And then, she began to treat my short story as if it had actually taken place, as if it had been news. It reminded me of Joseph Geobbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, whose famous observation had been adopted by Islamic extremists. He concluded that when you tell a lie a thousand times you start believing that it actually happened. Geobbels’s conclusion was not limited to lies. It could apparently be expanded to include certain type of fiction—the type that people can relate to—a story that could potentially come to pass.
That sudden enlightenment was the spark that ignited and gave birth to the enterprise. I was going to take that piece and develop it into a whole book. But now, I needed more—much more. I spent the following week on an outline—not too detailed, but deeper than a PowerPoint chart. I began writing during the following week.
Now, the initial piece was no longer suitable. It was no longer a stand-alone; it was a first chapter or two within a larger universe. It had to be rewritten. Over time, as more pages started accumulating, I realized that my outline had become obsolete. It required a tune-up—or better! It required an overhaul, a new engine. The storyline deviated too far, away from my original thoughts. Characters and events began living their own life, and as I started to live inside their souls, I began breathing the same air, living inside their flesh. They were now real people, making up their own minds, controlling their own destiny. My outline had lost its sway.
Still, the fact that it was still there, watching the story from the periphery, served well when the story became stuck. Yes. I did hit the wall, felt like drowning a couple of times, waited for the lifeguard to come for the rescue, and when he didn’t show up, I glanced at the outline again. It did help to set off a breakthrough even when I did not follow it to the word.
I completed the first draft in one year, but the rewrites, the revisions, the editing, and the following rewrites took another year. The final product turned very different from the initial draft. It is a much improved, very polished piece of work. Although I had written and published a highly regarded technical non-fiction book before, 72 Virgins is my first novel. My next novel, a sequel, will probably take a single year from start to finish. The main characters starring in it are still alive—no need to start developing them from scratch, the story is already in my head, and the experience I have gained through the writing of 72 Virgins will, no doubt, be a great asset that will come to the rescue whenever the next mental paralysis makes an attempt to re-emerge.