On Writing The Great American Novel

We all have a story inside us waiting to be written even if it’s not the Great American Novel. Image: Advance Capital Management

Creative thoughts danced joyfully into my head, exiting through my inspired, fast typing fingers and onto the anticipating page.

Summertime is here.

Since it is, I sit here at the computer in air conditioned comfort and work on a Great American Novel, which I always refer to as GAN.

Sounds more important when I do.

Not the first time I have set off in pursuit of a GAN.

My first attempt was years ago when I adjourned to a mountain cabin with the goal of producing a GAN during a long break from my newspaper job.

The newspaper job where I, like other wordsmiths, earned a low, four-figure income.

I set up a table on the cabin’s front porch, hooked up an electric typewriter (this dates my attempt and shows you it was technologically eons ago) and began to pound out my GAN there at a little mountain cabin with the soothing, flowing river in front of it.

Writer’s paradise.

Morning temps in the 30s and 40s.

Afternoon temps in the 60s.

Wordsmith’s nirvana.

Roger Summers

I put the typewritten pages in a metal cake pan, which I kept beside me.

There in the quietude, the creative thoughts danced joyfully into my head, exiting through my inspired, fast typing fingers and onto the anticipating page.

Write on.

Write on.

Be mine, GAN.

Readers await.

Fame awaits.

Money awaits.

More importantly, the bill collector and the tax collector await.

Typed day after day after day..

The pages piled up in the metal pan.



GAN was being born.

Page one. Page two. Page three. Page . . .

Chapter one. Chapter two. Chapter . . .

I was in the creative moment – and that was years before people started overworking the phrase of being “in the moment.”

More days came and went.

More pages in the metal cake pan.


Soon GAN would be born.

Start imagining the eye-catching cover.

Ready for the world.

Literary agents would be knock, knock, knocking on my cabin door, making a nuisance of themselves.

The summer went by.

Life was good there on that porch beside the little flowing river in the cool, invigorating, encouraging mountain air.

One afternoon a mountain shower moved in over the little cabin by the flowing river.

I was not too mindful of it, since such showers often came in the afternoon.

Kept pounding the electric typewriter.

Pound, pound, pound, p . . .

Had to finish filling the metal cake pan.

Summer soon would turn to autumn and I had to complete GAN and head back to civilization, where other assignments called.


A bolt of lightning struck inches away from my electric typewriter and my GAN-filling metal cake pan.

Fire sparked, spit high, high into the mountain sky.

Then, in a nanosecond, it sizzled, streaked unencumbered down its own bolt, aiming, burning directly toward the cake pan and then the porch floor.

And me.

With a vengeance.

The pan rattled.

The cabin shook.

The cabin porch floor vibrated violently.

In unison, they – the pan, the cabin, the porch floor — collectively screamed for help, for rescue.

Had the lightning hit me, maybe the insurance company wouldn’t have paid off, claiming it was an Act of God, thus it had no liability.

No recovery from say, the sale of a million copies at $19.95 each.

I froze.

When I finally recovered, I sat there, laughing.

What if that bolt of lightning had hit a bullseye — namely, me — and my electric typewriter and my GAN-filled pan?

It would have fried the lot of us – me, my typewriter and my GAN in the pan.

Fried us all.

Cremated us all.

Ashes to ashes.

Later, The Bride would say that maybe God never intended for me to write the Great American Novel there at the cabin in the mountains.

She said maybe that’s why He – on second thought, I think The Bride said “She” — sent the bolt of lightning.

Shot it over the bow, my brow, so to speak.

Great American Novels, she pointed out, often are not written in America but rather in places such as France, Spain and England. Of course, she had voted for going to England that summer, not the mountains. But it was my turn to decide.

Our next attempt by the way, did take place in England.

In any event, in the bolt of lightning aftermath had anyone happened across us there at the cabin they probably would have just tossed the ashes into the little flowing river that ran by the cabin in the mountains, watched them drift away and been done with it.

And the world of the written word would never have known about our Great American Novel.

The world of the written word would have gone on, sans GAN.

Which, come to think of it, is sorta the way it turned out anyhow.

Please click HERE to find Heart Songs from a Washboard Road, a collection of wonderful short stories by Roger Summers on Amazon.

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