Maybe I’ve been a bit introspective lately, but I think this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and I just wanted to share.
I’ve loved fantasy for almost as long as I can remember, that and science fiction. Growing up, I vaguely remember watching part of the cartoon version of The Hobbit when I was less than eight years old… before I even went to pre-school, I think. That didn’t translate into reading, though, not for quite some time. I remember reading some books here and there, but I didn’t really get into weightier books until, on a dare, I picked up Mariel of Redwall by Brian Jacques in second grade. I’ll be honest, I have no idea why a book that huge was in an elementary school library, but it was. That was the beginning of when I began reading, but I didn’t really consider writing, unlike a lot of people I’ve heard about.
By the time I reached high school, I’d retreated into myself, reading more books as I was somewhat ostracized by my peers. I read books more and more, to the point that one week I know I read close to 6,000 pages and neglected my schoolwork. Yet it was halfway through my freshman year of high school that things changed. Quite simply… the local library ran out of books to interest me, because I didn’t care about mysteries, suspense, romances, or anything like that. I only cared about science fiction and fantasy, and I was frustrated that I’d run out of the sort of writing that I enjoyed, and in particular with science fantasy. So I came to a simple solution.
I decided to write a book of my own. Despite having never before that written more than a two page book report.
That story was… poor, to put it politely. I recently opened the file, and it was only about 20,000 words, and the writing was truly cringe-worthy. There are a handful of ideas from it that I’ve decided to use since then, but the story as a whole is dead and buried. Still, I managed to write an impressive amount at that point. I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I’d kept going properly from there, but I didn’t. I lost my motivation, because that summer I found Dungeons & Dragons.
Most of my imagination that had been buried in novels turned to D&D at that point, and while I continued to attempt to write books, it was half-hearted at best. Most projects were abandoned maybe 10,000 words in, some less, some more. I’m not upset about it, mind you, because I feel that playing D&D helped give me a better idea of how plots worked out and how to make characters feel more real than anything else I’ve done, plus that’s how I met my wife, but I know for a fact it didn’t help me complete stories, because I spent a decade doing little more than playing at writing. I worked minor jobs for the most part, as a cashier, a bakery employee, and stocking shelves. I didn’t have any motivation to finish a story, not until a friend gave me a tiny push and I wrote the original first draft of Born a Queen. This was after the third (fourth?) attempt at Through the Fire, mind you.
I didn’t even look into publishing Born a Queen at the time, because I was certain it was crap. That’s fortunate, really, because I’m fairly certain the content was somewhat offensive. Anyway, I spent another year dawdling around, including writing about half of what I imagine Sisters of Radiance would’ve ended up being, but gave up halfway. However, since I’d left my previous job, I decided to give Nanowrimo a shot, and began plotting out what I was going to try to write. Instead, a bit over a week before November, I came home in a seething rage from a seasonal position and decided to write.
Contrary to some previous comments I’ve made, I realized that I didn’t decide to write Ancient Ruins at that moment. Looking at some file histories and timelines, I must’ve written a few paragraphs of the opening the day before, as the idea bounced around my head. I decided on the spot just to keep writing until November 1st and then to work on my proper project.
Never before or since have I been as productive as I was that month. In 30 days I wrote just over 97,000 words, the core of what became Ancient Ruins. Part of the reason I could do that was that I shamelessly stole aspects of every story I’d written before that point, taking many of my favored concepts and weaving them into a single story. If you sometimes wonder why the story is written with multiple interweaving storylines, that’s exactly what I did. I came up with multiple story threads and wove them together.
Ancient Ruins wasn’t written with the intention of publishing it. It wasn’t written for any reason save that Sistina insisted on her story to be told, and for the first time in my life I had the motivation to finish a story in the way I did. Publishing it… well, let’s just say that everything is surreal to me. Ancient Ruins exploded, growing far more popular than I conceived of happening. Sure, it wasn’t as amazing as so many other hits, but I’ve had other authors ask me how I did it. The simple answer is that I don’t know.
Now I make a decent living at writing, something I couldn’t have conceived of a few years ago. Sure, my more recent books haven’t been nearly as popular, but the nature of being an author is that you never know whether something will be successful or not until you release it.
More than anything else, though, publishing Ancient Ruins and the others gave me something I didn’t have before. Call it motivation, call it a sense of purpose… in the end, it’s what allows me to write a full book. I write because I’ve had evidence that my writing has those who enjoy it.
For those of you who dream of writing, I only have this to say. Just try. Push yourself, and write what you can. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll help you as well.