Why I Wrote Get Out of the Way
by Daniel Dinges
(Watch the Get out of the Way Trailer on You Tube)
Get Out of the Way has to do with the passage of time. At sixty-three, the idea of writing stories about the Vietnam era became more and more attractive to me.
My motivation to write also came from my personal experiences in public high school classrooms several years ago. It is amazing what educators have done to contort the history of the Vietnam War and Sixties culture, with much of its value and relevance relegated to a few dry paragraphs.
The students in these classrooms, however, showed intense interest in what actually went on in the “old days.” We had some great conversations, and giving them primary source insights was a delight. This work attempts to provide an accurate, and close up view of what it was like to be a young adult in the Sixties and early ‘70s.
Perhaps the most important and simplest reason I wrote my first historical novel was to entertain. This story informs, makes you laugh, and perhaps brings you to tears.
I started to write the book for the first time in 1991. I had been out of the army for over 20 years and was bursting to write down all those great memories. When I contacted people in the publishing industry, they gave me some bad news. Lots of other writers had the same idea, and for the most part the books were turning out to be unsuccessful.
No one was interested. The project was put on a shelf.
In 2006, after my experiences in teaching, I was determined to try again. The publishing industry had not changed its view of books about the still controversial conflict. This time I took the project more seriously. I read books on novel structure and character development. Online workshops were very useful. Regular attendance at a local writers circle was also a help.
One of the things I did was to attend a writers’ conference. It was a great experience that I believe this type of activity would benefit any would-be author. The Southeastern Writers Conference takes place every year on St. Simons Island, Georgia. The atmosphere is very “Georgia nice.” Even if you receive literary criticism, it takes you a couple of days to realize it.
Some Agents & Editors Conferences offer a one-on-one meeting with an established literary agent, and provide an opportunity to have a portion of your manuscript evaluated by someone in the publishing industry. I had gotten to a point where I felt it was time to decide whether to put the project away again or go for broke. This looked like the perfect time and place to make that decision.
My meeting with the literary agent never happened. The schedule was for, let us just call him “The Agent,” to give a presentation on Tuesday night, and then do meetings on Wednesday. There were not quite enough sessions to accommodate every writer in attendance, so I stood in line a couple of hours to make sure I got on the schedule.
On Tuesday night, he was almost an hour late for his presentation, something about the Dolphin Watch taking longer than expected. After rambling on for around 40 minutes on how influential an agent is, he finally got to something of value. “First let me tell you about the kind of projects I’m looking for,” he announced. What followed was a list presented in very general terms and included, at some level, almost anything you could think of. Then he got to the part about those projects that were definitely not of interest. The first item was the Vietnam War. I cancelled my meeting time.
I did meet with a publishing professional the next day. He said the same thing. The work showed promise from a writing perspective, but had no literary value. Fortunately, some of the other conference presenters offered solid encouragement and so I continued with the project.
Over time, the manuscript took its final shape. Several hundred literary agents turned it down. Eventually, Tate Publishing expressed an interest, and here it is. When you read my book, I hope you find it an enjoyable romp through a unique time.
Daniel Dinges lives in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Get Out of the Way is his first book. Visit the author here .
Dinges’ publisher has kindly agreed to give away a free copy of Get Out of the Way. If you’d like a copy, just post a comment as to why you think this would be a great addition to your library.