An aspiring author discovers that writing a novel is hard work, even harder when his taskmaster mentor is his friend John Grisham.
Even with the best-selling Grisham’s encouragement, advice and painstaking edits, Vanderwarker couldn’t sell his novel. A former adman who moved to Virginia around the same time as Grisham and who shared with the novelist environmental activism and a love of sports, Vanderwarker had long wanted to channel his creativity into a book, though a bunch of unpublished manuscripts were the only results. At lunch one day, he received a surprising offer from his friend Grisham: “Look, I’d be willing to help you if you’d like. Kind of mentor you through the novel-writing process. Something I’ve never done before—not that plenty of people haven’t asked.” Grisham would later remark of the manuscript that the “dialogue doesn’t sound real.” Neither does it here, as Vanderwarker purports to remember paragraphs of conversation from a time that he wouldn’t have been taking notes. He ultimately found his mentor criticizing his characters, plotting, organization and pretty much everything else about a novel that is presented here in chunks of various drafts, with Grisham’s notes, and then revisions, with notes. “What happened to the vision of novel writing as a glorious act of creation with rays of light streaming down from on high and a string section playing in accompaniment?” he wonders. “It’s been replaced by the mundane piecework of tedious and time-consuming revision.” If nothing else, the book convinces readers that the prolific Grisham works methodically on his fiction, as the author’s experience confirms that it isn’t as easy to write a best-seller as some might think.
Not only did the collaboration result in this, the author’s first published book, but the same publisher has agreed to issue the novel that had been rejected, for which this how-to guide serves as an extended promotion.