam war and now live in seclusion. They've begun to build bridges -- physical and spiritual -- which Paul and Nancy cross to experience love. Their sanctuary, however, is threatened by the Canadian government cracking down on the supernatural experiments performed at the commune and in the ensuing fray, Paul and Nancy are lost in the woods, separated by a cold mountain, able to use only the power of the Manuscript to return home. The deeper each of them goes into this woods, the deeper they must go into their own Unconsciousness.