Minutes turn sluggishly to hours. Albey doesn’t take another book off the shelves, but he does eventually graduate to examining the fiction section of the Logger’s Pond Public Library. It’s at least three times as extensive as the nonfiction section, which Albey thinks is fantastic. What’s less than fantastic is the lackluster selection of Stephen King books available for the borrow, specifically regarding how much their Dark Tower collection leaves to be desired.
At first he presumed the best and figured the books are extremely popular, of course they don’t have all eight volumes available to be borrowed at one time. But then he realized this was Logger’s Pond, a town of folks so illiterate they think eating squirrel is a grand ol’ time, a town so isolated and disconnected from the outside world that the local supermarkets get their produce and meat supplies from farms inside town limits. He came to this realization after asking Victoria to see if they had Wolves of the Calla, which they did not.
“I thought you said you weren’t going to be taking out any books,” she said, not accusatorily.
“A man can change his mind, can’t he?” Albey replied defensively whilst also asserting his opinion that he is, in fact, a man, the perfect opposite to the woman that is Victoria, Tori for short, Vic’ to Albey.
“I guess,” said Victoria, who then proceeded to struggle with the library’s electronic catalog system for him, even though she told this guy that today was her first day and she doesn’t know how to use it. She couldn’t figure it out in a timely manner, which embarrassed her, but then she remembered the paper log and read through it quickly yet carefully, only to tell… Sidney, yeah, that was his name, that no book called Wolves of the Calla had been taken out recently.
“Wait, so you guys just don’t have it?” Albey stammered, his tone bordering on incredulous.
“We just don’t have it, dude,” Victoria answered, wishing her shift would end already.
“But you have the first two books, and the fourth, and the eighth,” Albey continued, unable to understand that the Logger’s Pond Public Library is not a global bastion of literature and knowledge but just a branch of a small town’s corrupt local government that doesn’t even get enough funding to have automatic doors that slide open without a delay (but the mayor has three sportscars, imagine that). “Don’t tell me you’re missing half of the series, that’s damn near criminal.”
Sidney didn’t apologize for swearing in this place where mothers allegedly bring their small and impressionable children to learn how to read, and that struck Victoria as Harringtonish in that particular moment. Thinking back on it now, about nineteenish minutes later, Albey can’t help but agree.
“Guess we’re just not up to your standards, Sidney,” she said with a flat face. “Can I help you with anything else, dude? I have other stuff I have to do, y’know.”
“Oh, uhhhh,” he said blankly, then straightened up with a crooked smile. “Nope. Sorry for buggin’ ya.”
He left her with a smile, and she returned it, but… but it wasn’t a particularly happy smile. Oh well, the past is the past, the now is the now, and now, it’s just about four o’clock. If Albey leaves now he can get home with plenty of time to pack The Pea–… wait, no, The Peace Piece is in pieces, resting peacefully somewhere in the woods behind Albey’s house. Besides, dude’s supposed to be not smoking anymore, and the notetaking is pretty much done with, so… what now?
‘I could get a tour from Harry,’ he suggests to himself, then stifles a laugh. ‘Yet somehow sitting here and doing nothing seems like the better alternative.’
So Sidney sits there and does nothing. Looks over to watch Tori working for a few seconds, looks away before she notices. Scans the bookshelves from afar, pretends not to be disappointed in the lack of the magna relator’s completed magnum opus, which probably plays a very heavy hand in Logger’s Pond being the veritable shithole that it loves to be. Looks at Tori, allowing himself to appreciate the various jiggling parts of her body. Notices another dude sitting at one of the tables writing something on a yellow legal pad, wonders what he’s writing. Looks at Tori – oh shit, she was looking at him this time! He waves, not in an obvious way, just kind of flashes his palm at her… and she doesn’t wave back. But she’s looking right at him, what… oh. There’s just a family of deer moving through the woods right behind the library. He didn’t even notice those windows before, huh.
‘Maybe I’m still a little fuzzy from the head injury.’
But that’s not it. The truth of the matter is that Albey’s completely lucid. Something about suddenly and completely cutting out all of his vices – smoking pot and choking the chicken, that is – has granted him a heightened sense of clarity that he hasn’t felt since… wait, has he ever felt so good? Yeah, without a doubt, back in the prime days of The Hillside Commons when he was a kid and all that mattered was what time Keaton and Carl could come over so they could make up funny rhymes and play in the woods and sneak cooksies when his mom wasn’t looking, not that his mom even cared, but that wasn’t the point. They knew there was no consequences back then, but still they tried to pull one over on old Ashley, and most of the time they succeeded. It wasn’t even the getting away with doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing that was the fun part, it was just doing stuff together. As a team. As The Triad, as Albey the Poet, Iuqon the Mage, and Ram’rl the Unfallen.
Dreamily, his chin digging a dent into his palm, Sidney says to himself, “‘Man, those were the days.” Nobody says anything, nobody so much as looks at the ‘man, because nobody is paying attention to Sidney. He’s not the only one in the Logger’s Pond Public Library at the moment, but he is the only one sitting here doing nothing. When he asked Tori if he could hang out and do work earlier he really did mean he was going to do work, but he’s got, like, a full page of notes written about various bigfoots and a whole filing cabinet of mental notes saved forever about what Tori’s incredible body looks like and how it jiggles when she’s movin’ it right, and boy can that woman ever move it right.
Sidney sighs, then brings his backpack onto his lap to look inside it. There’s the binder, that plain white binder with the tiny smiling face drawn in red sharpie that won’t come off no matter how much spittle-laced tissues he rubs against it. Jocelyn drew the face when he wasn’t paying attention, so for payback he made her smile. Then she made him smile. Then neither of them were smiling, but they were being loud. Very, very loud.
It occurs to Albey that his relationship with that girl was nothing short of an unending porno with almost no sense of pacing in its plot. Words cannot describe how much he misses it, of course, but a word can accurately depict the chance he’ll get into another relationship like it: zero. And that sucks, that sucks a whole lot, but ‘tis what it is.
“It was pretty toxic, honestly,” Albey says into his open backpack from deep within his own mind. “I don’t think I ever learned her last name.”
“Whose last name?”
Albey looks up, quite startled. There’s nobody in his immediate vicinity, and that sure didn’t sound like Tori… is he hearing voices? Here, in the library? Out in the real world like this? He’s not even high, what in the actual–
“I know y’heard me,” says the voice, but where’s it coming from? “Over here, dude.”
Sidney twists towards the windows. It was that other dude, the one writing whatever he might be writing on the yellow legal pad. He stopped writing though, his pen – good god, he’s using a pen to take notes? What if he makes a mistake, does he scribble the letters out? Disgusting – is down and his arms are folded, elbows resting on the table.
“I uh… do I know you?” Sidney asks from across the floor.
“I don’t think so,” chuckles the guy. “But you could. You could also sit there and pretend I never said anything. Most folks do.”
In that moment Sidney feels an odd call to action. Being wrongly described as most folks usually does that to him. He gets up, slings the backpack on one shoulder to look cool just in case Victoria might be watching, and ambles over to sit with the amateur writer guy.
“Howdy,” says this amateur writer guy, extending an open hand. “Name’s Arthur David. Who are you?”
“Arthur David?” Sidney asks, shaking the guy’s hand regardless. ‘Man’s got a firm handshake, Albey admires that in a ‘man. “It’s not often I meet a guy with two first names. I’m Sidney Blake.”
Arthur pauses for a second, as if making sure he heard that right. “Sidney Blake? It’s not often I meet a guy with two first names.”
Albey takes a short moment to contemplate this. Then, “Touché. What’s your real name though?”
Arthur doesn’t say anything, but he does take his hand back. The handshake went on for a while anyway, Sidney’s glad he did it. What Sidney’s not glad about is the way this Arthur character seems to be studying him, nor does he love the seemingly knowing smile that spreads across his face.
“How’d you know?”
“You’re right,” says the ‘man with the shoulder-length black hair, hair so straight it appears to have been tamed with a straightener. “Arthur David’s not my real name. How’d you know?”
“I don’t know,” Sidney says, leaning back in his chair to lace his fingers across his stomach. “The way it sounded, I guess. If I told you my name was Albey at first you probably would’ve called me out for bullshitting.”
“Nah,” says the ‘man of the false name, not changing his posture at all. “Albey kind of suits you… wait a second.”
The ‘man scribbles a few words onto his pad, then looks at them, then draws a series of slanty lines connecting the letters. Albey leans forward to see what’s going on.
“What’re you… oh shit, you ain’t bad, Art’.”
Arthur – even though that’s not his name – without being asked to do so and without more than a couple seconds’ pause, cracked the code. Sidney’s THC name – and Keaton’s, and Carl’s (before he was Karl, although it doesn’t really make a difference) – was not thought of randomly but rather constructed by taking the first three letters of his last name, reversing the order, and slapping on the last two letters of his first name. Sidney Blake, alBey.
“You ain’t bad yourself, Albey. That’s clever, it clearly took a bit of thought; can I assume this moniker has more value than a simple nickname?”
“What are you boys getting up to?” asks Victoria, who comes up behind Albey to hug him and rest her breasts on his shoulders, except that doesn’t happen because it wouldn’t fuckin’ happen and Sidney is beginning to legitimately worry about his own depravity.
“You can assume whatever you want, my ‘man,” Albey gives him, leaning back all confident again. “In this case though, you’d be right. I uh… it’s a long story, but I’m writing a novel and Albey is the main character’s name.”
“A long story, you say?” asks the ‘man with the false name. “I got time, if you’re willing to tell it.”
Well… that’s not what Albey thought he was going to say. Did he think the ‘man was going to say something, though? Like, obviously he was going to reply, it would be strange for him to just wordlessly get up, grab his shit, and sprint out of the library as fast as he could, probably launching himself through the sliding glass doors because of the delay in their automatic opening and whatnot… but was Albey expecting a specific answer? No, he supposes he wasn’t. This is the first meaningful social interaction he’s had with someone who he’s not compelled to try to sleep with all day, this is all so foreign.
“Yeah, uh, I mean uh, sure.” He leans in, settling his weight on the table. “So when I was a little kid, me and my… wait, hold on.”
The guy holds on without holding onto anything.
“You said your name wasn’t your name. I mean, uh, you said… you know what I mean.”
“I do indeed,” the ‘man nods without moving his head.
“So what’s your name?”
“Jason Wong,” said without hesitation.
And why didn’t Jason just open with that in the first place? Great question, Sidney, maybe you should ask… because that’s how talking works !!!
Feeling the need to copy this Jason dude’s verbal mannerisms, Sidney comes back with, “Can I assume this moniker has more value than a simple nickname, Jason?”
Jason smiles at Sidney, but it’s not exactly a mirthful smile. It’s more like a Why the fuck did he say my exact words? kind of smile, but the conversation doesn’t die off. “You can assume whatever you want, my man.” Oh no, it only spirals on, and with vigor. “In this case, though, you’d be right. I, too, am writing a novel, but Arthur isn’t the name of my main character. Arthur David is my pen name.”
“Huh, that’s cool,” Sidney says, then gestures to the notepad. “Is that what you’re writing there?”
“Sort of,” says the writer ‘man. “I’m just starting it today, I like to write out a brief synopsis of the main storyline so I can see where the story’s going to go before I hop on and take it there.”
“Brief?” Albey asks. “It looks like you’re on page two hundred.”
It does, too. At least twenty pages are flipped back and folded over the binding at the top of the pad, and judging by how small this dude’s handwriting is, those pages are more black than yellow.
“Yeah, brief,” Jason Wong chuckles. “The novel you said you were writing – it’s your first one, yeah?”
“It is,” Albey says hesitantly. “So?”
“So? So that’s awesome, man!” Jason exclaims with a genuinely encouraging smile. “No need to get defensive, my guy.”
“I’m not getting defensive,” Albey says as the drawbridge slams shut.
“No, not at all,” chuckles Jason Wong, writer of the novel. “This is my tenth one I’m working on.” Writer of the novels *. “I’ve been doing this for a while now. I recognize a newbie when I see one.”
“Trust me, I’m not a newbie,” Albey assures him. “I’ve filled up at least, like, ten journals, and they’re all bigger than your legal pad. And I’m only twenty-one; I don’t know how old you are, but…”
Well shit, foiled again. “I don’ow. Maybe I am being defensive.”
“Meh, no biggie,” says Jason Wong, writer of the nine novels. “So you were telling me a long story before?”
“What?” he asks, then remembers. “Oh yeah, right. So when I was a little kid, me and a couple friends would hang out and make up these stories about this fantasy world called The Hillside Commons. It was essentially an endless forest that was lowkey alive, in a way, and we all had characters and we’d go on adventures and shit, it was tight. The stories rhymed, too, I made up the rhymes, and my friends would make music to go along with it. It was a lot of fun. Never wrote any of it down, of course, but it was great. My guy was Albey the Poet, because of the rhyming. He had a sort’a magick quill that would make whatever he wrote come true, but he wasn’t really in control of his writing. He’d get, like, possessed, sort of. He’s more of a conduit than anything else.”
The smile on Jason’s face is brilliant. “That sort’a reminds me of something an author I read talks about. You know Stephen King?”
The explosion of energy inside of Sidney is even more brilliant than Jason’s smiling recognition of Albey’s brilliance. “Dude, I love Stephen King, the Dark Tower is literally–”
‘not literally, literally not literally’
“–my life, like, what?”
“The Dark Tower…? Why does that… oh yeah, his fantasy series,” said in a way that does not honor the tale in the way Albey feels like the tale should be honored. “I’m not into the fantasy thing, I read the first book… what was it… oh yeah, The Gunslinger. Couldn’t really get into it. I’m more into his psychological horror stuff, the more twisted the better. But yeah, he always says in interviews and his author’s notes and stuff that he doesn’t really know where his stories come from, that they just kind of come to him from somewhere else. I feel that on multiple levels.”
“Of the Tower,” Albey says, looking for a reason to not get up and sprint out of here as fast as he can. “You feel that on multiple levels of the Tower, right? That’s what you mean?”
“That’s certainly not what I mean,” says the ‘man, his white smile only making his goatee appear darker. And why, if his hair is black, is his goatee brown? This Jason character is suspect as fuck. “I can tell you’re really passionate about the series though. Maybe I should check it out.”
“You definitely should,” Albey says, frothing at the mouth like a rabid dog. Named Kujo. ‘Which translates to sweet one in the High Speech of Gilead.’ “It’s incredible, dude, it literally shaped the way I look at fiction writing, and writing in general. It also links together all–… well, most of his books. Some of them are directly connected, like, you know The Stand?”
“I do know The Stand,” says Jason, who leaned back in his chair at some point. “That’s one of my favorites of King’s.”
“Okay, so the characters in the Dark Tower? They literally go into the world of The Stand.”
“The stories intersect, you mean?”
“Uh, no, I don’t… I’m pretty sure they go there after the events of The Stand, I’m not sure though. I haven’t read it. But The Stand isn’t the only one, a bunch of others are related. The Eyes of the Dragon, Black House, Insomnia, one of the novellas from Hearts in Atlantis. It’s really cool. All of King’s books take place in a larger multiverse, it’s honestly really cool and, like, inspiring as hell.”
“Now that I’m familiar with,” says the writer ‘man. “And I agree, it is inspiring as hell. I do that with my books, too. I only have two universes, and I doubt I’m going to make more than that, but they intersect sometimes. I like taking characters that have nothing in common and forcing them to interact, just to see what ridiculous shit comes out of it. Y’know what I mean?”
“Sort’a,” Albey says, although he honestly doesn’t. “Honestly I like stories for the whole story, the characters are just a part of it. I think the plot’s almost more important, to be honest. Y’know what I mean?”
“I do,” Jason says. “To each his own. I find that it’s hard to write a story with the plot as the driving force; usually when I do that it gets kind of… like, not boring, but like… I don’t know. It’s just not the same. I like to make the characters talk to each other. Sometimes I’ll write entire chapters that are just long-form conversations.”
“Ew,” Sidney says reflexively, then widens his eyes to show he didn’t mean to speak unfiltered. “Sorry, I didn’t mean–”
Jason laughs and waves it off. “It’s all good, dude. You’re not going to offend me, I don’t really care what other folks think. Especially when their opinions are piles of hot garbage like yours.”
Well now Sidney doesn’t know what to say.
“I’m joking.” He reaches over and lightly slaps Sidney on the arm. A slap’s never felt so good. “I like you, Sidney. You’ve got a good vibe about you.”
“Yeah?” he asks, trying to not care what this writer ‘man thinks while at the same time caring so much that this writer ‘man thinks highly of him.
“Yeah, man. I want to hear more about this first novel, too. This is probably going to seem like a silly question, but do you have a process down?”
“I do!” Albey bubbles. “I have it broken into five steps: Inspiration, Notetaking, Drafting, Editing, and Publishing. I got the first one down pat and I just about wrapped up the second one today. I’m probably going to start step three tomorrow.”
“Wow, color me impressed,” says the writer ‘man. “Most writers have no idea what they’re doing when they’re just getting started.”
“Well I guess I’m not most writers,” says the ‘man who’s yet to write a book outside of his private journals that nobody reads.
Jason laughs, but says nothing.
A moment passes without words. Albey suddenly feels extremely vulnerable, out of place, and just generally uncomfortable.
“So you said you’re probably going to start writing it tomorrow – what’s the plot of your book?”
“Uhhmm, I don’t really know yet. I figure it’ll come to me as I go, y’know?”
The writer ‘man does not frown then, but his smile’s not quite as strong. “You just about wrapped up taking notes but you don’t know what the plot’s going to be yet?”
“That’s what I said,” Albey confirms. “Why, is that… what are you telling me?”
“Oh no, I don’t… well…” Jason seems to think for a moment. Now normally Sidney wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about what some random human has to say about Sidney’s experimental writing process, but this is a human who’s written nine books. This is a special kind of human, and so Sidney Blake is all ears. “Let me give you some advice: don’t be so quick to start the actual writing. Yes, in order to write a book you must write the book, but going in with a blindfold on and just winging it ain’t the move. Trust me, I wrote my first eight projects without knowing what the fuck I was doing.”
“Kind’a. Like, I had a general idea of what the stories were go’n’a be about. I had a skeletal outline – that’s what I call it now, because it was bare bones and nothin’ else – but yeah, I just pretty much winged it. Got off track more times than I could count, especially with the first story. I did a whole overarching thing with the first six of my books. Editing was a nightmare, especially with the fourth book.”
“Why’s that?” Albey asks, entranced by this ‘man’s hustle. “Why the fourth one specifically, I mean.”
“The fourth one was a novel, my first novel actually. The other ones were novellas, hardly more than a hundred pages long, give or take thirtyish or so,” with a teetering of his hand. “But the fourth book was a fatboy, totaled over six hundred.”
“The sixth book was over seven hundred, too, but that was a short story anthology so that doesn’t really count. Editing that one was a piece of cake.”
“Oh yeah, seven hundred pages. Sounds real cakey.”
Jason shrugs. “What can I say? Writers got’a write.”
“That we do,” Albey agrees wholeheartedly. “That we do. So what were you–”
“Oh yeah,” Jason picks up. “So the fourth one was really long and got really off track many, many times. Had to do rewrite after rewrite, it was a nightmare. I spent more time editing the damn thing than I did writing it.”
“Isn’t that normal though?”
“Sometimes, I guess” Jason supposes. “In the beginning it was, for me at least. That was mostly because of my mindset though. You said you’re not a newbie writer, right? Something about ten journals?”
“Well, I don’t know how many exactly I’ve filled, but yeah. I write out of habit, it’s a compulsion.”
“It is for me too, now,” Jason explains. “But at first it wasn’t. I used to hate writing, despised it more than anything else in the world. Then I just started writing stories one day and I got kind of addicted to it. I’m a total addict, used to be porn and alcohol, now it’s fiction. Addicts make the best writers, I practically live by that statement. The best writers are not all addicts, but addicts make for some damn good writers, because we can’t stop. We’re just fucked in the head, we need something to do to all the time that can never really be finished so the voices don’t get the better of us. You know what I mean?”
Albey does, but probably not in the way Jason Wong thinks. He nods regardless.
“So anyway, when I randomly started writing I thought it was this divine thing, I thought I was going to write this one book – the fatboy, that is – and I would suddenly become rich and famous, but yet I kept putting it off and doing the smaller projects to build myself up to doing it, because I knew it was going to be big. I thought it was going to be big as in everybody would read it, but I knew it would be big, like, in length. Then by the time I forced myself to do it, I got super stressed out about it because I needed it to be perfect – if I messed up even one word then my dreams wouldn’t come true and I’d never write again and I’d die alone and blah blah blah.” He chuckles in spite of himself. “I think the alcohol and porn and shit had more to do with the lowkey psychosis than me wanting success, but that’s beside the point. So anyway, long story short, I kept bashing my head against a wall trying to break myself a hole to walk through when there was a door right next to me the whole time.”
“You lost me there,” Albey admits.
“Hah, I lost myself a little bit. What I mean is that, as far as writing goes… okay, so creativity is like a muscle, right?”
“Okay, so when you’re working out, you need to start somewhere small, right? You don’t go into the gym trying to bench three-fifty off the bat, you’ll get yourself killed. You can only lift what you’re capable of lifting at the time, and when you keep going with it your muscles get bigger and eventually you get to the point where you can lift more and more. Follow me?”
“Right behind ya.”
“It’s the same thing with fiction writing. I had this idea that the first project I put together would be this world-changing, paradigm-shifting thing, and it was in a way, but not the way I thought it was going to be. I wanted to change the life of my readers, but I needed to change my own life first.”
“So… what’s that have to do with the door and the bashing your head against a wall thing?”
“Oh, right. Almost forgot I said that, hah. So the bashing was me going over my first big novel a million times, trying unceasingly to make it perfect, when all I had to do was allow myself to finish it so I could start the next project. That was the door. Using the weight-lifting thing again, it’s like I kept extending my set way past the point of exhaustion, when all I needed to do was call it quits for the day so I could get some rest and come back tomorrow. This making sense?”
“Yeah, actually. Holy shit, dude,” Sidney gushes. “So what’s your process like now compared to what it was when you first started?”
“When I first started I didn’t really have a process, I’d just write and immediately revise what I wrote and then continue it and then freak out because the second part I wrote wasn’t as good as the first part because I didn’t edit it as many times and on and on into misery. Now – and it took a lot to get where I am, I’m one hundred percent self-educated in the way of writing; I made a lot of mistakes to figure this out, so I don’t know if it’s really of any value to you, but now I do it like this: actually, before I say that, what do you use to write?”
“What do you mean?” Albey asks, feeling for the pen and pencil in his pocket.
“I know you said you didn’t start writing the novel yet, but what are you going to use to write it? Like, on the computer?”
“Oh, uhh…” He hadn’t thought of that yet. “I haven’t really thought of that yet. Word, I guess? Or Notepad, because I probably don’t have Word.”
Jason smiles; ah, to be a novice again, so innocent and unaware of the shitstorm a’brewin’. “Okay, I don’t know what your financial situation is–”
“Living in my parents’ attic. I just recently flunked out of college, I’ll have you know. My debt has more figures than the mileage on my car, Jason. I’m living the American dream.”
That rouses such laughter that Jason slaps the table. “Awesome! A’ight, so do yourself a favor and invest fifty bucks into an application called Scrivener. It’s a drafting software, you download it right from their website, and it has everything you need to organize your shit and turn a blank white screen into a manuscript. When I started I used Word and it was a fuckin’ nightmare, trust me. Scrivener makes the entire process so much easier.”
Albey whips out his phone and writes the name of the app into his notes, almost completely sure he’ll never remember to look back at it. “Scrivener, got it. Good lookin’ out.”
“Happy to help. So, my process: I do three drafts. First, second, and final. The first draft is the longest and most labor-intensive; I type the whole thing up in Scrivener from beginning to end, I don’t look back once before it’s done unless I need to reference a detail I put down. Then, when it’s done – oh yeah, I forgot to mention, everybody has a different way of putting a story together. Some do long, uninterrupted parts, some do chapters, some do parts broken up into chapters, some do parts broken up into chapters broken up further into subchapters; I usually stick to chapters broken up into subchapters, and when I’m drafting it I number them. You’ve read Stephen King; you’re familiar with subchapter form, right?”
“Oh yeah, I love that. I thought he was the only one who did it like that.”
Jason doesn’t even try to suppress his smirk. “How many other authors do you read?”
“Literally not a single one.”
“Which will explain that. So, I write my story in subchapter form from beginning to end, and then when it’s done I go through and read each subchapter and give them a name. When all the chapters and subchapters – and parts, if I’m doing a really big one – are named, I copy and paste them into a Word document, but not the normal eight and a half by eleven schtick. I self-publish my stuff through Amazon – oh, speaking of which, do you have an idea of how you’re going to publish your novel?”
“Not a one,” Albey says with misplaced confidence. “I figured I’d worry about that when it was done.”
So innocent, so unaware. Bless his soul. “Good. So what was I… right, so I format a Word document to look like a book and I copy and paste the story into said document, one subchapter at a time, text alignment justified unless it works better aligned center or right or left. It depends on the specific body of text, but usually it’s justified, and I go through and read it one more time, changing whatever I need to change so there aren’t any lines with gigantic gaps of blank space between the words, because that shit is an eyesore and little else.
“And that is the first draft.”
“Holy shit,” Albey says, exhausted on this writer ‘man’s behalf.
“Yeah, I know. So when the first draft is all done I give myself the rest of the day off. I usually just go off in the woods or up a mountain or something and have a fire, decompress. I used to smoke weed – it’s funny, weed was the one thing I never got addicted to, a half a joint put me on my ass every time without fail – but after seven or eight books I realized it just made the editing process harder, so I stopped with the weed.” Jason smiles redly. “Not sure why I told you that, but anyway, the very next day I start the second draft, which is just me reading the manuscript slowly, one word at a time, from beginning to end, changing whatever I see fit. When I’m done making changes, the second draft is done.”
“Wow, that seems a lot more simple than the first draft.”
“It is,” he smiles, “and thank Christ for that. So when the second draft is done, I plug it into Amazon and request a proof copy, which is just a copy of the book with a banner across the front that says Not for Resale or something like that. That usually takes a few days to get printed and shipped and whatnot, so in the meantime I’ll either just relax or start another project, something shorter. Usually I’ll write out a short story by hand, sometimes I might even draft up a novella, it doesn’t really matter which so long as I completely distance myself from the main project and get it totally out of my head.
“When the proof copy gets delivered, or at some arbitrary point after that when I decide that I’m ready, I take a pencil and I proofread through the physical proof copy, make all my marks and shit, and then make amendments to the digital manuscript one chapter at a time.”
“Why bother with the proof copy? That costs money, right?”
“It does, but it’s not really expensive. I find it helps to read it in a different medium, makes it easier to find any mistakes I might have missed. Not everybody feels that way though, that might just be me.”
“Right on,” Albey says. For the first time in his life since before he left for college, Albey feels like a student. “So what next?”
“After I import all the adjustments into the manuscript, that’s it.”
“That… that’s it?”
“Yeah man. I mean, occasionally I’ll read through the manuscript a fourth time if I feel like I bullshitted my way through the second and third draft, but that happens less often than not. It’s like I said, you can only lift so many weights before you need to take a break. Otherwise, you’ll just hinder yourself. If you can’t bring a project to life in three drafts – or four, if you fucked up the second and third – then any subsequent drafts aren’t going to help. You’re just bashing your head against a wall.” He shrugs. “Better to walk through the door and move on to the next one. In my opinion, at least, but what do I know?”
“I mean, you’ve written nine books, dude. I’ve got’a imagine you know something.”
“Perhaps,” admits Jason Wong. “But perhaps not. All depends on who you ask.”
“Perhaps,” parrots Albey. “Do you have a lot of readers?”
This grants life to a snicker. “Depends on what you mean by a lot. I have a blog with a few hundred followers–”
“I’d define that as a lot,” Albey chimes in, even though it’s clear Jason doesn’t think so.
“Well I appreciate that. The way I see it is, in the beginning, I had none. Now, I have some, and new ones show up all the time. I’m grateful. I wish I could do it full time, but that’s just not in the cards right now.”
“No?” Albey asks, so innocent and unaware. “Why not? You seem really passionate about it.”
“Oh I am, believe you me,” Jason assures him with a suddenly serious look in his eyes. “I just started late in life. I’m closer to forty than I am thirty now, I have a wife and kids to think about on top of all the characters I make up.”
Albey almost falls out of his chair. “You could have fooled me, Christ. I thought you were my age, maybe a couple years older.”
“No sir,” Jason says with a resigned shake of his head. “I wish I started at your age, I might really be somewhere by now.”
“When did you start?”
“Four years ago. My thirty-third birthday, on the day.”
“You wrote nine books in four years?!”
“It might seem like a lot, but it really isn’t. I could have twice as many done by now if I didn’t have to work, but I do. I’m a librarian here, by the way. Today’s my day off so I came in anyway. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?”
“Honestly?” Sidney asks. “It doesn’t sound all that bad. I mean, I don’t have a job or anything, but I’m here today too. We have very different lives, Mister Wong, but yet they both brought us together to sit at this table and have this talk. This is ka, my new friend.”
“Ka, you say,” Jason says with a grin. “Now that I can vibe with. You’re a very interesting young man, Mister Blake.”
“I could, and shall, say the same about you. I kind of can’t believe I met you, like, you just taught me so much.”
“Oh come on, you don’t have to–”
“No, I’m serious. I feel like I actually have a direction to walk in now. Thanks, ‘man. Seriously.”
Albey puts his hand out for a shake, and Jason accepts it. The wheel of ka spins ‘round and ‘round as the wind continues to blow.
“So tell me,” when they both have their hands back. “What’s your next move?”
“My next move,” Albey says, taking a deep breath and releasing it through pursed lips. “My next move is to go home and get some food, because I’m starving. But for the novel, I think I’m going to plan it out a little bit more. Really take my time with it, not rush through. I like your three-draft idea; I don’t know that I’m going follow it exactly but I think I’m go’n’a do something like it.”
“Well that sounds exceptional,” Jason Wong says. “I’d like to read it, when it’s done. Whether before you publish it or after, preferably after, though. Think you’d be cool with that?”
“Definitely!” Albey chirps like a baby bird waiting for its mother to puke up a worm. “I appreciate the hell out of that, Jason. Thanks!”
“Anytime, Sidney. I’m sure we’ll run into each other again, just let me know when it’s ready for purchase. I’m looking forward to it.”
“I definitely will!” as Albey gets up. “Not to cut this off or anything, but I’m really hungry. I’m surprised you haven’t heard my stomach growling.”
“Oh, my hearing is atrocious, bud,” Jason explains with a wink. “I read lips; I’d be fucked otherwise.”
Albey doesn’t know what to say to that, so he doesn’t. He simply outstretches a closed fist, and Jason bumps it with one of his own. And thus two writer ‘mans go their separate ways like intersecting plot lines in a storybook where parallel universes collide.
Hello Commons, this has been the third subchapter of the third chapter of Untitled Bigfoot Project, a novel about a writer who writes a novel about bigfoot.
Untitled Bigfoot Project is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Untitled Bigfoot Project is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Untitled Bigfoot Project and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here.
Be well Commons~