EPISODE 1: I can write a book.
Fish and Chips for lunch and shopping in London.
The Summer of 2015:
On a very long airplane flight from Honolulu to London, I decided to write a book. Hey, I was a pretty good storyteller, and I had a million stories. It can’t be that hard to do, and I was sure it couldn’t take more than a few weeks of late nights and weekends. I’m on it. I finished my lunch and started typing on my Apple laptop. I started a story about an adventure at sea. After a dozen or so pages, I set it aside. It wasn’t what I wanted for my first effort. I then started a tell-all story about the big time construction business. That was too heavy, and I’m not a whistleblower, I discarded that concept, and ordered a chocolate sundae high above the Pacific Ocean for desert and thought about it. You could do that in first class.
This wasn’t going well. I needed to focus on something I was passionate about, something that would hold my interest start to finish as I wrote. Thirty minutes later, I got it. I would write a story about a slice of my life. I mean what could be more interesting to me, than me? I didn’t know where to start the story? I could start as a child, a young man, a dynamic world-class builder or as an old duffer sitting on the beach in Waikiki, sipping a Mai Tai and reliving my triumphs. My story must, at a minimum, portray me, as the protagonist, battling insurmountable odds and devilish villains to achieve my goal. There must be adventure, danger, love, humor, challenges and clever solutions. Maybe food and drink could be a minor, but common element to the story.
I decided my story would chronicle a thirteen-year-old kid’s ill-conceived plan to escape his abusive father by entering a Catholic Seminary, a boarding school for future priests. I had dozens of true stories and vignettes that met my criteria for a good book. This was going to be fun and a piece of cake. It might also touch on the spiritual, but I wasn’t sure yet. By the time I deplaned at the Heathrow Airport, I had a fifty-page draft of my book, and I was pleased with myself.
6-11-17: EPISODE 2: What’s wrong with it, Elizabeth?
Returning to La Ville Luminie`re, (Paris) after a day on the beaches of Normandy.
I made some anal changes to the book while I was in London. But, my reason for being there, including a side trip to Paris, and a day spent on the beaches of Normandy, swallowed me up. The book was all but forgotten. When I returned to Hawaii, I messed with the book off and on as time permitted, changing a word, a phrase, and a scene. However, I was the construction manager on a large power plant that was approaching completion, and I needed to pay attention to business. With that project up and running, the pressure was off. I had a new fire station under construction, but that was an easy one, and I had time for the book.
I took a deep breath and read my manuscript with a critical eye. My honest assessment was that it had the potential of being a good story. But it was flat, uninspiring and didn’t seem to have a point or a clear direction where it was going. The individual vignettes were funny and entertaining, but the dots didn’t connect, and the overall story sucked. I asked Elizabeth, my wife, to read it and give me her opinion. She got most of way through it and said, “Jake, this is awful. Don’t give up your day job for this.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“There are a lot, I mean a lot, of grammar and spelling mistakes. You change tenses and go from the first person to the third person seemingly at will. Your formatting is messed up, your fonts are all over the place, and a lot of your paragraph breaks were in the wrong places. Sometimes you rambled, and sometimes you didn’t say enough, and occasionally you got preachy. There was too much about the rule breaking, hijinks, and juvenile shenanigans. There was not enough of what I was interested in hearing about. I wanted to know more about how you got there, your relationship with your father, what was life in a Seminary really like and the pomp and ceremony? I wanted to know more about your friends, key professors, the villain, and what was going through your mind during all this.”
“What was good about my book, if anything?”
“Your descriptions of the individual events and people were good, but a little sketchy. A few of them made me laugh, and at one point I started to cry. You know what? If you were telling me this story, I would have enjoyed it. Reading it, no! You are a gifted storyteller with an excellent memory for details and a wild imagination. If you could pair up with a real writer, the two of you could easily write a great book or series of books.”
“Thanks for your honesty. Maybe this isn’t such a great idea. I needed to think about it.