Not only did I recently interview Mark Hosack, but I spent a nice evening hanging out with him during a recent trip to Los Angeles. It was my first time in California, so Mark showed me Marina del Rey, Venice, and Santa Monica.
At our stop in Marina del Rey, we grabbed a cappuccino and dessert at C & O Trattoria. It was there that Mark gave me a much-needed kick in the ass.
If you read the interview I did with Mark, you know he writes screenplays and novels — all while scouting and managing locations for commercial shoots. He’s also raising three children, ranging in age between one and six. Throw in occasional travel and other life things, and it’s clear he’s a busy person…who still gets writing done.
When the discussion turned to my writing, specifically asking how A Magic Life is coming along, Mark became rather animated when I told him I’m still working on it.
Everyone within earshot turned to look at me when he said:
You’ve just gotta finish it! You have some interest in it already, and you’ve gotta move on that!
And when he found out that I’m working on a second draft, Mark became even more animated and said:
You’ve already finished it and a rewrite is taking this long?!
When a guy with 3 kids and a busy schedule (who just released a new book two days prior) calls you out and all the people around you on the patio are staring, you realize just how silly it sounds to say you’re still not done with a book you’ve been piddling with for 5 years…
What’s the Hold Up?
Should you think Mark hammered on me about not having A Magic Life finished, he didn’t. Everything he said was said with a smile and a sense of, “You’re a good friggin’ writer who’s produced (and currently produces), so let’s figure out what the hold up is…”
And that’s why everyone would be incredibly lucky to have a friend like Mark. Sometimes you need a good kick in the ass, but that was followed by Mark getting me to talk about why the book isn’t in a completely readable state.
We methodically ran through the things that have been in the way…
The Day Job — It’s not always the easiest thing working a full time job, having a life, and finishing novels. Add to it a day job requiring a fair bit of overtime, and this has been a big issue. (Fortunately, it’s recently been remedied by moving to a new business unit at work with more control over projects and time.)
You know how Facebook and other social media sites offer a glance back at “This day in your history”? Mine is full of this:
Big release at work wrapping up…looking forward to getting back to writing…
I’m glad that’s changing.
Social Media — Speaking of Facebook…it really is amazing how much time social media takes in tiny increments. While I take regular social media breaks, quite a few friends have had new things coming out — and because I like supporting my friends — I’ve logged back in to say, “Hey, Mark has a new book!” or “Rick has a new podcast!” And then…I’ve stuck around longer than planned.
Supportive People — This one may sound funny, because I know people who would love to have as many kind and supportive people as I have in my life. But aside from Mark Hosack and my wife (who has on more than one occasion brought up the Family Guy, “How’s that novel coming along?” bit), few people call me out for not being done with A Magic Life. In fact, some say it’s okay that I’m not done — even getting on me a bit and saying it’s okay when I get on myself for not having it finished.
Podcasts — I hate that this one came up in my list because I love the podcasts I do. But much like social media, they take away time in small chunks — and a lack of schedule with one show means I’m often rushing to finish putting things together each week during times I’ve blocked out for writing.
The Format — A Magic Life is a bigger story than anything I’ve previously written. While not impossible, a first-time novelist has a very slim chance of selling a book that’s more than 100,000 words. (Garth Risk Hallberg’s debut novel discussed in that link came in at almost 950 pages.) So I thought about making A Magic Life a series of two or three books. It really seems like two books’ worth of tight writing to me, but trilogies are far more common than two books in a series. So I keep trying to see it as three books, and it doesn’t feel right.
Back to Marina del Rey…
When discussing A Magic Life as a trilogy with Mark, I mentioned that I fear I’d end up padding things out. Sure, the thought of three books is nice, but it changes what I’ve seen in my head all along. Because I initially started the book as a single big book, I already have some of what would be books two and three done and can see that books two and three would suffer from some bloat. Or…I’d have to cut back some of book one.
Mark writes thrillers, and is a firm believer in cutting, but one of the many things I love about the guy is he doesn’t believe everything should be done the way he does things. He gets that I want a story with some heft.
We agreed that it’s probably best to finish what I have and present it to the person who’s already expressed some interest in it. We also agreed that if I make A Magic Life one book, that I need to cut out some things from my life getting in the way and take no more than a year completing a readable draft of a bigger book.
Mark’s right: my day job, life, and other things aside — it shouldn’t have taken me even this long to finish what I’m sitting on.
It’s a source of shame I’m done masking with excuses.