I was milling about in my harddrive the other day after backing up all of my files for a wipe of my drive and I found the journal I’ve been keeping for Lunchbox Hero. The bulk of the entries are from writing the first draft in 2001 but it has info and thoughts from all of the subsequent drafts. I still have to add an entry about finishing the new ending for the last draft but it’s quite the time capsule of my writing life at the time. This, paired with a New York Times essay I found somewhere else about how Michael Chabon started writing his first novel in 1985 on a trunk in a crawl space, got me thinking about starting that first novel. What brings it on and what you remember about the day.
For me it was June 1, 2001 in my room at the Hotel St. George in New York City. I planned on finishing the book in a month and entering it in the St. Martin’s Press/PWA contest. I was reading slush manuscripts for Random House and the sheer crap level I’d been exposed to made me believe I was capable of writing something better with very little effort or time required. I started while typing away on my laptop on my bed. I’m convinced if I wouldn’t have had that laptop (which I bought with student grant funds earlier that year) I never would have started or finished that novel. The next day I scraped what I had written that night and started over again and from then on the book stuck. I wrote mostly at home but once in a while at work or a coffee shop.
I finished the book exactly four months later in the writing center at the University of Michigan-Flint where I was working as a tutor. I was on the computer closest to the door and even though I knew what was coming I couldn’t stick with it long enough to finish it so I resorted to all sorts of tricks to just fill pages to get to the magical 300 page mark where I thought it should end. In the last fifty pages the book switches tenses, narrators, POV and time several times. Some of the chapters are just a paragraph and the ending doesn’t make any sense. But it ends with an I Love Lucy reference and a wise crack. Fade out. I immediately printed the whole thing out at the school’s expense and ran around campus showing to everyone I ran into. It was probably the single most amazing feeling I’d experienced to that point in my life.
So howza bout the rest of youze? What’s your first and last word stories?