I started writing Rules of Thumb in 1990. Back then I had grand plans. The project was ridiculously ambitious. There were too many characters and way too much going on. The more I wrote, the further away the end became. It was a mess.
Because I wasn't having any fun, I took several breaks along the way, some lasting a year or more. In 1995, I added a prologue. It was long and I enjoyed writing it. I didn't know then that it would be the only part of the Infinite Jest-length manuscript that I would keep.
Fast forward to the winter of 2013. The last thing I wanted to do was tinker with Rules of Thumb, so I sat at my computer and typed the words “Jesus Frog!,” an exclamation my family used when I was a child. Then I imagined a man being awakened by a horrible smell.
Immediately, my fingers got happy and for the next seven satisfying months, I tapped out a novel that I entitled Next Bridge.
Writing was fun again and the reason for that was clear: I wasn't forcing the narrative. I allowed the story to tell itself, and the characters to grow and change accordingly. If you've ever had this experience, you know that it is a beautiful thing. It feels like the book is writing itself.
In 2014, I gave Next Bridge to my agent, then I re-read the Rules Of Thumb prologue I'd written in '95. I started to develop the characters, most of which were peripheral in the longer manuscript, and a new unforced story started to tell itself.
As with Next Bridge, I was sad when the book ended. I wanted to spend more time with Matty and Chief and Zero et al, but the story had reached its logical conclusion.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing Rules of Thumb, and I sure hope that you'll enjoy reading it.