Monday, August 8, 2011

Goal: Accomplished

So, there's this book I've wanted to write.

For some reason, I've always thought of myself as a writer, even as far back as elementary school. The projects that peaked my interest were those that required creativity and imagination, particularly when writing was involved. But when you're pathologically insecure, as I believe I was during my childhood, it's near to impossible to believe in seemingly unachievable dreams. Still, I scribbled away in the quiet of my room and hid my writings away from the world.

A handful of fanciful and forgettable short stories bubbled into being during my teens and early twenties. Although I found myself fully capable of creating characters, relaying emotions and setting scenes, my root problem was an inability to develop compelling stories.

Give some people even the weakest of plots and they can create epic dramas that drown readers in rich detail about worlds heretofore unimagined. Not so much with me.

For reasons I can't explain, my style of writing does not allow me to wander off into superfluous descriptive detail for the sole purpose of painting a pretty visual image. Perhaps because my writing reflects the kind of books I enjoy reading, I tend to assume readers don't need me to tell them every last thing about a character's physical appearance or the furnishings of a room. I'm far more interested in how the characters behave and respond to what's happening around them than I am in the minutae of the world in which they live.

When the notion of writing a murder mystery presented itself to me twenty years ago, I had no idea how to go about developing a proper story. I knew only that it sounded like a really great idea.

For the longest time, I struggled to start the project. I honestly don't know how many times I wrote and rewrote the same ten pages, hoping each time to break beyond to page eleven with a clear understanding of the journey my protagonist had to take. I held to a false belief that my progress was impeded by a lack of quality in those first ten pages. Rewriting them until they were perfect was the only way to move to the next stage.

Looking back, it's clear that my primary problem had nothing to do with the storyline I was trying to get out of my head and onto paper. Sure, there were a few things here and there that seemed silly in the harsh light of day, but they were easily remedied. No, the biggest problem was me.

After close to 30 years of imagining myself a writer, there I was continuing to imagine being one instead of simply being one. I remained that kid hiding under his covers with a flashlight, scratching away in a notebook, hoping my efforts would never be discovered for fear of embarrassment should someone actually (Gasp!) read them. It sounds pathetic to me now, but that's what insecurity can do to you. It can make you doubt what you love, doubt your proven abilities, and doubt your loved ones.

In May 2010, when I finally declared my intention to write a book, it was like being set loose in the world's largest playground. I continued to struggle with the many decisions I needed to make in order to advance the project, but I was no longer working in a vacuum. And having My Lovely Wife following along with every page and providing constant feedback made it easier for me to remain focused on the story. Before long, I was working from a proper outline, drawing out maps, and charting characters and their relationships to one another without a care in the world about who saw it and what they had to say about it. I was knee deep in the creative process and loving every minute of it.

Late this past Friday night, after 14 months of sneaking to the basement after everyone else in the house was asleep, I finally finished the first draft of DAMAGE, the murder mystery I dreamed of 20 years ago when I was a fresh-out-college newspaper reporter.

I don't believe in hard sell tactics. I'm not about to say that it's the best book ever written, but it's mine, and that's enough for me.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler


  1. I can't imagine how it must have felt to type that last word and realize you had completed a dream of yours! Congratulations and I look forward to reading it!

  2. Congrats, man. That is great stuff. I can't wait to read it. I remember talking about writing a book with you and Randall back in the day at the Citizen Snooze Record. Glad it worked out.

  3. What persistence it took...14 months of sticking to your goal.

    Mark, you should be really proud of yourself. Now that you've got the bones of the story in place, the REAL fun begins....


  4. Thanks for the kind words!

    I'm really hoping to get the edits/rewrites finished so I can publish to Amazon by the end of October. Since I was two months late on finishing the first draft, we'll see if I can keep on schedule with this part of the process.

  5. Way to go! Sometimes it takes a while for us to realize our dream. You just kept with it, and now here you are! Wishing you much success.
    -Wodke Hawkinson

  6. Congratulations! A lot of people talk about writing a novel but few people ever do, so this is a major accomplishment.

    Oh, and I've found that all the best writers are pathologically insecure, at least at first.

    Awesome cover and title, too! Well done.

  7. Thanks again, everyone! I appreciate the encouragement. Now all I have to do is take the rough draft and make it not suck!!!

    And thanks for compliment on the cover, Karen. It's a rendering of a photo of a tree in my front yard, done up with PhotoShop effects. It was pretty fun to put together.