Saturday, July 11, 2009


Ghost Notes the Audio Book is now available! You can order it here.

It's so funny how we hear rules sometimes and assume, for one reason or another, that they don't apply to us.

That's how I felt about the first chapter of my current work-in-progress, Badge, or Good Night to the Rock 'n' Roll Era, before last week. A common rule in contemporary novel writing might be paraphrased as follows:

You must start your book in the middle of the action. You can't expect any patience from the reader in this regard. Get to the action on page one, in paragraph one, on line one. If you don't, you won't have a reader for page two.

I always thought, "What great advice. Yes, I will most certainly follow this simple rule."

And yet, when I get close to a final version of a novel, I still have something less than completely action-packed starting things off. Remember Hote sitting at the Waffle House (Stuck)? Or Hote lying in his hotel bed (Ghost Notes)? Not exactly hooking the reader on page one, paragraph one, sentence one, eh? (You should've seen them before I revised.)

Philip Roth says he writes 100 pages of a novel before writing the first sentence.

100 pages. That's damn near a novel right there.

With Badge, or Good Night to the Rock 'n' Roll Era, the action gets going much sooner than page 101, but it doesn't get going until about page four. As weird as it sounds, that's too late for the contemporary reader.

So, guess what just happened to pages 1-3.

This breaks your heart as a novelist--you work as hard on the first few pages as you do on anything in the book--but still, it must, must, must happen. No agent gets to start my novel and say, "Good novel. Too bad he didn't get it started soon enough. Pass."

It's amazing how long it takes to learn this craft. About as long as it takes to learn to listen. That's a long time for me.

Yours in laying down the law,


Buy Ghost Notes, the novel or brand new audio book.

Buy Songs from Memory, the album

Buy Stuck Outside of Phoenix, the novel

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