That’s right. I erased it. Spent years working on it, writing three drafts of it out on paper, mind you, PAPER, and then finally got to the point where I typed it into a word processor.
As I typed the manuscript into the word processor, I threw the page I’d just finished into the trash. When the trash filled to overflowing, I threw it out. Then I’d fill it up again.
Garbage trucks came and went. Page by page, my original manuscript migrated to an anonymous landfill.
Then, one fateful afternoon, I finished typing. Done, I thought. Completed. Mission accomplished.
I knew that what I needed to do was back it up the files immediately. I put a lot of work into it, a lot of sweat and blood. The files must be protected! So, I proceeded to inexpertly do this “backup thing” and somehow in the process … I erased it.
The novel was gone. All I had left were the few pages of the last chapter, none of which at that point I had actually used. The novel, in essence, had vanished, like the soul of a loved one who’d just succumbed to eternal slumber.
I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe I’d just erased my freaking novel.
I spent about a week mourning it, and then I sat down at the word processor and thought … well, I know this story frontward and backwards by now … why don’t I just type it out again? And that’s what I did. I typed it all out, from memory, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t turn out a lot better. This time around there was no fussing and fighting with the prose, no tight wedging of things in, no forcing this or that character to do some unnatural thing for the sake of the plot. Why? Because I knew the plot already, I knew from page one EXACTLY what had to be laid out, and when. I knew the characters like they were family. I could see how they’d interact naturally, and was able to realistically portray their growth through the course of the story.
Now, I wouldn’t wish this on any writer. It was agony. But in the end it was worth it, and you know how they say things always happen for a reason.
The novel got picked up by Time-Warner and came out in print in August of 2001. I truly believe that if I had not erased the novel, and then rewritten it from scratch, it never would have sold.
The book has gone from imprint to imprint and is now being handled by Grand Central Publishing … and you can get actual paperback copies for $2.55 on Amazon.com right now (the ebook version is freaking $10.99, how backward is that?).