Gifts and Negotiation

A few years back, I wrote Knights of Legend. I have a few of the original hardcover editions left on the shelf and my kid asked what it’s about. I went into this long-winded speech (it was truly epic) about how Jason Sheridan becomes the greatest baseball player to wear a glove, fights his fate, and beats back evil. When I started Knights, I wanted the world to know what it was like to grow up in Middle-America. It is a cool place. I think Jason’s story ended up being more about the power of our choices and that they have impact. But I thought that might be a bit heavy-handed to explain.

Of course, this opened up Pandora’s box.

“Daddy, can I read it?”

“No, you’re a little young.”

“Daddy, why can’t you write a book that I can read?” As I started to hem and haw and stutter some more, I realized I really couldn’t come up with a good reason.

Then, like a truly great salesperson he asked, “And can you give it to me for Christmas?” Great sales people always qualify.

Now, that’s where the challenge comes into play. Parents (or customers, colleagues, and bosses) can agree to anything but time boxing it; well, this makes any task monumental. It gets things accomplished. At work, we know our limitations. We understand resources, people, and the amount of time it takes to get a project over the goal line.

Or course, I told him that might be impossible. I actually have a fairly good feel on how to build a book. This doesn’t mean I’m good at it. I just understand the process. My last novel took about eight years to complete. And it was a royal pain to get over the finish line. To be honest, I still am amazed I finished it at all. Writing takes a certain amount of discipline and its scary.

It’s hard to put yourself out there and open up. Yes, it’s good therapy but you never know how people will think of the book or ultimately of you. All of this was running through my mind. What if I can’t come up with a good story? And the worst of all, what if he doesn’t like it? In life, we put up so many roadblocks that hinder what we can ultimately accomplish.

Children don’t think this way. They use what they have and go. The constraints of the world haven’t shaped them yet.

My kid then asks, “Daddy, why can’t you get it done? You always tell me nothing is impossible.” And yes, I hate it when my grandiose speeches are used against me. These are the moments, as a parent, that really annoy me.

I’m not supposed to be out parented by my own kid. I have a busy enough day. When I get home, like everyone, I’m tired. According to some scientific studies, you can only make so many decisions before the brain says no mas.’ They say Steve Jobs wore the same type of shirt to work each day to save that one decision for something special.

I refuse to wear black sweaters day in and day out. So depending on the time of day, my kid runs circles around me. In a way, he is frustratingly brilliant. I love that and hate that too.

So, after much stuttering, stalling, and a fair amount of silence (he who speaks first loses), I decided to give it a go. How hard could it be? Writing a children’s book had to be easier than completing a full novel, or so I thought.

It actually turned out to be terribly complicated. Before starting, I did a fair amount of research on length, process, etc., No sense in recreating the wheel. I reread some great children’s books. I truly enjoyed reading Charlotte’s Webb for the umpteenth time. That’s one of the merits of being a parent. You get to experience these great books all over again.

Charlotte is a book of epic proportions. Book scholars can talk about how great Faulkner, Twain and the guy who wrote the Corrections are all they want, but has anyone wrote a better book in less than 35K words? Sure, there is a spider that writes “some pig” in its web, but there is a reason everybody reads this book to their children. There is also a reason every freshman reads “To Kill a Mockingbird.” These are great books, impossible to replicate.

So, I double downed and worked away at it. I was committed to writing a fairy tale. And I wanted to make it special, something he could look back and say, “That’s great, Daddy.” Practical wisdom says you should try to do something that can impact the greatest number of people possible. Publishers want you to do that. Sales rule. And people like to read what other people are reading.

For this impossible task made possible, I decided to break the rules a bit, and I wrote for one person. I worked the timeline, broke out an outline, and wrote a little bit each day. And Ethan was right, nothing is impossible when you break it down. I wrote a few hundred words each day and somehow, someway I managed to bind a book for him. I finished it on December 22nd, let my wife approve it, and then watched him open it on Christmas Day.

Compared to the electronic gizmo of the day and a few rounds of Mario Kart, I’m not sure it measured up. A few days later, I started reading the story out loud. It’s amazing how the mind works. We think we know exactly how a paragraph is going to read. I wrote this story. I knew how it was supposed to play out. I’m the creator of this tale.

Yet, something funny happened. What was down on paper wasn’t the tale inside my head. For those Princess Bride fans, it was inconceivable. I don’t think it means what I think it means. It’s amazing how that works.

I cringed when I read some parts of the story. The opening needed work. So did a scene on when the prince comes into the world. That’s why it’s a first draft.

After reading through my first draft of 37,000 words, I knew I didn’t have Charlotte’s Web. At least, not yet. I’m still working on it. To let everyone read it, I plan to post each chapter on a serial basis every Sunday night (I’ll have a few other delivery methods too). It’s what my kid wanted and it’s his story. I’m not quite ready for publication yet. Like I said, I’m still working on it. I’m editing. Reading it aloud again and again. Each day, we’re getting closer to finalizing the story about a magical harp and the Kingdom of Silver Throne.

After hundreds of hours of work to get to this point, was it worth the time? Right now, I only have one review. My kid told me, “That was a really good story, Daddy.” And that was enough for me.

More to come (Oh, if you want to receive updates to the Dark Harp don’t forget to subscribe, using the box on the side of the page).

Other Notes:

Knights of Legend, My first book and project available on Amazon.

Learn about the writing process.

And if you’re curious, that’s a tool you can use to change out guitar strings. I bet you could use it with a harp too. It was in a desk drawer when I took the picture. I thought it was a nice touch.