When my wife and I got married, we did everything ourselves. Our vows, the decorations, the centerpieces, the playlist for any period of time when people weren’t dancing, the bar menu—all designed and executed by the bride and groom.
But we forgot one thing.
The favors for our wedding were packages of homemade chocolate-covered bacon. Constructing these packages was a multi-day, hours-long process—I cooked and packaged all the bacon that Wednesday and then melted the chocolate and coated and rolled the slices on Thursday. My wife bagged and tagged (I, of course, designed and cut the tags) once I was done and the chocolate had set. The rain that had been in the area all week cleared out on Friday and we were married on a fiercely sunny Saturday afternoon.
Part of the problem was that our outdoor reception in October didn’t come to as graceful of an end as we’d planned for. Once the sun went down, the wind picked up, as it tends to on Candlewood Lake, and it got really cold. Folks started to leave. One of the hotel shuttles came early to pick up those who were going back to the hotel.
And you know what else was cold? The two baskets of favors, cellophane-wrapped packages of homemade chocolate-covered bacon, sitting in the refrigerator inside the house.
We realized our mistake before some of the guests had left, but still, a good portion were gone by then, and we couldn’t believe it. We’d forgotten other things, too. At our wedding, there was no tossing of the bouquet (we still have it, though, which is a nice silver lining), no removing of the garter, no laughter at our musical choices for both events. With everything going on—the ceremony and the guests and the pictures—some things slipped our occupied minds.
But the chocolate-covered bacon. The idea, the execution, the response—it was a shame. I’m still upset about it.
We realized after that our mistake was not delegating someone to be in charge of the schedule, someone who would keep an eye on their watch and whisper in our ears five minutes before we were supposed to do this or do that. In our control freak high, we forgot that we couldn’t control the event while simultaneously being at the center of that event. Lord knows we tried; I left my own wedding reception to drive to the liquor store to deal with an unforeseen run on white wine that depleted our carefully-planned supplies.
When my first novel, Whitney, comes up, people ask me questions like how long did it take to write? and when did you finish it? and I’ve got no concrete recollection of any of it. I’ve addressed this topic before. When you write a book, you live inside of the sentences or maybe, if you’re lucky, the page you’re editing, and it’s one brick at a time for years, a process that eventually, hopefully, results in a finished house.
This time around, as I continue to work on my next book, “Lion in a Coma,” I’ve tried to do things differently. I’ve got writing habits, sure, but most of them were developed during a very different time in my life. This time around, I decided at the start to intentionally do everything the opposite, question every choice, every instinct, because what the hell do I know? I’ve written one book.
I’d be lying if I said this was a conscious choice throughout. But because of the regimented nature of my writing these days, it was fairly simple to go back and find some dates. I’ve completed two drafts of “Lion in a Coma.” Here’s how it happened:
- I started writing on 10/11/11.
- I finished Draft 1 (called “273.972” because that was the amount of words I wrote every day) on 9/20/12, ahead of schedule. Draft 1 was 100,025 words long.
- I organized Draft 1 into a more concise format on 10/8/12. It included the prologue I’d written before formally beginning the book. That brought the total to 102,545 words.
- I sent Draft 1 to my closest writing confidant to read and make notes on on 10/9/12.
- After a Halloween party and Hurricane Sandy, I got her notes back on 11/2/12.
- I began Draft 2 on 1/2/13.
- I decided on the title “Lion in a Coma” on 6/14/13.
- I began Draft 2.01 on 7/11/13. I switched from working in Scrivener to editing on paper. I love editing with a pen and while I was committed to using Scrivener’s features to keep the book organized, I knew it was in the best interest of the prose to work with paper. I started editing Draft 2.01 from the beginning again.
- I wrote a new beginning for the book on 7/11/13.
- I completed Draft 2.01 on 4/23/13. My estimate is that I added around another 5,000 words.
My next step is to begin Draft 3, which will involve getting all of my paper edits down into the digital manuscript in Scrivener, which will also involve reediting all of the new writing I did, and surely adding in some new writing as I go. I’m starting that process tomorrow, which is why I finally got around to finishing this essay. I’d like to have Draft 3 wrapped up by July 1st.
As I type that date, I’m hit with a twinge of doubt. The realistic goal would probably be the end of the summer. But that much time feels too airy and comfortable and it doesn’t inspire any dread that I’m already behind. I work best when I’m haunted by that feeling.
It’s a specter—the sensation that I’ve already run out of time—that I despise sometimes. Most times, even. When it closes in, it tends to kick me down a spiral staircase of depression, where I despair about this life choice and that life choice and I forget about all of my achievements and focus only on what I have not yet done.
And as much as I’d like to find a time and place when and where I no longer live with this, I secretly take comfort in my knowing that it’s there, keeping track for me of the time that has elapsed, standing, list in hand, ready to tap me on the shoulder and whisper a reminder in my ear about what’s slated to come next, about what I should be prepared to do.
My wife and I will never get a chance to learn from the mistakes made at our wedding; we don’t plan on having another. But to let those lessons fall by the wayside when they can so obviously be applied to my writing life?
I forgot the chocolate-covered bacon once before. I won’t do it again.