You can only have one first and Lucinda at the Window was mine. It was the first novel I wrote, and on the 20th of September, it will be the first to reach publication. All this week, I plan to present a process log detailing the writing of Lucinda at the Window, its path to publication, and how my first has influenced me as a writer.
The semi-official 1st chapter is available for download (PDF).
The novel is available for purchase at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
About a month ago, while moving stuff from one part of the apartment to another, I came across several printed out emails from my friend Andy regarding the ending of Lucinda at the Window.* The ending went through four rewrites, and all of them were sent to Andy for his invaluable input and opinion. It was the first section of the novel to received extra attention. The ending of Lucinda is a hard-sell. Eric had to work to convince me that it was the best, and perhaps only, ending. It had to be written just right. In terms of plot, it was possibly the only thing that changed from the initial draft.
Dubiously, Lucinda is the most workshopped of my novels. In the fall of 1998, I took a graduate-level writing class at UNL. Honestly, it was very similar to the undergraduate writing classes except that students were expected to be working on novels or at least a novella. We all brought in the first 3-5 chapters to be read and discussed. Mine was one of the few works of genre fiction. While my fellow students were enthusiastic, the professor didn’t quite catch on to the supernatural aspects of the plot. Eric and I also participated in a workshop with Nancy Kilpatrick at World Horror Con in 2004. This was more helpful, emphasizing how the first chapter of a book can be improved to hook the reader. The first chapter of Lucinda was slimmed-down 4.5 years after the thrill of putting THE END on the ‘final’ draft.
In many ways, Lucinda at the Window spoiled me. Four rewrites of one scene and the removal of extraneous details isn’t much. At the time, the tooth-grinding over those last twenty pages was agony enough to blot out the carefree days of first 450. But it was worth it. It’s said that 90% of writers never finish their novel. For about an hour, it was good to be in that ten percent.
[Tomorrow: How Many Rejections Did Lucinda Receive?]
*I’ve been looking for the emails since Sunday, but I can’t remember in which cunning place I put them. I offer in their stead, as today’s archival document, a planning/rewriting artifact: the 3×5 used to keep track everyone.