Bottom of the Ninth…Three Men On

I haven’t been contributing much to this blog lately, other than my obligatory book reviews. But there’s a reason for that. One, I’ve been working pretty heavily on my latest book project, Never Say Die, which is down to the last few chapters. And two, I haven’t really had a lot to say.

But now I do. Never Say Die is one of those projects you leave on the back burner because it shows a lot of promise but is so intimidating that you don’t think you can really do it until you get really, really good at writing…like never. I’ve wanted to write this book for at least five or six years. And so I decided to finally write it.

It’s a historical novel based on a short story I wrote that is a scene straight out of Raymond Chandler. The scene has an ex-boxer coming into a nightclub in the 1930s and asking the girlfriend of a gangster to dance. Come to find out, the girlfriend is actually the ex-girlfriend of the boxer AND the gangster is guilty of breaking the hands of the boxer in the past. The boxer asks the girlfriend to marry him and run away. Instead, she tells him that the situation is complicated, kisses him and then slaps him. The gangster laughs and sends two goons to haul the boxer out into the alley and beat him up.

It was an exercise in exploring a different genre for me, and the story fascinated me. That led to a story that starts in 1926 in Texas with the KKK chasing a black man, his white wife and their little son out of town, and ends with the boxer. Like I said, I am currently three chapters away from the end.

But it is a very complex story. It involves racism, violence, and the dignity of the individual. After taking my main character through 30+ chapters, five eras, school at Stanford University, the Spanish Civil War and a career in boxing, I have to wrap all of this up. Can I do it? The pressure’s on.

Anne LaMott writes in her terrific book on writing Bird by Bird about the Shitty Draft. The idea is to get the words out on paper. Often when we talk about writer’s block, it’s because we edit ourselves before we put our words on paper. If we give ourselves permission to write “crap” that first time around, it’s a lot easier to fix the problems. And so that’s what I am faced with.

Still, the nervousness continues. As usual, I have high expectations; so high that I often hesitate to write the book at all. This time I was willing to put it out there. Let’s see if the effort was worth it. Time–and a lot more effort–will tell.