the unexpected draft

Today ought to be one for celebration, except I feel as though I’ve been run over by a truck. Massive, massive headache, nausea, compromised balance. Bleargh. Also I’m too broke to buy Champagne. Maybe when the income-tax refund appears in my bank account.

Around 7:30 (EDT) this morning I wrote the last line of the first draft of The Unexpected Thing. Though tempted, I did not append Fin: it’s not a work suited to that variety of preciosity.

It is, not unexpectedly, enormous. 144,000 words. Set up in fairly standard MS format (12-point type, double spaced, one-inch margins all around) in the typeface I prefer to work with (clean, artful, eccentric but highly legible on screen, and doesn’t make my eyes bleed): 423 pages, exluding title page, divided into sixty-two numbered chapters, themselves parceled out—somewhat unevenly—among thirteen titled parts.

But few computers will have Bouwsma Text installed, so when I start sending The Unexpected Thing around to beta readers I’ll have to reset the MS in old standby Times New Roman (a face I find far less readable than everybody likes to claim, and ugly besides, but which has the advantage of closely approximating, in standard MS format, the page count of a typeset book). In 12-point TNR: 477 pages.

But book editors, nostalgic for the days of typewritten MSs on paper, are said to prefer 12-point monospaced Courier (which does make my eyes bleed): an eyebrow-raising 643 pages.

There will be cuts! A lot of them. Ideally, from a marketing standpoint, I’d get the thing down to 100,000 words or shorter. I have some doubts about that—we’ll see what early readers say. The first order of business, however, is to find loose ends and either pull them out completely or stitch them up properly; reconcile inconsistencies; split up at least two chapters that got rather out of hand into more manageable pieces. Symbolic target date for a second draft fit to be shared: 8 May 2011, the narrator’s eighteenth birthday.

Would you like to be among the few, the proud, the beta readers? Drop me a line or leave a comment, and accept my thanks in advance.


But what’s it about, AX, you ask, what’s it about?

If I could tell you in five hundred words I wouldn’t have bothered with the other 143,500. Ha. Ha.

In all sobriety, the arts of the synopsis and the elevator pitch I have never mastered. Beta readers will be begged, please, to help.

The Unexpected Thing is about:

  • two lovely young men who fall in love;
  • their friends and families;
  • the entirely imaginary fifth-smallest sovereign European nation, an island in the Adriatic off the coasts of Montenegro and Albania;
  • the uneasy transition from rule by a divinely appointed aristocratic caste to some form of parliamentary democracy;
  • incursions by gods and other powers into the twenty-first and earlier centuries;
  • discovering yourself to be, unsuspected, a wizard with vast capabilities;
  • being beaten half to death by, first, a god and, second, your own dad and big brother;
  • friendship and enmity and reconciliation, discovery and loss, people and dogs, life and death and, yes, love;
  • Nate and Rusty’s summer vacation.

In other words, just about everything that matters. Except cats! I left out the cats! Jane and Charlotte are incensed* but me, I’m really pretty pleased with it.

* “That dog died almost a decade ago,” they grumble. “It was tragic at the time but get over it.”


Table of Contents

I Turn Sixteen

I Finish out the School Year, Maybe Fall in Love

My Boyfriend and I Have a Day for Ourselves

My Uncles and I Leave the Country, Reach the Island

I Have Impressions of the Town, Make Friends, Maybe an Enemy

I Am Not Myself

We Learn of Deaths in Far Places

We Retreat to the Sunset Villa

Terrible Events in the Commonwealth

I Am, We Are Addressed by Gods

Terrible Events in the Serene Principality

I Am Rescued, Comforted

We Are Happy Boys, All Things Considered

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