Spoiler alert: There will be no further spoiler alerts. I’ve realized that I will have a difficult time writing about the evolution of Save Me, Rip Orion without exposing any plot details. At the risk of being less compelling in this series of blogs I will attempt to be vague concerning details of the novel.
If I remember correctly I began writing the first draft of my new version of the novel in early March in 2010. In order to exorcise the first manuscript completely I renamed the main character from Duncan to Bruce; renaming this character would become a theme in the subsequent drafts as I would reload the amnesia ray gun twice more. I redubbed Evelyn as well; she was now Marcy. Another reason I did this was because a friend of mine had written a novel called Changes in which the main character was named Eve (Changes is a well-crafted epic-type novel that I will tout when it’s released. Get to work Kirsti). My friend had been working on her novel for a few years already and sharing the name would feel a bit like literary robbery. Anyway, I had a new plot in mind although I still neglected to write an outline or have the story crafted, start to end, in scribbled fragments on wrinkled scrap paper. I basically had a treasure map with “You Are Here” next to an arrow and a far off X marking the end of the destination, but no dotted line through the forest, around the mountain and arched over the river.
I made another mistake from the onset; I chose to write the novel in first person. This would not have been a mistake in-and-of itself, but when the plot progression is hazy the narration quickly becomes tortuous. Imagine, as a reader, being ensnared in the mind of someone who inspires to tell a story but meanders in a thousand different directions en route to the climax. Or even better, remember that time you began reading that Wikipedia page about Pink Floyd (or whoever/whatever) and you clicked on every single text link for every single album title, session player on the ’87 American tour and Syd Barrett acid breakdown fun fact along the way until you finally got to the part of the page that read “and they all played together at the Live 8 concert and they’ll never play together again so keep dreaming, and that is that.”
I believe that a reader with a keen eye would have noticed the muffled screams of a potentially riveting story buried somewhere under Bruce’s drivel. Marcy, if not Bruce himself, had become a more defined character. She also had become more a mouthpiece for some of my own sensibilities. I gave her the best lines. I liked her. I wanted to hang out with her (but not for long; this chick was trouble). I also added a new character who would persevere until Save Me, Rip Orion—Bruce’s best friend Mitch. Mitch was so unformed in this draft that if he were made out of clay, he would have been a lump of clay. Furthermore, I had quickly become attached to a few of the scenes involving solely Bruce and Marcy, and especially their locales: a pine tree rooted in a boulder in the middle of the woods, a desolate high school football field and a putrid lake in the midst of a fish kill. I loved the concept of a fish kill. I think every novel should include a fish kill. Heck, even children’s’ book should include a fish kill. Let ‘em know at an early age that biological shit happens. Imagine Harold and the Purple Crayon if Harold drew a lake crammed with rotting fish carcasses instead of drawing his bedroom. Bernstein Bears Discover a Fish Kill?
I also abandoned any supernatural or science fiction components. God was out the window (for now). The Earth revolved in normal fashion this time. This version was much grittier. Marcy’s back story was beyond cheerless and involved notions that I was not comfortable treading as her creator. I would alter her back story for Save Me, Rip Orion so I could feel less ashamed breathing life into her, and because a refreshed back story fit the journey of all the characters much more profoundly. However, the biggest difference between this draft and the previous was that the presence of the “The End” on the final page.
I understand that I simply can’t abandon the sub story of my wife and her emerging baby fever. I finished the second draft of my novel in November of the same year. Kait had subscribed to Parent magazine about this time in anticipation be becoming a mother. I found this endearing. However, around this time she also underwent a common minor procedure, mostly as a preventative measure. A few months later we realized that this procedure was fruitless. (At this juncture I should mention that her condition was not life threatening or anything. I don’t want to reveal too many details because I’m particularly afraid of two things: an angry Kait and HIPPA law violations).
I named this draft Our Imagined Somewhere, which was a snippet of a quote, delivered by Marcy. My eye was on the traditional publishing route as this was the only outlet I thought was available. I edited the novel once and crafted a query letter and synopsis—a taxing process. I sent out my materials to about 10 agents. One agent bit and requested the entire novel. I sent it and waited. As the weeks crept by I gradually began to realize that my novel still has quite a ways to go. I realized it was half-baked at best. I knew what the agent’s answer would be. It’s amazing; as soon as time distances you from your creation you notice its warts, zits and unwieldy cranial protuberances.
I canned all my physical copies of the novel and erased the digital ones. I recall the moment I told myself I would start from chapter one again: I was driving home from work, but took a detour so I could stop at Barnes and Noble and buy the first of three instructional books about novel writing. In way I felt like I had just broken up with a girlfriend (is this a cliché?), but I knew I’d find someone better, someone prettier, sometime without an unwieldy protuberance.