J. W. Judge

I’ve committed to finishing the manuscript of my first novel this year, which is far more challenging than expected. Having now written three non-fiction books, I had thought that written a novel would come easier. I was mistaken.

Nevertheless, I’m now 25,000 words in and in Story Grid terminology, I’ve finished the beginning hook. This feels like an accomplishment on its own … at least until I realize there’s another three-quarters or so of the novel to write.

I've Finished the Beginning Hook of My Novel

Journey through the Beginning Hook

But what I’ve found is that not only is writing this novel difficult because it’s a difficult thing to do generally, but specifically, this novel is difficult for me to write. Here’s the premise that I wrote down in my moleskine notebook when I was first struck with the idea in August 2019:

Child sick with terminal illness. Dad is a lawyer who loses his job due to time missed from work. Loses health insurance. Can’t pay hospital bills. Desperate. Plans bank robbery. Sees former partner at a gas station. Shoots him and is killed.

Some of that has evolved since the initial idea was born. But what hasn’t changed is that it’s about a father whose child has a potentially terminal illness. Being the father of two small children, I have this (irrational) fear that I’m writing something into existence for my family.

I was originally working with the title, A Sick Kid, but I never loved it. I stopped working on it for a while, and the project began to languish. It nagged at me that I wasn’t working on it, but between work and my non-fiction projects, I wasn’t prioritizing it (which is a cycle that has continued).

Then after Kobe Bryant’s death, a text message that he had sent to a baseball player became public and inspired a new title and renewed my energy from the project.

By all means, Feel sorry for yourself. By all means make excuses. By all means feel discouraged. By all means don’t play like this game is the most important thing to you. By all means entertain yourself with other sh*t because the game of baseball will be here forever and you will have infinite opportunities to play this game. You will [have] infinite opportunities to put on your gear, feel the glove, the ball, etc. The game of baseball will wait for you. Life will wait for you.

It’s not as life can be taken away from you at any moment. Nooo that would be crazy, that would be cruel. Right? So, by all means, play the game as if [you] will have all the swings you can dream of and when the day comes when you realize baseball, that life doesn’t work that way, you will understand that the best [way] to play is by ANY MEANS necessary. By any means. No excuses. No waiting. F*ck patience. F*ck injuries and f*ck THEM. PLAY as if every at bat may be ur last because it very f*cking well could be. So let’s make every single f*cking one count. Lets go get these f*ckers!

The title became By All Means. A logline followed on its heels: “What wouldn’t a man do for his family?” And since then, I’ve had a much better vision for the book. I’ve rough plotted the rest of it. And now it’s just a matter of taking the time to write the thing … which, you know, isn’t a foregone conclusion.