A Brief Timeline of My Novel's Existence

History has shown that periodicals like to ask authors, “how long did it take you to write this book?” and the answers are startlingly different, ranging from “twenty two years” to “two consecutive taxi rides.” Preempting the obvious fact that someone somewhere is going to want to profile me very soon and going to need this information for filler when the body starts to lag, here’s a little timeline breaking down the birth of my novel, from conception to, you know, whatever happens after that:

May 2003: During a moderately alcohol-influenced deep conversation with an English Major Senior Week of college realize that I should write a book about “like, college, but obviously deeper than that.” Tell her that. Seriously.

July 2003: Said English Major calls me from Columbia Publishing School, or whatever it’s called, and I reiterate my need to write a novel. “My life goal,” I may have called it. “So… I’m thinking the main character’s dad has to die because that makes it deeper, right?” I ask. “You know the sadness and what not?” EM doesn’t answer me directly.

September 2003: Bored with my grad school homework, start writing down some crazy introduction in second person, and randomly creating a fictional college. Name it after my favorite college basketball player that never did anything post college, Chris Kingsbury. Write sixty-ish pages in three days. Feel triumphantly productive. Don’t touch the book again for almost exactly two years.

September 2005: MFA program starts. Take Writing the First Novel class. Homework is to… write. the. first. novel. Start haphazardly “mapping” my book.

October 2005: Realize that I’m embarrassed by that convo I had in July 2003. Finally.

December 2005: Have produced another 60ish pages, 13 of which are coherent. Tire of critiques that begin, “It’s funny but the characters never really do anything…” Bitch about my “art” at the grad school pub with a bi-sexual short story writer from Montana who has never ridden a subway or heard of Cosi. Find both of these things extremely satisfying.

May 2006: Another 50 pages written, probably 8 of which are salvageable, giving me 21 solid pages of work. Am writing through the “dreaded middle lull”… barely can look at the book each day. Doesn’t help that my social life is in chaos, and I live by myself in what could honestly be deemed a retirement home in South Boston. Throw myself an infinite number of pity parties, and get really into watching seasons of The West Wing. Cry when Rob Lowe leaves.

August 2006: Write 30 pages on my own at my father’s house in SoCal. Actually pretty good stuff. SoCal makes everything better. Plus, I don’t have to pay for my meals.

December 2006: Tell people that I have a full draft written when, in fact, I have 150 pages, 30% of which is strictly filler. Get the “Jack Black 3 Pack” DVD set in my stocking.

January-April 2007: Take a leave of absence from school, and travel around Eastern Europe with the Big Cat. Eat guac in Slovakia, see infinity cats in Istanbul, and “Czech Me Out” tees in Prague. Buy a dream journal. Write an extensive short story. Actually start editing the novel on long train rides when the Big Cat abruptly puts in his headphones while I’m telling a story.

May-July 2007: Spend all my time telling everyone how “they can’t understand the complexities of life until they’ve been to Slovakia.” No time for writing!

August 2007: Go out to SoCal again, on a mission from Twain, and have the writing week of my life, banging out 90 odd solid to good pages of work, am completely fired up for the semester, plan on finishing the book by October and strictly re-writing during my final semester.

October 2007: Hmmmm. Yeah, um, that was a little optimistic.

December 2007: Finish the semester with 40 odd pages written. Can see the finish line but refuse to walk across it, probably because I faked straining my writing hamstring. Get Friday Night Lights in my stocking.

April 2008: Oh man! Remember my Thesis freak out? (shudder) Literally writing non-stop revisions and 2000 word daily overhauls for a month straight… subsisting on a diet based almost-exclusively of Honey Bunches of Oats, which I haven’t eaten since.

May 2008: Thesis defense. Novel (kind of) finished! All I need are about two solid weeks to revise and then it’s off to my agent and certain literary fame. Plus, my dad knows the dude who wrote Two and a Half Men, and he can definitely get me a movie deal– damn straight– he knows Charlie Sheen!

Late May 2008: Get a job.

November 2008: All I need are about two solid weeks to… (sigh).

Comments will be recorded for quality assurance.


Kanye West


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24 thoughts on “A Brief Timeline of My Novel's Existence

  1. Jason R. Thrift

    Kevin–thank you for the reply. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to reply myself. Being a Guns ‘N’ Roses fan, you would have thought I would have known that, geez! Guess I’m not as big a fan as I thought.

    I agree with you about Olivia’s comments. I think that would be awesome to see all our writing experiences and just what made each of us put the stories into words. Mine might not be as humorous as your’s was, Kevin, but when I think about it and put it down, I’m sure I could find plenty of humor in it.

    I’m with ya on the thesis insanity! I’m just starting graduate school in January, pursuing a masters in Nursing (either education or administration, if not both), so my life is going to be insanely busy for the next two years (somewhere in there I would like to edit my two stories I have completely written, that are yet to be published). They said in orientation that by the end of our time in grad school, we’ll all be better writers. Maybe that will translate to better fictional writing for me? Hope so, it certainly can’t hurt.

    Nikki made my head hurt!lol

    But, parting is such sweet sorrow. Until we meet again and don’t let the door hit ya in the butt on the way out!lol

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everybody!

  2. Nikki

    I’m so there with you man. I started mine January of 07. I didn’t have to worry about school or anything but try managing a call center 60 hours a week with agent that insist on asking a question when you are in the middle of a killer fight scene. Or getting two kids up and ready for school getting them there going to work, getting the kids, cook dinner, give baths clean up after said dinner, get kids to bed, clean house and fall face first in bed at 2 just to get back up at 5 and do it all over again. I got most of mine done when I was at work. The last goal I had was to have it done by the end of summer break( I.E.)this past august. Now I just really want to finish editing the last ten pages by the time I am on my death bed.

  3. Tom

    I’m with Olivia. I’m all curious about this novel now that it’s been in the works for so long. That’ll be a fun day when The Kev posts about getting published…and then we’ll have a year-long wait until it actually hits the shelves.

    That reminds me, Chinese Democracy finally made it, didn’t it? I’m much more excited about Kevin’s book.

  4. Olivia

    In the likely event that Kevin will not check his blog through the weekend (especially a holiday weekend), I’ll direct your attention to his very first blog entry on the right side of the screen. Click on "January, 2007 (1)" and you’ll find a (not so)brief synopsis of how Kevin got the column with WD. If you’re still interested, go ahead and click on "Instant Blogification" which will give you a cute little scenario involving the birth of his blog.

    Happy reading!

  5. Lisa Nichols

    So here’s what I want to know: how did you land a gig writing a column (and a blog) for Writer’s Digest anyway? You tend to play down your writing success, especially with this first novel you talk so much about, being that it’s taken years to write and you’re still not finished with it. But working for Writer’s Digest is a big deal. So, on the chance that you even read through these comments and occasionally reply, out of curiosity’s sake I want to know how an inexperienced writer just out of college got a job writing a column for Writer’s Digest in the first place. That is a story I’ve yet to hear in any of your articles.

  6. Erin


    Your vow to wait through the rain or snow definitely got me thinking- when Kevin’s book does drop, it should totally be celebrated at major book retailers across the country with midnight release parties like they have for Twilight and Harry Potter. And all of Kevin’s fans from the blog can dress up like the characters we created in the Choose Your Own Commenting Adventures!

  7. Olivia

    Add me to the list of people who will buy a copy from your first printing, Kevin, and will expect it to be signed by you with a heartfelt blurb about how we supported you through your ups and downs and some other nonsense that sounds nice but doesn’t really mean anything.

    I’ll be first in line, even if I have to spend the night outside the bookstore in the pouring rain (or piling snow) or have to fight off Tom with my bare hands, as fun as that sounds.

    Is my nose brown enough yet? Cuz I can lay it on a lot thicker if you’d like. Everyone needs a good ego boost from time to time.
    Especially writers.

  8. robin

    Great blog Kevin; you’ve kept me coming back back fo ‘mo, mo. mo. Like everyone else, I can’t wait for your book to be published. And having actually seen Axl perform in actual G’N’R (yes, I’m that old), I say, we’ll wait patiently, but once it (your book) drops, we hope like hell it’s more than some scary guy screaming.

    Keep on keepin’ it real for us little people;

  9. Laii

    *ahem* so where is your book? seriously, i’ve been eager to read it since i found out you were writing one. tis tragical to wait. *looks distant*
    but. . . *back to an ethusiastic cheer* wait i shall. 🙂
    ugh, i miss your column in WD. (the first thing i ever turned to upon buying)
    anyways, get on your book!! i need something to get in my stocking for X-mas ’08.

  10. diane

    hey Kevin,

    I think I began reading your blog around the European travel period. You’ve shed so much light & laughter into my own writing life with your quirky ways. I’m sorry for never commenting before now, but I’m sure you understand the procrastinating nature of the writer.

    Your timeline coincides with mine pretty well give or take different locales & general well-adjustedness. I began in 2002 and skipped grad school and the kickass job. 🙂
    Good luck with your revisions; I have a good feeling you’ll do well because your voice is so refreshing & wonderfully self-effacing. Thank you for the laughs & the insights! Lets me know I’m not as strange as I thought I was. 🙂
    happy thanksgiving~

  11. Kevin Alexander

    Jason– Chinese Democracy is the long (17 year) awaited solo album by Axl Rose of Guns N Roses fame, which became a running punchline for a work that never would come to fruition, but has now, in fact, actually just come out. And for those of you interested in this stuff, Chuck Klosterman attempts to wrangle a review of the album here: http://www.avclub.com/content/feature/chuck_klosterman_reviews

    Best lines: "Reviewing Chinese Democracy is not like reviewing music. It’s more like reviewing a unicorn. Should I primarily be blown away that it exists at all?"

    And yes, thank you for the generous comments. I was due for some sort of rambling post like this, wasn’t I?

    Also, I kind of love Olivia’s idea: "I’m thinking we should all put together a compilation of short stories regarding how and where we wrote our novels."
    Mine would obviously focus on the hippies at Espresso, but would also swing wildly between my bedroom (well, ok, the guest bedroom) at my dad’s house in SoCal, and a Cosi in Kendall Square in Cambridge– the place that, during my thesis insanity, I irrationally deemed "a lucky place to write."

  12. Jason R. Thrift

    Surreal is a word I would used to describe this article. It really does put into perspective the when, what, where, why, and how of writing. Looking back on it, I think it took me 10 years to really get an idea fleshed out in my head that I wanted to write. The reason I finally sat down and put something into a computer word processing program, my dad told me it was very hard to write a novel. 139,000 words later, I had a story, in less than 6 months. Two years and 550,000 words later I’ve got four complete manuscripts and two that have been published! It was like once I started writing, I just couldn’t stop!

    But this is the real kicker here, I’m just doing this as a hobby. Crazy, I know. I don’t have an agent, a movie deal is unheard of (but like everyone else in here, to quote Kramer from Seinfeld–"Giddy up!", I long for it), and most people would look at my publisher and say, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggggggggghhhhhhh!" (with great fear and trembling). But I have a story, lots of them in fact, that I just want to tell. I hope it entertains other people (because that’s the real trick don’t ya think?), but if not then at least I can always say I tried. After all, there is more to life than just writing. (I’m referring to the many a night staying up in a fantasy world of people and places that do not exist, as my wife slept on the couch and I stared into the abyss and slipped slowly into madness…[eye twitching]). Gotta love the Grinch, but Christmas Vacation is the best!

    I just won’t quit my day job, anytime in the next 300 years!

    But Kevin, that was truly a cool story and thanks for sharing. One more question though, what is Chinese Democracy? Forgive me, I’ve been lost in my own thoughts for too long!:)

  13. Olivia

    Way to go Tom! 70K!

    Writing a book at Starbucks? That’s hilarious.

    I’m thinking we should all put together a compilation of short stories regarding how and where we wrote our novels.

  14. Deborah Leiter

    Well, my novel manuscript’s going on 9 years since that first deep (in my case caffeine-induced) conversation in which I dreamed it up with a friend…. I think not enough credit is given to those deep conversations in which these things are dreamed up.

    Oh, and I totally empathize on the West Wing episodes. Ironically, I think May 2006 was about when I had my worst West Wing attack as well.

  15. Tom

    Ah, now this is THE classic Kevin I know and love so much. Many funny things, yet so poignant and full of life’s truths. (I really appreciate the funny!) Thanks for delivering, Kev.

    Stacey, you read my blog??? THANKS! I should start making name signs for everyone who visits my blog and comments or something. Genevieve already got one. It was pretty bitchin’ if’n I do say so myself.

    Shoutout to all the WriMos out there. I’m on 70K now…and still not done. Tonight is a write-in at the local ‘bucks wherein I attempt to…write even more.

    Kev, the rewrite stuff kind of freaks me out. WriMo follow-up is going to be a real nasty beast to overcome!

  16. Christine

    Kevin, that glimpse into your novel’s conception, development, and eventual movie debut was inspiring. I love to hear about other writers’ struggles so that I can not feel so bad about myself as I stare at that damn blinking cursor. I just know that sucker is laughing at me sometimes.

    I’m currently in that scary place between novels. Got a few queries and contest entries out in the cosmos and now I’m trying to sketch out my next idea, but there are turkeys to cook, Christmas parties to host, presents to buy, cookies to mass produce, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to watch…

    Oh goodness…

  17. Erin

    What is it about revision that always makes us think it will take two weeks? I always have the same exact problem. I see the finish line and my brain tells me "two more weeks!!!" but it tells the part of me that does the writing "You’ve got another four months. Take your time!"

    I finally finished my editing (kind of ironically) two weeks ago. My (awesome!) writer’s group helped me through my query letter this weekend, and now I’m in synopsis hell.

    But the actual editing was done before Chinese Democracy (which I hope to get in my stocking this year) came out on Sunday. I can be proud.

    And to all you NaNoWriMo people out there, I envy your tenacity. I’m totally trying it next year.

  18. Stacey

    Hi, Kevin!

    It’s been a long while since I’ve commented. I’m going to miss your section in Writer’s Digest very much, by the way. It was always my favorite part.

    That’s a great story of how you wrote your novel! I have to say that I really don’t like Honey Bunches of Oats though. They’re too oatey and too honeyish for me. 🙂

    Well I should probably get back to my NaNoWriMo novel. Only 10k left! Tom, I’ve read on your blog that you have already made it to 50k! I’m jealous.

    I hope everyone has an awesome Thanksgiving!

  19. Olivia

    You could write a book about how you wrote your book, Kevin. You started out well, with real goals that were somewhat attainable, but then….it’s easy to let life get in the way.

    After reading that, I almost feel guilty for telling you that I finished my book in four months (one month longer than planned, actually), but like you said, everyone is different.

    Our reasons for writing our books are also just as varied. For instance, I sort of started mine out of spite, to prove that it would be better than the one my (not so)significant other had written as a teenager. Along the way, it helped me rekindle my passion for writing and I decided to make a career out of it, even though it meant giving up my wild nights to sit with my laptop living in other worlds inside my head with people that don’t really exist.

    I wouldn’t trade it for anything, though.

    It’s funny you mentioned the movie deal thing. It seems all of us who write novels (myself included) are thoroughly convinced that our work is worthy of being viewed on the big screen. Why is that?

    And for the record, I’m insanely jealous of the stocking stuffers you recieved year after year. So not fair, Kevin. So not fair.


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