Four years ago, lacking gainful employment and with “Write a novel!” on my to-do-before-I-die list, I hammered out a three hundred page post-apocalyptic disaster. The story wasn’t bad, but the writing sure was. I created so many problems for myself to fix that to do so would involve a major rewrite, so I slipped it into an electronic filing cabinet for later, as I had other story ideas to get down on the page.
Ironically, one of the major settings in the novel is Damascus, VA and the portion of the Appalachian Trail that runs through the self-proclaimed Friendliest Town on the Trail. The funniest part is that I wrote huge scenes in the book about those places having never been near Damascus or the AT. I did a little bit of online research and voila! I was done writing those sections. Or so I thought…
Fast forward two-plus years. I began taking an interest in hiking in general, and the AT in particular. After reading many journals and blogs, I discovered some embarrassing errors in my previous research. I’m glad the novel is still an unpublished disaster. I’ve made notes to fix the problems when I finally pull the book out and blow the e-dust off it.
But simply adding accuracy to the Damascus portions of my novel won’t save it. However, the AT itself will. I’ve figured out how to shift certain plot elements to make the story more realistic and tighter, the key change of which is to put my protagonist on the AT in Harper’s Ferry and have him hike to Damascus while being pursued by the authorities present in this new dystopian world. Best part? I’m going to hike the key parts of that section (if not the whole thing; we’ll see what my schedule holds at the time) myself and take copious notes for the rewrite.
So, as it turns out, the dozens of books, trail journals and blogs I’ve read, along with my new enthusiasm for hiking have all conflated to bring salvation to my first novel.
Now I just need to find the time to actually fix it.
Note: This past Saturday I completed the first draft of my second attempt at writing a novel. Much better than the first one. A few rewrites and I hope to have it published by this time next year. Mild spoiler: Among other things the protagonist is, of course, a hiker.