I want(ed) to be a paperback writer

By: Joe Weaver - Contributing columnist

Once upon a time, I thought I was going to be a novelist. I imagine a few of you who read this column are thankful I am limited in my word count. Imagine what damage I could do with 800 pages instead of 800 words.

The desire to write first came to me when I was about 11. I had just watched a James Bond movie and was inspired to write my own James Bond adventure. I remember it was one page, probably just the front, of loose-leaf notebook paper. I can’t recall if it was college-ruled, but I know it was only one page. I don’t remember much of it other than 007 was being chased by a helicopter at one point. I managed to jam pack a lot of excitement in about four paragraphs. I guess the moment I gave that piece of notebook paper to someone to read, I became a writer.

A million years ago, when I was young, there were no computers and I wrote most of my work on notebook paper. I would have scores of notebooks around filled front to back with the beginnings of adventure novels. There were thrills and chills and outrageous events. There was gruesome violence and were huge action scenes that rivaled those in Hollywood. In those days, you could write about stuff like that as a kid and not be considered a danger to society. That said, I would push the limits of my pre-teen imagination to devise the most ingenious ways to do away with bad guys. Scores of Russian spies, Nazis, and others were conquered in my paragraphs.

The stories were thrilling.

The stories were fast-paced.

The stories were pretty awful, to be honest.

Filled with anachronisms and geographical mistakes, they were definitely not best-seller material, but my friends loved them. I would base characters on them and they would devour the stories. I became the Tom Clancy of the eighth grade.

I kept at it for years as I got older and would occasionally get an idea and write it down. I would write as much as I could before I lost interest. I lost interest a lot, however. Some projects would last a few pages, some would go for a few hundred. I had written an epic crime novel in a series of spiral notebooks, having left it at home when I went on a weekend vacation with a friend. My mother thought it would be a great time to clean my room while I was gone and threw out the middle chapters. My epic, 200-plus-page masterpiece was never to be finished. It really wasn’t a masterpiece, as I remember it, but it was back then. For the next few years, I tried re-writing it to no avail.

Over the last 30-odd years, I have tried multiple times to write the Great American Novel. I’ve written a chapter or two here and there. One time I actually wrote five whole chapters before I got bored and gave up. A friend suggested I write short stories. I am too verbose for short stories and I lose interest with long-form stuff. I needed something where I could start and finish pretty quickly and still get the point across.

My wife suggested I gather all the first chapters I have written throughout the years and put them into a compilation and entitle it “Chapter One” and submit it to publishers. I thought it was a great idea until I thought that someone would get really interested in one of the chapters and expect me to finish one of the books. Maybe someday I will write that adventure novel I have been carrying around in my head for almost 40 years.

Until then, I’ll keep writing the column for you. I’d probably still write the column if I became a big-time novelist. There is already a big-time novelist who lives in my town. I imagine there is room for both of us. If there isn’t, he’ll have to move.

Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.


Joe Weaver

Contributing columnist