I Finished the First Draft of my Second Novel

In May, I wrote another novel, called Doylestown.

Two young boys spend a lot of time running around the back alleyways of the small but growing town. The story is set in 1905 Doylestown as it grows from a small community with a couple of hotels and a courthouse into a larger, more modern city. The two boy’s fathers are the most prominent doctor and the most prominent lawyer in town. The fathers also spent a large part of their childhood running around the same back alleys.

One of the father’s business associates is murdered. The night before the murder, the two boys, playing spy, as they are wont to do, overhear their fathers arguing with the person who is murdered. She is a third, very prominent member of the community. The boys suspect that their fathers are involved in the murder which causes great tension between them because each is convinced that it is the other boy’s father and not his own who must be involved.

Over time and under pressure from a local woman newspaper reporter the chief of police comes to believe (although not with a high degree of confidence) that the two men are guilty as well. He starts tracking the men. He finds numerous bits of incriminating evidence.

Meanwhile, the young women newspaper reporter has made a friend with a young Mennonite girl who comes frequently with her father to the weekly farmer’s market in town. The young Mennonite girl idolizes the modern women newspaper reporter, which of course is a source of great concern to her father. The newspaper women encourages the young girl to write – says “If you want to become a writer you must do just one thing: write.” The Mennonite girl takes this to heart and starts interviewing everyone she meets.

One of the people she interviews is a local man called Harvey. Harvey is an oddity in the small farming community where Rebecca (the Mennonite girl) lives. He gets everywhere on bicycle. He is a bit ’slow’ but he is very friendly and quite pleasant. Rebecca interviews him and he says that he knows something about “the two men involved with the murder in town.” Rebecca assumes he is talking about the two men, who were arrested in town, but he is not – he is talking about two other men that he knows about. Harvey knows everything about everyone. He spends his entire day riding his bike from farm-to-farm and talking gossip. He knows everyone’s business in the entire community. He hears one piece of information from one person, another from a second person and more from everyone else. Even though he is slow, he knows more about more things than anyone does – and he has a certain slyness that comes through in his interactions with people – maybe he’s not quite as slow as he seems.

Through a series of interactions with Harvey and the younger brother of the two men Harvey is talking about, Rebecca comes to believe that the police have the wrong men. She tells her newspaperwomen friend. She has become acquaintances with the two boys as well through her attendance at the market stall every Saturday. She intends to save the two prominent citizens from the hangman’s noose.

As the story plays out everyone finally comes to realize that the two men where not involved in the murder, however the chief of police wishes to use them as bait to capture the real murders. In a shootout scene in the barn, this is accomplished. Returned to their former prominent positions in town, the two men complete the construction of a beautiful building that becomes a symbol for the town – a beautiful example of the enthusiasm present in 1905 America as it flexed its industrial muscle.

Rebecca returns to the town many years later, having graduated from college as a journalist. The newspaper her friend had worked for many years earlier hires her as a reporter. She stands outside the building at the center of the town that serves as a testament to the two older men and their great friendship when one of the two younger boys (who is now a 25-year-old young man who cuts a very dapper figure) appears behind her. As she admires the building, he introduces himself again. The scene fades to black.

I wrote this book in ten days – from May 1, 2010 to May 10, 2010. Here is a chart of my progress. I find keeping a chart of the number of words I have written each day is an amazingly easy way to motivate myself. Here is the chart:

The yellow bars represent the number of words I wrote each day. The pink line is my progress towards my goal, which is represented by the blue diagonal line. As you can see, I exceeded my target, which was to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I completed 50,000 words in just 10 days. The two days of negative word production are from very slight editing I did to correct some egregious grammar errors using MS Word grammar checker. I lost 200 and 500 words each of the two days I was editing so I stopped because the total went under 50,000.

Someone asked me how good it could possibly be if it took me only 10 days to write. I say, “It’s just a first draft” which is the truth. I went through each scene of the novel in the remaining 20 days of the month of May making a list of all the problem areas I could think of. I now have a list of over 550 different things that I think I can make better in the second draft.

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