The Novel

Ten Years Later, Rock ‘n Fire

I’VE COMPLETED MY first novel, and strange as it is for me to write those words, it’s even stranger to have finished the book. Writing a novel has been a lifelong ambition of mine, and while I’ve had several books published over the last 20 years, this one feels different—it should. It was an ever-changing process, one that felt much longer than it really was. Regardless, I’m happy, nervous, even sad; my characters and story have been set free.

Without dwelling on too many particulars, I thought I’d share a few learning points from my long, novel-writing experience. First, it started out as nothing more than a baseball novel, but it grew into a lot more. And since it took ten years to get to “The End,” the roller coaster I set myself on was sprinkled with reading many How-to books, a lot of personal research, and discovery missions to determine what my story needed to become a novel with a viable and meaningful plot.

Initially, it had very little of the stuff a good book needs; I added a couple of characters, figured out side plots, inserted conflict, and a lot of other things. Then I added another mini story, plus a sweeping arc of time to cover several different parts of character growth. At first I thought maybe I added too much, but I liked what I did and the flow was unique and moving. The best thing is, like all good projects, sometimes more is less—it worked, and I finished the roadmap I needed to complete the story. It was settling in and actually getting down to the writing of the 90,000 words needed to tell the story that was hard, and tricky.

Besides the actual writing, one of the biggest stumbling points I had trouble getting past was coming up with a good title. Nothing I came up with fit my story; as a historical baseball novel I wanted some grit in the words on the book cover. I had several awful titles, things like Lost Time Again or The Lost Lefty. Bad. And as stupid as it was, the lack of a title hampered my creative process. I didn’t like calling it “My Novel.”

And then my wife came to the rescue.

If you’ve ever been to a little league baseball game, at some point you’ll hear a parent or coach holler, “Rock ‘n Fire, Billy, Rock ‘n Fire!” It is a time-honored phrase encouraging pitchers to rear back and fling the ball toward home plate–usually when they’re doing poorly. A grandparent for one of our son’s teammates used the expression constantly, encouraging not only his grandson, but all of the other kids on the team, too.

“That’s the title of your book,” my wife said after game a few years back. “Rock ‘n Fire! It’s perfect.” It was, it is.

I had to make a few adjustments to my main character and incorporate the title into the story, but that was easy enough. And once I had a title—I never considered changing it, it was not just a “working” title—I was able to finally settle into the rigors of actually crafting and writing my story.

Rock ‘n Fire.

I’ll be sharing more about the book, characters, and pieces of Americana I’ve incorporated throughout the story in future posts. If you’re interested, here’s a link to buy the book:

An unforgettable story hides in the shadows of America’s national pastime…