How (Not) To Write A Debut Novel
A long time ago, in a land far, far away, a writer slaved over a mechanical typewriter…
He didn’t know it at the time but he was writing what would one day become his debut novel.
The typewriter had been procured at the local market for the princely sum of fifteen dollars. Its mechanisms were clunky, requiring a strength not normally associated with the finger to engage each keystroke.
Pounding out the words required much more than mental effort alone.
The writer sat in a house in Townsville, Queensland. The heat was oppressive.
The house, on stilts and commonly known as a Queenslander, had single-layered wooden slat walls and no insulation. There were windows. They were paneless with wooden shutters.
This was useful when darkness fell, and along with it, the temperature. Then, with every orifice open to the elements, a breeze–if there was any–cooled the building.
During the day was another matter.
The walls perspired, the air thick and tangible making breathing a laboured exercise. Every metal object in the house burnt the skin on touch.
This included the metallic casing of the typewriter.
The writer had journeyed far.
The genesis of the story he would write had come to him in an epiphany during a theatre performance in Frankfurt, Germany.
He had worked as the head technician in the theatre.
The performances ran for weeks on end. After an initial rehearsal period, and once the shows were running like clockwork, all the writer was required to do was to hit a button on a lighting console at the desired moment.
This gave him time to think.
Once a year the theatre staged a musical. The writer also had a background in music. He moonlighted as a singer-songwriter. He decided the best way to communicate his tale was in the form of a musical.
However, to write his story he needed to do extensive research.
Returning to his homeland and the location of his story, Australia, he had travelled widely. Throughout his journey he set about garnering the knowledge he needed to write his story.
His journey had taken him from Adelaide in South Australia, through the desert wilds in the Central Australian outback up to a crocodile-invested river running into the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory.
He had then charted a course east.
Everywhere he went he told people about his story.
He consistently received a positive response which encouraged him to continue his journey.
He knew he had to tell the story.
The story would not let him go.
In the sweltering house in Townsville he set about pulling all his hard earned knowledge together.
He hammered away at the keys, the typewriter coated in a sticky layer of his own sweat. He watched beads of it drop from his forehead onto the backs of his hands.
Then he stalled.
The story stalled. He had a first act, but not the second. He did not know how to finish his tale.
Skipping forward almost twenty-five years and the memories of those moments are as clear as if they occurred yesterday.
The writer did finish his story. It never became a musical. It did, however, become his debut novel.
Have you had a similar experience?
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