You are viewing the opening pages of my original manuscript for The Clan of the Cave Bear. I have a fondness for this document, now more than 30 years old.
The original manuscript of CLAN that was sent in was more than 850 manuscript pages long, something more than 200,000 words typed on 20-weight bond paper, because that’s what the books about submitting a manuscript said that writings should use if they wanted to be seen as professional. It also included a bibliography of research books I used, and a synopsis of the rest of the books in the series, because I knew before I finished the first that there would be six books.
The reason I knew it was that after I finished reading the first 50 or so books I brought home from the library, I sat down at my typewriter and began to tell a story that was growing in my mind, to myself. I became totally obsessed, and didn’t want to do anything else. At the time, I was calling the story Earth’s Children. I had quit my job, had acquired my degree, and my children were nearly grown. I didn’t have many other demands on my time, so I was putting in about 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, sometimes doing more research, but mostly writing. Before I was through, less than a year later, it had become a 450,000 word monster, in six parts.
And then I read it. It was terrible. All the heart and excitement and love, I thought I had put into it wasn’t there. I realized that I didn’t know how to write. I knew how to put one word after another and make a sentence, but I didn’t know how to write fiction. What was I going to do with this monster?
What I did was go back to the library and get books on how to write, especially how to write fiction. I thought about taking classes, but I had been taking classes for fifteen years or so and I knew that would mean going to school two or three nights a week, for a couple of hours a night and writing what some teach wanted me to write. I didn’t have time for that. I wanted to get back to the book I had written and make it right.
After about six weeks of intense study, I went back to the book and began to re-write. I now had an idea of what I needed to do, but the problem was that as I was putting in the dialogue and the descriptions that were necessary to make the story come alive, the story was growing. I wasn’t editing down, I was adding. By the time I was about half way through the first part, I had another 100,000 words. That’s when I knoew I didn’t have one book in six parts, I had one sprawling series in six books. I rewrote the first book in the Earth’s Children series, THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR four times, retyping the entire story each time. Some parts I rewrote 50 times, all on a typewriter. But I also wrote that first 450,000 word draft on a typewriter, which became the outline for the series, and often typed up my research notes. After CLAN I wrote THE VALLEY OF HORSES on a typewriter, in much the same way.
I used a Smith-Corona electric typewriter; actually I used two of them. My first machine kept “eating up belts” leaving crumbs of chewed up rubber on the bottom of the machine. I would have to go to the typewriter shop to get the machine fixed the next day, which meant I would lose a day of work, which for me was more like a night of work. I have always worked at nightI often see the sun come up and then go to bed. In fact, when the typewriter broke down, I often lost two and sometimes three nights of work, so I bought a second machine identical to the first except for the color, with an identical typeface. That way, when one machine broke down, I could just switch to the other.
I transferred from a typewriter to a computer when I began to write THE MAMMOTH HUNTERS. My first computer was a Compucorp 685, an office-type, dedicated word processor, with programs built-in to the Winchester hard disc, with a Diablo printer.
And now its thirty years later, and I’m finally finished.