I brainstormed the idea for The Prick of Time back in 2010. At the time, my creative focus was on spoken word poetry and music writing. I was inspired so strongly that I took a spiral bound notebook to the Irish pub down the street and wrote the first draft over the course of a few hours—and a few pints. I had not written a fully formed story since high school, which I hate to admit was more than 10 years previous to this foray into fiction. I was completely ignorant to the disciplines of writing good prose: proper grammar and mechanics; subject/verb agreement and style; I was even blind to the fact that the story shifted from present tense to past tense—and back again.
Subsequently, the second draft of the story (at the time it was merely called the Stopwatch, which I later found was too telling of a title) was simply the process of transcribing the handwritten first draft onto the computer and using the spellcheck function. I was excited to share my work and gladly shared the short story with friends and family. I received absolutely no response—it was that bad.
I knew I had a good story; why was it so poorly received? Did I simply engage an unwilling audience? Had the general public become such mindless zombies that they couldn’t understand the beauty of the storytelling if it wasn’t a hit TV sitcom or IMAX movie? It never occurred to me that the reasons for the poor reception to my first piece of writing was because it was simply a poor example of writing. Defeated, I placed my dreams of becoming an author on the back shelf.
Fast-forward two years: I had left drug and alcohol treatment with a chip on my shoulder, and I was ready to take on the world. I was in the honeymoon phase of my recovery, and my optimistic worldview convinced me that the universe was conspiring in my favor; I decided to seize upon the opportunity to write; not merely as a hobby, but as an occupation.
I had about ten or so ideas that I thought would be great fodder for a book. But first, I had to slay the beast that was my first story. I decided I must rewrite the Stopwatch. At first, the rewrite was an attempt to reclaim a piece of my ego that was lost due to rejection. Upon completion of the third draft I thought, this still feels wrong. I scrapped the first three drafts and rewrote the entire manuscript. What I began to figure out was that each time I wrote a new draft, new ideas and new subplots boiled to the surface.
I became a member of a weekly writing workshop facilitated by David Allen Lambert and began to understand the process of writing, from gestation to birth, followed by infancy and into adulthood. I was awestruck by the personification of a work of prose because it fit—natural, organic, and precise.
The fourth draft was pivotal; I had found a theme. Mind you, the end of the story never once changed—only the path to get there. The fifth draft had three variations of one chapter (I choose to take a philosophical direction but I found that it wasn’t necessary and felt preachy and pretentious). I concentrated on making my writing more concise for the fifth draft. On the sixth draft, I tied up some loose ends and finally felt secure in having the completed manuscript checked by Ruben Ruvalcaba—a friend that I trusted in the fine art of proofreading. The seventh draft was what has become the definitive finished work, The Prick of Time. The eighth draft was simply a formality—Smashwords (the website that I used to upload my book to Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Epub, HTML, and other online publishing platforms) was very particular about formatting for e-publication.
In the end, the process of drafting taught me that a good idea is only as good as the attention span it can hold. If you lose your reader in the first few lines of prose—whether because of misspellings, poor mechanics or pace—you lose your reader’s trust; and thus, you lose everything.