A Writer’s Biography, Volume II, Part 1: First Attempt at a Novel

For years, I thought about writing a NOVEL, a big old pile of words that would amaze everyone who read it and announce that a new talent had arrived.

You were that deluded when you were younger too, right?

After fits and starts and humbling hits of procrastination (I also breezed through my college years in the process), I finally decided on a tale. The book was entitled Buried Secrets and it was somehow generic and convoluted all at the same time.

TL;DR version: A high school senior with interests in journalism and/or law enforcement learns that a mysterious girl his age is living alone in a house that seems to be abandoned. He gets to know her and learns that she is trying to find out the identity of her biological mother and father after her adoptive parents died (car accident? I’m too over it to actually go into the document and look). She came to find out that they were both residents of his hometown (a small eastern Iowa town, hint hint). He agrees to help her out with his knowledge of the town, and they begin to have a romance.

At the same time, he learns that some members of his school’s football team committed a sex crime against one of their classmates. (Taking a cue from a real-life incident in the national media, the first drafts had this person be a girl, but I eventually changed it to a guy and the secret boyfriend of my main character’s best male friend). As he’s trying to help out this girl, he’s also trying to solve a case that will eventually involve his two closest friends.

All of the possible first-time mistakes writers made with their books, readers, I wound up making. It was too autobiographical, even though none of the supporting characters were based on people I’d known in high school. It was too convoluted, with two main plots and me trying to interweave them and make sense to each other. I got too caught up in the love story, I think, to make the female love interest relevant, even though I tried to do that. And, there was too much talking and debate and not enough action.

I wound up taking the book to an agent who wound up charging me $120 to take it around and sell it to some publishers. After a year and no sniffs at it, my agent said to give her another year. I decided to save my cash instead. There were no other takers among publishers or agents.

About four years ago or so, as I began the slow process of beginning to restart my writing life. I decided to take one more look at Buried Secrets and see if there wasn’t a viable story in there. I spent about a month attempting to see if I could carve it down, convert it into something that could be a good story. I couldn’t relate to the story anymore; more importantly, I couldn’t relate to the main character who I’d all but intended to be my surrogate but was now simply a ghost self of someone I no longer recognized.

By the end of it, I left it on my external hard drive, sitting there like a patient I’d had to cut open and save but who ended up dying in the attempt. By then, it was just lying there with its insides out, and I couldn’t make it into something good. The only good thing about it being a book rather than an actual patient was that I didn’t have to go through the motions of sewing the long-dead person up again just so the sight of it didn’t freak everyone out. It was Buried Secrets, and now it is properly buried, now simply something to learn from rather than a symbol of what could have been.

I wasn’t ready to be a writer then. That came later.

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