Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I should be working on my novel instead of writing this blog post

I should be working on my novel instead of this blog post. However, the writing and the research that has been required to write this novel has been very hard for me. It is about an autistic poker player. I would prefer not to go into more detail other than that. I have now written approximately 59,000 words which I am estimating is a little more than half a first draft. It has been very hard to apply myself and carry out this task. There is a good chance I will never get much further than what I have now.

Since I was about 13 I dreamed of being a writer. I first attempted to write a novel at age 14. In spite of all my other impairments I was a pretty fast typist, especially for someone aged 14 in those days. I used a typewriter before personal computers and word processors were invented, which may seem like ancient history to some of my younger readers who might not even remember typewriters except as antiques. Because my brain dysfunction not only caused autism type symptoms but also caused perceptual motor and handwriting impairments, I learned how to type at a relatively young age, especially for the 1960s, so I was able to type parts of my first novel which dealt with two mentally retarded individuals, meeting and becoming friends and fighting a system that had wronged them. Writing a novel is quite an undertaking, especially for someone aged 14. It is an even greater undertaking for a 14-year-old who at the time had had practically no mainstream education at all, having been in special ed schools up until that time. I was never able to get very far into the novel and other attempts to write novels were failures. I did still dream of becoming a best selling novelist and using my disability as a selling point or gimmick to achieve that goal. This was again another pipe dream or castle made of sand (from the old Jimi Hendrix song).

At about age 38, I had a friend who was a very prolific short story writer and when I told him about my frustrations at never having been able to write a novel he suggested I try short stories first. He was right. Short stories were easier, did not require as much research and seemed to be a potential novelist’s baby steps. I ended up writing 16 short stories some of which I have on my website

At about age 45 I decided to make another attempt at writing a novel. I ended up finishing a first draft and then some rewriting, my first novel! The novel dealt with an autistic boy in an abusive special ed school and his parents dealing with the frustrating bureaucracies of the IDEA law and special education. I also met a free lance journalist who did stories for NPR stations. She felt this would be a good story for the show This American Life. Getting on this show would greatly increase my chances of getting the novel published and being able to utilize "the gimmick" that I had dreamed about. I was told my novel would probably need work after submitting it to some literary agents and getting rejected. This American Life decided not to include me on their radio show which was devastating. As I worked with various book doctors it became evident my potential bestseller would in fact have to be written over again from scratch!. My friend, Tamar Brott, was able to get another national radio show, studio 360, to do the story of my novel. The show was originally broadcast in late 2002, then about a year and a half ago Tamar's interview with me was recycled on a show which they did about autism You can listen to the show with the recycled interview here. I may be the only person in history who was told my novel was worthless and had to be written over who then a month later was broadcast reading it on an NPR show. I finally shelved the novel as a failed first novel.

I wrote some more short stories, some more non-fiction including my article questioning the autism of Bill Gates and others. Now I am working on the second novel. Not sure how well it will ever go or whether I am capable of writing a novel ready for submission for publication. However, I do question some of the ‘rules’ of the book doctor who pronounced my first novel DOA. Certainly the rule about not using adverbs does not seem applicable or it would mean that Ian Fleming and John Steinbeck were bad fiction writers.

Maybe someday I will devote more time to writing the novel than to blogging, but in the meantime I guess if I want to do a slightly easier endeavor I always have autism’s gadfly.

1 comment:

bullet said...

Good luck with it. I love writing and to be honest the only thing that prevents me from taking the plunge and trying to get something published is on the exceptionally slim chance it would get published there would then be publicity. I don't do publicity.
Most of my stories comes from my imagination and the historical knowledge that I already have. I did do a fair bit of research when I wrote a novella as a present for my parents, as it was set in the first century AD in what is now Yorkshire. I find it easier to write about male characters and from the third person and my stories are plot driven. In other words, if you are looking for any character development it's unlikely to happen. I've had the same long running obsession since I was 8 and have used it to write my stories and when I did my dissertation.
I had appalling handwriting as a child and teenager and did have to be taught to write more legibly through set lessons. Luckily I had understanding teachers who deciphered my scrawl. It's still bad, but better than it was.
When writing I set myself a limit of 2000 words a day. And your friend is right, short stories are easier.