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An unusual way to write a novel...

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Initial post: Aug 16, 2011 1:22:56 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 16, 2011 1:28:08 AM PDT
It was an unusual way to write the draft of a novel, but well worth the trouble.

In 1999, mystery writer Ridley Pearson encouraged me to try writing a novel instead of sticking to the short humor essays that got their start in my syndicated newspaper column. Our mutual friend Dave Barry had had success with his novel, Big Trouble. I kept that idea on the back burner for eight years.

Leaping ahead to 2007, a Canadian cable television station contacted me about being part of the cast of The 3-Day Novel, a reality show featuring 12 Canadian writers locked in a big-box bookstore for 72 hours, each with the task of completing a short novel. I didn't really expect anything to come of it, until I got the call asking me to come to Edmonton, Alberta for the Labor Day weekend.

The writers ranged in age from their early 20's to me. Let's just say my sons are older than some of the other writers. We were given a computer station and a bed. Well, for some people sleeping on an IKEA children's bunk bed might be possible, but I am 6'4" and partially paralyzed from a spinal cord injury I sustained in a 1990 car accident. The bed was not something I expected to see much of over the weekend. In fact I spent less than 5 hours sleeping out of the 72.

We were allowed to bring a one-page outline of our story. I had the idea of creating a comedic mystery focusing on two sheriff's deputies. One wanted to be a geographic profiler, but he got lost every time he sat behind the wheel of his police cruiser. The other had dreams of being a dog handler, but the county could not afford a police dog, so he was training his Springer Spaniel. Unfortunately the dog had fewer working brain cells than you would find in a typical head of cabbage.

From start to finish, the TV cameras were rolling. They filmed us writing, they filmed those who managed to sleep. They even filmed us taking care of personal hygiene, though for the life of me, I can't see how that might be considered `must see TV.'

Every couple of hours they called us away from our computers to take part in a train of thought breaking challenge. The winner would receive a reward, like the use of a hotel room for a nap and shower or a massage. The loser would receive a penalty such as mopping the stores restrooms, or sleeping in a tent in the parking lot. I determined that win or lose, the rewards and punishments just meant more time away from writing, so I did my level best to coast along somewhere in the middle of the pack. I was on the team that lost the spelling bee, which meant spending an hour cooking hamburgers for everyone else.

Somewhere around hour 50, sleep deprivation and caffeine withdrawal started to set in, and I realized that I was having a heated discussion about the direction the novel should take with one of my fictional characters. It reminded me of experiences in my misspent youth in the late 1960's.

In the end, I had a 30,000-word outline for Crossbow completed. Over the course of the next three years, I played with the story, and added flesh to the bones, until I had a full-length novel ready to go. At times I put it away for months at a time, only to return to it, because I really did like my characters, even if they did argue with me from time to time.

Crossbow was released in April of 2011, and has received a very positive response. People like the quirky characters, especially Duke the police dog in training, and the plot twists that I threw in, just to keep the readers on their toes. Some of the comments include:

* "If you like a good page turner, with well rendered characters and numerous plot twists - then Crossbow is for you. Thanks Gordon for a great ride! Can't wait for the sequel..."

* "Gordon has crafted a fascinating story with quirky characters everywhere, and he tells the story in the same hilarious way as his humor essays. It should appeal to readers who enjoy having their tales told by a unique voice."

* "I just finished Crossbow. It's the kind of book that when you put it down you can't wait to get back to it. Yesterday I was telling people all about Duke and we had a good laugh."

* Like taking an intensive course in plot development. Kirkland wove a terrific plot filled with suspense with a great deal of humor and charm."

Crossbow is available in paperback for $13.99 and in the Kindle electronic reader format for just $0.99. For more information about Crossbow or any of my other books, please visit Amazon's Gordon Kirkland page at
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Discussion in:  Humor forum
Participants:  1
Total posts:  1
Initial post:  Aug 16, 2011
Latest post:  Aug 16, 2011

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