The 40-Year Writing Style

My friend is writing a book. She talks to me about it every so often, and I know she’s making progress, at least in her estimation. The book is just about halfway finished, if I take her word for it. I have to trust in her estimation and take her word for it because she won’t let me read one word until the entire thing is done. Seeing as it’s taken her the whole of her adult life to get to this point (over 22 years) I’m thinking I’ll finally get to read this thing by the time I’m 60.

And that’s okay. I’m sure it will be amazing once it’s done. I know her writing style because I’ve read many other pieces she’s written (of a shorter length, of course), and I trust her judgment on the time needed to finish the book. It’s going to be like that book, The Lifeboat, when it appears as if out of nowhere by an unknown, and it’s going to sell truckloads. Or at least it will be really good enough that it should sell truckloads. There is a difference there, a subtle one, but there nonetheless. The difference is between her being able to retire when it comes out and having to work for another five years.

That got me thinking — when she brought it up again the other day in idle conversation — about all the other books that are out there not being read for whatever reasons. Perhaps the author is on hiatus from it, or maybe it’s just taking a very long time, or possibly it’s even published but the publisher’s PR department dropped the ball so no one knows that it’s even out there.

And I wonder how word of mouth gets out about books, like a grassroots campaign. One person tells another person who tells several more people who tell all of their friends, and the book becomes sensational on the basest level. Then even that groundswell dies and the book is back in the cobwebs. Maybe it’s better to still be working on it 25 years later, to have that uncertainty that comes with the expectation, and not to have it published and go through the agony of it not selling.

Maybe.

My friend once told me that her process is a slow burn, and I had no idea what that meant. You know me — I move quickly when I write. So, she explained. She said she has to be in a special place to write the tale that has unfolded over these past 20-some years. Sometimes she goes three years between writing a single word in the manuscript, and at others she writes for three straight days. And that works for her. It wouldn’t be so good for maintaining a blog, so she doesn’t have one, but for what she wants to do, it works for her. She’s satisfied.

And she’s still got me counting down the years until I get to finally read what her style has produced. Anticipation is my best friend and my worst enemy when it comes to waiting for that day. But when it gets here, it’s going to be special indeed.

Sam

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