How I wrote a book and then lost it for over a decade

It was the mid-90s. I was recently retired from the Navy and working as a tour guide at a local winery. And I said to myself, “Self, wouldn’t this be a great setting for a mystery?” (Not that there’s anything intrinsically violent about wineries, but it was just so picturesque.)

So I wrote that mystery, set in a fictional small winery in rural Virginia. Titled Died On The Vine. And I finished it. And I saw that it was good.

Couple problems, though. First problem was word count. For you youngsters, back in those days, if you wanted to get your words presented to the eyes of readers, you had two choices. One was to submit to publishing houses (or to agents to have them submit to publishing houses), and the other was to self-publish. Back then, self-publishing meant spending thousands of dollars and almost certainly winding up with a basement full of unsold books.  And I don’t even have a basement, so you see the problem there. How about publishing houses? Well, publishing houses wanted a word count range, and my book wasn’t there. I’d told the whole story and my book needed to be significantly longer.

So – how do I make my book longer without those page-long scenery descriptions that nobody reads? I pondered the problem. While I was pondering, another issue presented itself. You see, I’d made my story thoroughly modern. Yessirreebob, there was e-mail, there was Usenet, there were car phones! You see where I’m going here? This was the mid-90s, and what was cutting edge one day looked hopelessly outmoded before you knew it.

And then, life ensued. The rewrite languished until I looked at the manuscript several years later and realized that if I brought the story up to date, the characters would be getting too old. (There’s a Vietnam War backstory that nails down the character ages with no real wiggle room.)

The manuscript found its way into the file cabinet, where it hibernated, while the years past.

But now look!  Self-publishing, ebooks!  Last fall, I remembered – say, didn’t I write a book once?  So I dug out the manuscript and reread it, and realized that with the passage of time, the stuff that had seemed outmoded a decade ago had mellowed into quaint period charm. So I wrote a brief prologue and epilogue and left the rest of the story set in 1996.

So what’s going on now is that I’m formatting Died On The Vine for publication as an ebook, and my talented sister made me a book cover (see previous post).

And that’s where things stand now. I’m rechecking my format and hope to soon be able to announce the publication of my mystery. Better late than never, right?

 

 

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “How I wrote a book and then lost it for over a decade

  1. Deb Mc.

    Congratulations! Looking forward to the release 😀

  2. Martin Blasick

    Congrats. Just bought it from Smashwords. Exciting times for ebookers. Have you got a twitter feed?
    #martinblasick

    • Hope you like Died On The Vine! I have a twitter account at JoyceLeeH, but I joined over two years ago and have only tweeted once. I don’t really grok twitter but I suppose I should give it a try again, conventional wisdom seems to be that you have to tweet if you’re selling a book.

      • Martin Blasick

        Seems to be the prevailing idea. And that it takes a bit of work to really get the hang of getting results. I’m giving it a 2nd look myself

  3. Is it coincidental that the title describes what happened with your book over the years? Anyway, I can relate to your experience. So many things had changed with my first novel over time, like smoking laws in Los Angeles bars or news about Jack Kevorkian. It gets yet another rewrite, but it’s still a high concept book so it’s worth releasing. Good luck with yours!

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