Some Background on Sanity – the Novel

I’m pleased and grateful for the comments and feedback I’ve received on Sanity so far. I thought a bit of background on the origin, the sources and the writing process would be interesting to some readers. Just a taste, though. As with a woman, mystery about the thing is vital to continuing interest.

Like many of you I’ve been an avid reader from the beginning, that is from the earliest days I can remember learning to read. Anybody who has read a good book and has a spark of creativity has thought about writing one themselves, how it gets done and what it takes, the time and the struggle. I remember when I was 15 talking to a woman at our church who had published several successful “Young Adult” books: “I have so many good ideas for books!” She just smiled and said:

“Ideas are easy. Books are hard.”

So, let’s fast forward 25 years or so. I’m sitting on a fishing boat in Bristol Bay, Alaska, it’s dark, it’s only dark for a couple of hours in the middle of the summer, the rest of the crew are sleeping off a 16-hour shift pulling in the gill net and picking fish, over and over and over, and under a dim little reading light I scratch out a page of notes and ideas for a novel about how Alaska becomes an independent, libertarian-type nation, because a fisherman who used to be a Navy SEAL and a gun-culture-loving woman governor finally have enough of “tougher gun laws” (this was six years before Sarah Palin, just for the record) and mount an operation to take over a US missile sub and Alaska independence or Mr. President, there’ll be a cloud of radiation over Seattle (you don’t have to detonate the nukes, just vaporize them with high explosive…).

Sanity is not that book. But I still like the idea.

Anyway…as described here I read a tweet where someone asked “Who is going to be the Tom Wolfe of the Dark Enlightenment/Red Pill?” and I’ve been searching for it for awhile to give credit where credit is due, but I think I finally figured out why it couldn’t be found, because the account has been suspended. @TitusAvenged RIP:

So, it took a year to write a little bitty 68,000 word novel. How did it actually get done? I had some memory tickling me, of Isaac Asimov’s Murder at the ABA, A Puzzle in Four Days and 60 Scenes. I’ve always dreamed about writing something in the style of Illuminatus!, a whole book where the time line is shattered and then scattered, over and over (I think a guy named Joyce got there first). So no, I don’t have an outline. I’m going to write 60 scenes and they’re going to be temporally shuffled, and they’re going to be DE/RP and they’re going to be entertaining as hell.

I don’t have any idea what’s going to happen in the book, yet. Having read a lot about the work process of Robert A. Heinlein, who I practically worshipped as a 12-year-old, I figure that’s not too high a hill to climb. My characters will tell their story. I just need to make them.

So shortly after the tweet above, we get to work:

Step 1: Open blank Word doc.

Step 2: Stare at it for a minute…

Step 3: Write Scene 1. I have had a recurring dream/vision, for many years, of looking at a mountain and seeing a meteor strike it, the flash of light, diving behind a wall and surviving the shock wave.

The words come. It’s very early in the morning and I’m out in my back yard. I see a flash of light, a meteor? No. I hear the words, “The city is never silent.” I type them. Scene 1 comes, comes bubbling out of the subconscious. All I have to do is listen:

The city is never silent.

Day, night, there are always machine sounds, engine sounds, tire squeals, buildings breathing, horns, people breathing, wind, Earth breathing.

I’m on the back deck with my second cup, looking at the halfblue halfyellow tablet in my palm when the sounds die and disappear, first the wind, then the car that just passed my house, the tiniest whisper of the city, my heartbeat that sounds like wind in my ears, the sound of my cells burning fuel. Engines. All. Stop.

I’m embedded in amber, motionless and without the possibility of motion, they’ll find me in 10 million years, I can’t feel the weight of the tablet in my palm anymore, can’t feel anything, but I can see, and the hint of red dawn behind the hill is getting brighter, whiter, until there’s nothing but light, no thing, only the light. There is no time, only sight, but as soon as it gets so bright there should be pain, it begins to slide back to red again, dims to just dawn, and I can see the outline of the hills. I’m breathing and I can taste the air, taste the hint of city smog, of coffee and the pine across the yard. I look at the pill, it’s a tiny thing, “60mg” it says but I feel the weight of it in my palm.

My left shoulder hurts as much as it always does this time of day, a dull beating throb, but the light has changed my eyes, now I can see the whole channel where the bullet entered and exited, through and through, the little scar in front and the bigger shallow crater behind. For an instant my eyes are sending an energy, a frequency into the old wound, and it heals a little.

It’s pleasant, it’s comfortable, for now I’m not especially concerned about the Light and the silence. It happened, that’s all. I do feel very well, there’s some kind of vibration, energy in my solar plexus, it’s flowing up my spine into my scalp, and I hear now, hear water flowing underground, and my shoulder hurts a little less than usual this time of day, and I snap the pill down on the table like a domino, a faint metallic sound.

So eventually this became Scene 2, because despite how absofuckinglutely in love with my own prose I was, a critical reader pointed out that you have to get people involved right away for them to want to read more. Thank you, Hans Schantz (helluva a writer!). So in the final editing I moved an action scene, neutralizing a terrorist, to Scene 1.

I then wrote, slowly, about 20 scenes with four different threads, recruitment to secret societies and the things young boys are taught by Mommy and Culture that make them weak, and the hero’s first sexual experience, and a “religion” called ReHumanism and stuff, and then I got to Scene 20-Something and I realized it had to all fit together in the end, so I wrote Scene 60. In the final version that scene has evolved quite a bit, but I knew my ending now anyway, and the rest assumed a direction. It wasn’t hard for me to go back and forth between the threads, really, once that was in place.

Then I edited and edited to make sure of the continuity, as they say. Then some kind friends read it and gave me feedback,

and I edited and edited, and finally one day I thought that I was done editing, and I couldn’t wait any longer to be a published author so instead of getting reviews lined up and all the things the smart writers (rightly) recommend, I just pushed the button.

So yeah, about those reviews, if you’ve read the book, a brief review, or a long and detailed review. would be much appreciated.

As far as a next book? I don’t think I can stop now. But should I do a sequel or Alaska independence through nuclear blackmail?  Probably the sequel. The World needs a hell of a lot of saving, right now.

So, that’s some background on Sanity. If YOU are writing a novel, or want to, I don’t recommend my exact methods, unless you’re prone to visions or waking dreams.

7 thoughts on “Some Background on Sanity – the Novel

  1. Pingback: Some Background on Sanity – the Novel | Reaction Times

  2. Just finished reading it. Fun, quick read. Thanks for writing it. Some of it reminded me of Ludlum – the fractured timeline being a bit like his protagonist’s memory issues.

    Also reminded me just a bit of Heinlein’s novella *Gulf*

    My primary critique is that it still needs some editing for grammar (if that’s the sort of thing you care about – the lapses may have been deliberate). Who vs whom, me vs I, etc.


    • Thank you for the feedback. Some of the grammar is deliberate, some is probably my mistakes…

      The fact that you’ve recognized the parallels with “Gulf” is remarkable, and gratifying.


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