AN IDEA FORMS:
In my prior post I finished off by speaking about “a seed” being planted in my mind. A good idea, really any source of true inspiration, usually starts off that way. Just the tiniest piece of something, sitting deep in the back of your mind, a nagging itch asking to be scratched. Eventually, the roots will form. Give it time, don’t write off any idea.
After those discussions with my father, I had a seed of my own, and that seed laid dormant for a few weeks.
There definitely were some interesting bits of information nestled in those ramblings, but if I was going to write a book it had to be a fiction. I wanted the free rein to create characters and settings. I wanted to be able to craft a dramatic story arc, and you just can’t do that in a self-help book.
But then it occurred to me, what if you set your fiction in that world of big business? What if you leaned into that well of knowledge and only drew out what might be relevant to a fictional novel?
Now there’s an idea. Think “Bonfire of the Vanities” with all Sherman’s drama taking place in the workplace, rather than some boulevard in the bronx.
And I ran with it. I crafted a character, a suave young business professional wheeling and dealing in the world of big business. I then intermingled those sage pieces of wisdom crafting a believable, yet intriguing, story of the business world, and all the good and bad that goes with it.
I got maybe thirty to forty thousand words in before I hit a wall. That same thought crept back, “Is this a story worth telling?” And this time I couldn’t settle on a resounding answer. Was it bad? No. But it definitely wasn’t exciting. It didn’t have anything that made the reader in me excited to keep reading.
And that is an issue.
Because as much as we can (and we should) tell ourselves our stories are great, to some extent you need to write for an audience. You want a large audience to read what you write, and that critic inside me knew that I could do better.
So, not yet defeated, I set the book on the back burner.
A Quick (kinda) Aside
I am a huge movie buff, and my favourite movie of all time is probably the Godfather. My late Grandfather loved the movie perhaps even more than I do, and he owned a copy of every one of Mario Puzo’s books.
He and my grandmother were both extremely avid readers, and they would probably read more books every year than I have in my whole life. I owe so much of this journey to their love of writing, the English language, and literature in general.
Around that time when I hit a wall with the book, my grandfather lent me a copy of “The Sicilian” by Mario Puzo. Now, I had read a few of Mario Puzo’s books to that point, so this wasn’t some new genre to me. I had always loved crime-fiction and mafia-fiction novels. Any time I would visit a bookstore, that was generally the first section I would search through. But something about that book encapsulated me. I read the entire book in a single day.
This was it, I realized. This was the direction the book had to be taken. It was a natural fit.
Modern business meets modern Mafia.
The Work Begins
When I came to the realization that the novel could be adapted into a business fiction/crime fiction blend I was filled with inspiration.
That inspiration was relatively new to me, because although I had enjoyed writing the business elements, it still felt so stiff. When I had been creating fictitious people, settings, companies, and deals, it didn’t feel like writing.
It felt like I was writing another business report for one of my college classes.
But now… now I was creating. I was watching every mafia and gangster movie I could find. I read Selwyn Raab’s “Five Families.” I devoured every single Mario Puzo book. I delved into Wikipedia “Mafia” rabbit-holes so deep I would emerge on the page of some obscure Italian region where Tony Soprano’s cousin once visited (exaggerating of course).
I used all this inspiration to help guide me in creating a narrative that fused what I knew and understood (business), with something so foreign and interesting to me (mafia/organized crime).
I came out of that flurry of writing with a somewhat complete manuscript. It wasn’t perfect, but for the first time in my life I had written something that was:
- Potentially “Worth Reading”
They were exciting times, for a while. But now what?
The book, largely as a result of the drastic rewriting and re-genre-ing it went through, was a jumbled mess. It was riddled with logical inconsistencies, character inconsistencies… it was just overall inconsistent.
So, I wrote the story out on cue cards and laid it all out on a story board. Here I was thinking all I had to do was send my finished novel out to a publisher and boom, it would be on shelves the next day. But as I started to lay out this storyboard, I realized something dire.
My book made no sense.
The characters were shallow, or just confusing. The plot was hard to follow. The settings were just plain, geographically wrong. I had a lot of work ahead of me. And that’s when I enlisted a family friend to help piece the book together.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made.