One-Match Fire is smoldering. I’ve worked through it with the comments of my beta readers, made many of their recommended changes, made additions and changes and deletions of my own, and have assembled all of the separate stories into a single document. The word count comes in at just over 62,000, which is about the minimum definition for a novel. (I still worry that there are some gaps in the narrative — too many years pass between some chapters — and an editor will ask me to fill it with another chapter or two, but I don’t see the overall length getting significantly longer.)
I’ve said here before that I embarked on these stories with no idea or intention that they would become a novel. In fact, I wrote the first story, “where late the sweet birds sang,” as a one-off with no eye to writing any more. But I found I liked the character, and the cabin in the woods was such a beckoning, evocative setting, that I wrote a few more. And a few more. And then I found I had twenty-one stories spanning something like forty-four years and 62,000 words.
Many of the revisions I made were needed to polish away the edges of stand-alone stories. I repeated some things and referenced more times than necessary bits of history in the overall narrative because each chapter was originally just a story that would appear in print on its own. Once these were combined and could rely on each other, a lot of that repetition needed to go. And so it has.
I did have one curious problem that both of my readers cited and that I had an unreasonably difficult time addressing. One of the early chapters is titled “Boys are Like Puppies” (and they are!). In this five-character story (if you count the puppy) I had characters named Joe, Jon, Jack, and Jerry. How is that even possible? Joe is the grandfather, and that name is untouchable since he lives throughout the novel. Jon is actually a biblical reference, and I didn’t want to lose that. Jack was the puppy, and I had originally wanted to name my own dog, Flike, Jack, so that was an emotional attachment. And Jerry was supposed to be the same character as appears in my story “The Infinite Regression of Jerry C,” which is somewhat based on a true story of an actual man named Jerry. There was no real need to make that connection since that story doesn’t feed into the whole fathers and sons ethos at all. I guess I just liked messing with that character again.
But I made some changes. Jack the puppy became Buddy (which does have some thematic purpose), and Jerry became Lee because I knew a Lee who was a jerk, just like the character in this story is intended to be.
So One-Match Fire smolders. I’ll need to give it some attention and a few big read throughs again, and then it will be time to begin the dance with potential agents and publishers. But before that, I have a little foot race (Sunday!) that needs my focus. And then, there are all of the other stories I’ve been wanting to write for a long time.