Unless you’re an editor, it’s not very often that someone drops a partially completed manuscript in your lap and expects you to finish it. This is a daunting task for anyone, but when the project represents the lifelong dream of a deceased loved one, there’s even more pressure. That’s the situation I found myself in last year when I offered to complete my father’s novel.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining. It was something I wanted to do. It was the least I could do for a man who had served a dual role as my mentor and best friend for most of my adult life. But I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
I spent more than six months researching, editing and writing new chapters for Scarecrow on the Marsh. Every paragraph reminded me that my father was gone. Every addition or alteration invoked profound feelings of guilt and self doubt. There were countless tears. There were bouts of anger and frustration. And though it’s something I would never want to go through again, I feel that I have grown as a writer and a person.
Basketball great Michael Jordan once said: “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. When you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.” In the case of Scarecrow on the Marsh, there was a great deal of climbing and circumnavigating before the final draft was complete.
DECIPHERING MY FATHER’S HAND-WRITEN NOTES
Thoughts don’t always flow smoothly from brain to page. My Father felt that his ideas were more lucid when he wrote them longhand. The manuscript he left me was entirely handwritten. The margins were crowded with tiny notes. In some cases, there were notes about the notes. The pages were filled with scribbles, cross-outs and insertions. Some of the pages had subtitles—Page 157a, Page 157b and so on. Though I’m sure it all made perfect sense to my Dad, I found it puzzling at times.
GETTING THE FACTS STRAIGHT
My father chose Cape Cod as a setting for his novel because he had been there many times and was intimately familiar with the place. I myself was not. For months, my desk was littered with street maps and travel brochures. I used Google Earth to examine the physical characteristics of various towns and beaches. Since a significant portion of the novel deals with terrorism, I had a lot to learn. I knew very little about the language, religious beliefs or customs of terrorists. I knew even less about how they go about blowing things up. I performed so many Google searches on the topic I actually became a little paranoid about drawing the attention of Homeland Security.
KEEPING MY FATHER’S STORY INTACT
Let’s face it—a rough draft is far from perfect. This was my Dad’s first book so he was still finding his way as a writer. I had never worked on a mystery novel before, but I had read plenty and it definitely helped. My father’s premise was solid. Unfortunately, there were elements of the story that didn’t quite work. I struggled to determine which passages needed to be omitted or rewritten. This was a grueling process that caused me immeasurable grief. At times, I felt as if I was betraying him. I wanted to keep his ideas intact. I wanted to make him proud. And though I managed to preserve every nuance of the story, the final product is drastically different from the original manuscript. I hope that’s okay with him.
CAPTURING THE INTEREST OF PUBLISHERS
Ask any writer and they will tell you that this is the most difficult part of the process. There are roughly 2 million books released every year. Most are self-published works that fail to sell more than fifty copies. I felt that my father’s work deserved a better fate. I could have published directly to Kindle, but I knew he would have preferred paperback over a digital format. There aren’t as many traditional publishers out there nowadays and, without a literary agent, most of the major publishing houses were closed to me. The submission process can be brutal. You wait months for a response and consider yourself lucky to even get a rejection letter. Due to the high volume of submissions, most publishers employ the “if you don’t hear from us in three to six months, we’re not interested” model. After shopping my father’s manuscript around to thirty different editors, I got a few bites. In the end, I opted for a Print-On-Demand format, which reduces publishing costs and allows authors a higher royalty rate.
For three decades, my father worked hard to raise money for the annual WGY Christmas Wish Campaign, which benefits a wide variety of causes in the Capital Region of New York State. I didn’t want to keep any of the profits from his book and figured that Christmas Wish would be an ideal fit. All author royalties will be donated to this year’s campaign. Won’t you please help me honor my father’s memory by picking up a copy of Scarecrow on the Marsh?
About the Author
For over thirty years, Don Weeks was among the most popular radio personalities in the Capital District region of New York State. He received a Marconi Award for radio excellence in 2005 and was inducted into to the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame four years later. He had just completed a rough draft of Scarecrow on the Marsh when he died of Merkle Cell Cancer in March of 2015. Author royalties from this project will be donated to the WGY Christmas Wish Campaign, which benefits a variety of charitable causes. Weeks worked tirelessly over the years to help raise money for the campaign.
Jonathan Weeks has published several books on the topic of baseball–four non-fiction projects and one novel. His latest work, a mystery-thriller entitled Scarecrow on the Marsh, is a posthumous collaboration with his father–former radio icon Don Weeks, who passed away in 2015. Weeks finished the book in fulfillment of a promise he made to his father before he died.
Visit Don at:
About the Book:
When the mutilated body of renowned cosmetic surgeon Randall Landry turns up at a secluded bayside marsh in the town of Sandwich, Police Chief Thom Burrough’s life is turned upside down. While investigating the murder, he and BarnstableCounty coroner Abby Rhodes will uncover a plot more sinister than anything they could have imagined. On the outskirts of Chatham, a group of terrorists has assembled to unleash destruction on Cape Cod.