Sunday, July 17, 2011

The History of Edge Country

In the fall of 2004 I was driving back to my dorm from the comic book store where I had bought one of my friends a copy of Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days for his birthday.  I happened to glance to my right at a cluster of trees and was suddenly struck with a scene.

In the scene a young man is eating dinner with his girlfriend and her parents.  The parents believe that he and their daughter are a perfect match.  Eventually, the young man excuses himself from the dinner table and sneaks out to the forest behind the house.  There, he meets a group of individuals who aren't exactly human.  They begin to have a conversation that mirrors the one he had with his girlfriend's parents.  The girlfriend, her parents and the young man's other loved ones know nothing about the individuals in the woods but they are as important to him as any family.  

As son as I returned to my dorm I ran in (leaving my friend's birthday gift lying in the car).  I began to frantically jot down ideas on how to expand the scene that was so vivid in my head.  As it turned out, the story was about Lee, a young man who grows up living a double life between our world and Edge Country, a world filled with talking animals and ancient spirits.  

I know a lot of writers would say that James Joyce or F. Scott Fitzgerald were their greatest influences, but if I had to be completely honest, I would say that the five biggest influences for this project were:

(Most works by Neil Gaiman)

and how could I not include

And of course there were countless more.

Over the next several years I graduated from undergrad (with two majors), went on a bike trip across Pennsylvania, taught ninth grade English, earned my master's degree, worked on several movie sets and interned in development at Nickelodeon.

Needless to say I, I was busy, but the story about the young man and the woods was always in the back of my head.  Over the next several years I wrote out a full rough draft.  I will not get into all the mistakes I made, but I will say that when I was finally done my opus was over a thousand pages long.


So, I decided to take the first third of the novel and turn that into a stand alone story.  If publishers are ever interested in sequels, the rest will be waiting for them.

It took me even longer to revise what I had writen.  In fact, one could argue that I never really started working on this novel on a day-to-day basis until the summer of 2009 when I left grad school, was unemployed for several months and finally found a regular job.

After much blood sweat and tears I FINALLY had a strong, polished draft that I believed was ready to be sent to agents.  

Until I went to these writers' conferences:

Basically I discovered that my ideas were good (in fact a couple agents asked for a few chapters) but I had made two big mistakes:

1) My character needed to be in high school.

2) The goal the characters were reaching for was not vital enough.  I needed to make the events more intense and push them both emotionally and physically.  

From what I understand, such realizations almost always occur during the first few writers' conferences.

I am not starting over from scratch.  Most of the characters and many of the scenes will still exist in the post writers' conference version of my novel.  However, I still have some enormous changes I will be making.

So that is the basic point of this blog.  Along with reviews, short short stories, and occasional mention of life events I will be recording what it is like to retell a story after I have spent over six years already telling it. 

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