I wrote the first draft of my first novel in just under 90 days. I had been writing stand-up comedy and screenplays for years, but very little prose. I had a strong sense of story, and a pretty clear first-person voice.
But as a first-time novelist, I really didn’t know what I was doing—which, in retrospect, was a good thing.
There was no fear. Why would there be? I had no plan to show it to anyone. In fact, it was really done more as an experiment to see if I could finish writing a novel while I was on tour. I was more interested in getting the pages down than I was in the quality.
When I finished my first novel, a series of incidents led to the book getting to a New York agent, who auctioned it for a half million dollars for the North American rights.
At the time I was living in a studio apartment in Culver City. I had a bed and a desk.
Later, someone told me that only one in seventeen-thousand novel submissions leads to publication, and of those first-novels only a tiny fraction get an insane advance.
If I had been driven to get published, I doubt I would have written with the freedom that I did. In fact, I had been trying to crack the screenplay market for years, and struggled mightily to write what the market was looking for.
The irony is that when I wrote my first novel for myself, everything changed. The challenge is to return to that place each morning when I hit the keys.
Zen Buddhists call it “beginner’s mind.” Athletes call it “being in the zone.” People spend years cultivating this experience.
I was just plain ignorant.
The challenge now is to forget everything I know so that the story can live.