In 1996, after eight years of writer’s block, I began writing my first novel, Dream Walking. I had not written fiction since high school, yet fiction intimidated me far less than journalism, the career I had abandoned.
The first draft read like Nancy Drew without a plot, so I decided to turn it into a memoir. The genre had exploded, and I loved reading them. Ultimately, I felt uncomfortable writing a memoir and decided to turn it back into a novel. However, my agent became uncomfortable with me and ditched me.
My favorite memoir (The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls) reads like a novel. It was liberating to not have to rely on memory, condense characters, make up scenes, and take dramatic license.
The novel took me such a long time to write, because I kept putting it aside and working on short stories, screenplays, reality TV treatments, other novels, stand-up comedy, and eventually journalism features.
The novel’s main themes:
- Mental health is a complex equation
- Manic depression (aka bipolar disorder) is often braided with addiction, which complicates treatment of each
- Addicts often trade addictions
- Spirituality is a critical component of healing
Because of some of the reader feedback I received, I decided to recreate the two brief early teen chapters that my agent had me take out, because he thought they made the main character too unsympathetic. I am almost done, and then will figure out the whole print book thing.
Aspiring novelists out there, you must buy a book I am almost done reading that would have saved me years of angst, Stephen King’s On Writing. Quoting the Cleveland Dealer, “The best book on writing. Ever.”