Is it true that when Leo Tolstoy finished writing War and Peace, he ordered a wagonload of champagne sent down from Moscow, gave a feast with a fantasia of butter for all the villagers living nearby, and set off fireworks over the lake? Or did I just make all that up right now because I write fiction and lies fall out of my mouth like rain from a summer cloud?
Well, one or the other.
Last week I finished writing the novel I’ve spent the past year on, with just over 300 excellent pages. Here are some differences between my book and War and Peace: (1) mine is about one tenth as long, so if you have a short atten— hey! hey, I’m talking to you, a short attention span, it won’t be as hard to read, (2) mine has no incredible, unpronounceable Russian names, (3) War and Peace doesn’t have even one reference to Lady Gaga, (4) my book has more humor, because frankly, Tolstoy was not a funny guy. Otherwise, the two books seem to have a lot in common: grammar, punctuation, margins, and other stuff.
Last week I made a two-day emergency soul-maintenance trip to Washington, DC. At the time I was close to finishing the book, so I held off on the last page in order to complete the novel while I was visiting. Considering what to do in celebration, I realized the villagers of DC probably take care of their own butter needs, so that was out. And I was afraid fireworks would scare the dogs. So in celebration I went with a friend to a Greek restaurant, to enjoy a type of food I love but have not had in years.
Of course the book needs revision, as any book worth reading does when it first gets written. Years ago I read someone’s advice that a novel should be laid aside for a year, upon which the writer could return to it with clearer judgement. And I wondered in what universe that was going to happen. I will lay this novel aside for a month or so, and then begin to revise. Does the book need extensive structural changes in plot? No sir, baby, I don’t think so. What it does need is to read it through focusing on the characters, to think about who they are, and in particular to add a change in the relationship between Benedict and Miramar, so that it shows growth.
I’m pretty happy with the book, and I will let you read it just as soon as it’s done, a literary agent opens her arms to my humble application, and a publisher deigns to notice me way down here in the literary darkness. That’s all it will take. I’m still working on the title. The latest iteration was The Key to Summer, to play on the key motif that opens the time doors. Get it? But a trusted source here told me that such a title sounds like a romance novel. Which killed that title pretty dead.
I have more news for those who follow this blog faithfully, by which I mean once in a while when nothing is on TV. After two years of existential battle, I am giving up on living here in State College. I’ve finally concluded what a person with a brain would have known long ago, that to live somewhere you have to be either rich or employed, because people want you to pay for food and rent. I am not employed (I don’t count running a cash register for almost no money), nor am I rich if you don’t count my charming smile and snappy wit. So I’m looking for a job in…wait for it…places where they actually have jobs. Theoretically. At any rate, that’s my assumption regarding Philadelphia, Wilmington (Delaware), Baltimore, and Washington, DC.
Those are my zone. What this new job search will involve other than tremendous effort and perplexed confusion I don’t know. Hopefully, at some point it will also involve employment. Though I do love the town where I live, I am very ready to go, and if I reach a point where I begin using up savings in order to live, I may go anyway, just to be on the spot, though this vague intention begs the question as to which spot I would be on.
A new life is out there, if I can stick my fingers out far enough to touch it. It may take months still to find something, but actually, I’m a pretty diligent guy. I mean, I wrote a novel, right? Even if it is only 300 pages and none of the characters have names like Vasily Sergeyevich Kuragin.
So what if I call the book The Peace Key? Or War and Keys? Or no wait…OK, I’m still thinking.