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My Novel

One day in 1986, while shopping, I passed an open door to an establishment and got a whiff of something. Right off the bat, I had an idea for a great novel. The protagonist would be a young woman, a little younger than me, still in college (by that time I had been married for 3 years and out of college for 5), dealing with a scientific experiment that's spun out of control, desperately trying to save not only her budding romantic relationship, but quite possibly the entire world.

So far, so good.
At the time, I was living in New York City, with a daily subway commute. My first "big scene" was of a crazy homeless person pushing a woman onto the tracks as the No. 6 is approaching. I remember writing this right in the middle of a workday; no one had any idea that I was indulging my muse, rather than earning my pay. As I wrote, my heart was pounding -- this was very exciting stuff.

I continued working on this book for a few months after moving to Atlanta. Then it tapered off and lay dormant for awhile. My interest came back to life in 1993, when Doug and I quit our "day jobs" to open a take-out franchise. The idea of having most of a day to myself was intoxicating, and I produced a lot of pages. The book almost gained some cohesiveness.

My progress was uneven, because "things" kept getting in the way. The biggest "thing" was Doug. For a few months, we both had a sense that all the doors were wide open and the possibilities were limitless. I think everybody feels that way from time to time -- isn't it a great feeling? Doug began spinning a fantasy of us going to New York and negotiating with a publisher. Sounded great from Doug's point of view, but all of my experience with Doug, in the context of any business transaction, had Doug making unreasonable demands and coming nearly to blows with whoever we were trying to deal with, all the while believing ardently that people were trying to take advantage of him. The idea of letting me handle negotiations never occurred to either of us, but it would have made life much more harmonious, if only we'd known. We never got as far as sitting down with a publisher. We probably never would have, even if I'd finished the book. The fear of Doug making us both look like a couple of idiots and sabotaging my career was too strong. I'd never have let it happen. The whole question became moot within two years when we parted ways.

The next decade and a half was ruled by "RL" -- real life. Single parenthood, remarriage, family drama, work, moving several times, technology ... and 9/11.  There was no way I could write about a 20-something woman (whose father was in the financial-services sector) in New York City without working in a reference to the World Trade Center attacks and the recession. By that time, I hadn't been a New Yorker for a long time and didn't have the confidence that came with really knowing my setting. It would no longer suffice to have my protagonist listening to a cassette tape of her boyfriend's musings while driving home from school for the summer. Her parents had met during "the tumultuous sixties" -- that was now dated, and I didn't want the same off-kilter time warp that Stephen King's characters often seemed to fall into.

In addition to this race against real time, I also found myself quite bogged down with the narrative timeline. How long does it take a research team at a university to develop a product, even a flawed one? How long does it take the venture capitalists to organize a company to market and distribute it? Pacing and timing questions plagued me from the start, and my lack of academic credentials was bound to be glaringly obvious to any biology majors who happened to get through the first ten pages or so.

I think my strong points in writing are dialogue, tone, and descriptive irony. I'm less certain about characterization, and general development of the storyline. For this reason, I've contemplated turning it into a screenplay -- it might work better in that format. I fear that, should the novel ever see the light of day, it would be shelved with such authors as Mary Higgins Clark, Faye Kellerman and Catherine Hall Page, successful authors whose work I find formulaic and unappealing.

But the thing is in a 3-ring binder in my closet and scattered among various hard, soft and thumb drives. It nags at me. I no longer have any real desire to work on it and finish it, but it's ruled so many years of my life (not to mention at least a full ream of paper) that I feel something should be done with it. It's not completed, so rendering it in ebook format would be a major waste of money and effort. I'm thinking of putting it out online, either on in their Original Works section, or setting up a page on Blogger or Wordpress or Tumblr, in a chapter-at-a-time format, soliciting feedback (no matter how painful), and maybe finding a way to get it out of literary limbo.

Your input is welcome!


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