Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Well, it is done. I wrote another five pages of Michael Drayton, Detective Guy yesterday and thought I had it finished. Except that the last sentence kept nagging at me. I ended up writing another couple of paragraphs this morning, and now I think I can officially declare this novel over.

It stands at 234 pages, which works out, in publishing terms to about 58,000 words. Quite respectable.

It all started out as an idea for a parody short story in about 1979. I then thought of it as an idea for a movie for a while. I tried writing it as a novel in the mid-to-late ’80s, but the result really stunk up the place. I then wrote it as a teleplay for a TV movie in the early ’90s, and actually got some interest from an agent. That deal fell through when she wanted me to change every damn to darn, every God to gosh, and wanted to remove every instance in which alcohol was used, which was plenty.

I then decided to try writing it as a novel as part of Na-No-Wri-Mo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2004. That November, I churned out a decent portion of a draft. That got put it aside for a year-and-a-half while I worked on radio scripts. I then started revising the chunk I had written, then kept writing more. I finished the first draft on March 9, 2007, and entered it in an idiotic contest on It foundered there, and I started work on the second draft, which mostly entailed rewriting the second half of the previous manuscript.

I also found out something interesting along the way: The book improved the more I took out the jokes. I had always thought of myself as a comedy writer who worked with serious themes, but it turned out that I was more of a serious writer with a well-developed sense of humor. Live and learn, huh?

I’m sure that there are parts that still need work, pages that will come back from an editor some day awash in red. And that’s okay. I’m willing to do that work. Later. Right now, I need a break. There are some short stories I need to give my attention to and air to breathe and life to live.

Writing a novel is a huge endeavor, and it mostly feels like you’re trying to swim from the White Cliffs of Dover to Coney Island. You spend most of your time alone and at-sea, and all you can do is to follow the sun over the horizon. I have now arrived, exhausted and out of breath. And by early next week, I’ll be thinking of writing the next one.

(This post is a mirror of one on my main blog, Are You Happy Now, Norman Mailer.)

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