Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Monday, April 7, 2014

The First Draft is Finished: Now What?

 Rough Draft: Red-Winged Black Bird on a Joe Pye Weed

It was a long, cold winter and so a perfect one for a writer with a snug room, a good laptop, and no day job. Here is the first draft of my new novel, working title, Red-Winged Black Bird on a Joe Pye Weed. It is 294 pages, 74,500 words long in its present incarnation.

 Short plot summary: Set in rural New England in the 1950's and 60's, an abandoned boy and the nurse-midwife who raises him struggle to cope with the devastating legacy of war.

I finished it on April 2 and sent the file to my local printer. For $34 they printed in, punched holes in it, and put it in a loose leaf binder. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, I need to have some sort of hard-copy closure. I need to see it, feel it, heft it, flutter the pages, stare at it in wonderment because, when I finish a book, it always seems impossible that I could have done such a thing. The other reason to have it printed out is because I need to have it in a manageable form for my own use. I'll need to leaf through it during the re-write process, make notes on it, bludgeon it, maybe even throw it across the room once in a while. The other reason is to prove to my suspicious wife that I really have been doing something creative and constructive locked away in my dark room for so many months.

As for re-writing, I guess I'm lucky in that I enjoy it. So many writers don't. I'm going to give the book time to "cook" as Hemingway said; that is, let it sit for a while so I get some distance from it. After going over each page, each paragraph, each sentence so many times for so long, you get so you can't see what's really happening anymore. Time will allow the over-familiarity to fade so I can read it with "new" eyes. A couple of months ought to be sufficient, but waiting for the cooking process to finish is difficult. The urge to leap into in, to get going on it, is nearly overwhelming.

But, it's all perfect timing. Winter is over, spring is here, and I need to get out of this writer's cave and do other, spring-like things like take my boat out on the Chesapeake, or soak up the sun, or listen the tweeting birds who I've been supporting since last October with bag after bag of bird food. They owe me that much.

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