Novelist Eric D. Goodman calls his book “a novel in stories.” Tracks is set on a train traveling from Baltimore to Chicago. Each story is told from the perspective of a passenger on the train. They are the strangers we meet every day: a soldier, a salesman, a former mobster, a Holocaust survivor, couples in love, a woman who has lost her parents, a poet, a hit man. The stories in Tracks stand alone, but they become stronger when linked together. Tracks is all about how people—even strangers on a train—can touch one another in meaningful ways.
Eric began writing Tracks five years ago, during NaNoWriMo. He wrote about 60,000 words that year, then went on to add and subtract stories, rewrite and revise, until he had a final draft ready to take to publishers. “The nice thing about NaNoWriMo,” Eric says, “is that you’re forced to write even when you’re not sure you have it all figured out. And for a first draft, that’s good. Tracks is a different, and better, book than that original draft. But the original draft helped make it possible.”
As much as Eric wanted to have a published book, he decided against self-publishing. “I felt like in order to ‘make it,’ I needed the validation of an independent literary agent and publisher,” he explains. Although he believed in his novel, he thought it would be difficult to attract readers without the support of an agent and publisher. “I probably would have been published years ago if I’d gone the self-publishing route. But I’m glad I held out and finally secured a literary agent and book deal,” he says.
Eric had submitted other manuscripts to publishers before, so he knew how difficult it would be to find a publisher. He wrote lots of query letters to agents over the years until he finally found one who fell in love with Tracks. He signed with DSM Agency in New York City, and they began pitching Tracks to publishers. Eventually, Atticus Books made an offer, and a year later, they published Tracks.
Although he hasn’t hit any bestseller lists yet, sales have been good. But even more satisfying has been the reaction from reviewers, other writers, and most importantly, his readers. “I was overwhelmed to get endorsements from such great writers as Madison Smartt Bell, Thomas Steinbeck, Victoria Patterson, Jessica Anya Blau, Bathsheba Monk, and Yona Zeldis McDonough,” Eric relates. “And good reviews in literary journals and from book bloggers are fulfilling. It also feels wonderful every time I get an email or note or comment from someone telling me how much they enjoyed the book, or talking emotionally about a character from Tracks. Touching readers enough to prompt them to reach out…that’s one of the great joys of writing fiction.”
Lessons You Can Learn from Eric’s Success
Understand the importance of starting small. As he published more of his short stories in literary journals, Eric slowly began gaining ground and legitimacy when submitting book-length manuscripts. He believes he may have published a book sooner if he’d focused more on short fiction earlier in his career.
Reading other writers improves your own writing. “Read as much as you can within your own genre. Read the authors you love,” Eric recommends. “And branch out to read some things you might not ordinarily read, just to get the pulse of what is selling and what agents and publishers (and readers) are looking for.”
Don’t put off writing until your idea is perfect. “The first draft is spillage, or brain-dump. That’s the clay you’ll mold into something beautiful later.”
Which brings us back to why movements like NaNoWriMo are so effective! Don’t worry about being perfect as you push on towards your goal of writing 50,000 words. Just keep writing to get your words and thoughts on paper. Reach this goal, and with a little hard work in the editing and revising department, you could be the next NaNoWriMo author who ends up with a published book.
Be sure to check out the book, Tracks: A Novel in Stories, by Eric D. Goodman, published by Atticus Books. To learn more, please visit the Tracks website: www.TracksNovel.com.