From here to there, from there to here.
Posted by jrmurdock
When I was still in high school, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to tell stories and write books. Long ago I’d bought into the myth that selling a book meant instant fame and fortune.
So, I tried to write a book and failed miserably. I did, however, get on the path to telling this story about the first book I ever wrote.
Like many teens in the 80s, I played Dungeons and Dragons with friends. Many, many hours of Dungeons and Dragons. Also fantasy games like Ultima, Adventure, Wizardy, Bard’s Tale. But it was the characters from those lengthy D&D sessions that stuck in my head well past high school. I knew I had to tell stories about them.
Now, I’ll stop you from your eye rolling. Yes, I’ve long since heard the “Don’t tell stories about your D&D characters. I’ve heard that many, many times over the years.
In the Navy, I read many fantasy books and I thought, “Hey! I can do this!” The excitement overtook me and I set out to write, by hand, long form, in a notebook, the first stories about those characters. I would get 3 or 4 chapters in, re-read what I’d done, or someone else would read what I’d done, and it was terrible. I’d throw it out (I wish now, so many years later, I’d have kept it all).
I did this several times over my Naval career and failed every time I tried. I would give up and shake my head. I didn’t have a typewriter. That was my excuse. My hand writing is so bad that it’ll never be good enough to be a book. I had every excuse to stop and not continue.
The writing bug kept calling me back.
When I left the Navy, I still wanted to write those stories. I’d started collecting comics again and discovered Cerebus. I read every word in those comics cover to cover. Dave Sim was quite clear that he wanted to write 300 issues and end with the main character’s death and be done with it.
Wait a minute! That’s what I could do! I decided writing comics was easier than writing a novel. Why didn’t I describe each panel and put in the words that’d go with each panel? I loved comics, maybe that’s what was holding me back. I understood story structure, but I wasn’t good at telling the story.
Over the course of the next year, I would spend time writing, by hand, the first book as a comic. My plan was that each story arc would be 15 comics and I would later re-write it all as a novel. Over the course of 300 comics, that’d be 20 books in total. I plotted and planned each arc and wrote the first 15 comic arc.
Then I wrote the next 15 comic arc. Then the third. Then the fourth.
At the time, I hung out a lot at the local comic book store and met Pete Woods. Pete was a struggling artists and fantastic! He was submitting his art everywhere. I let him read my first pages and he nodded and said “Yeah, I could draw this. Looks interesting.”
I was stoked! I had an artist. I would just need to get money together to pay him and to produce a comic, indie style! It was the wild west with comics and indies were the thing.
Then Pete got a gig doing Warrior Nun Arela. Then he got picked up to work at Jim Lee’s studios. Pete and I hung out at the studio and I met many young artists, colorists, letterers, and a couple of the big names (never Jim Lee). Pete was on the fast track and we soon lost touch as our schedules no longer lined up.
I didn’t have an artist any longer. Drat!
Then I finished school, had my associate’s in Electrical Engineering, and went to work at Qualcomm. I put writing aside. I was there for a year and started at Pacific Bell.
I’m unsure why, but the writing bug hit me again while I was at PacBell. I had these comic scripts and knew I wanted to write them as novels. It was time to write a book.
Using the first 15 comic arc as a plot outline, I wrote book 1 over the course of a year. I agonized over that book and struggled to get it written. That first version was roughly 50,000 words when done. But it was done. I’d done it. It took me 15 years, but I’d finally finished book 1 in the Of Gnomes and Dwarves series. My epic fantasy novel had been written. Only 19 more to go and I’d have the entire collection done!
Yeah. The book was awful. Even though I had a computer to write on with a spell checker, I wasn’t well versed in sentence structure, grammar, and the flow of a story. I was excited at telling the tale, but it wasn’t a good book.
That didn’t deter me. I wrote the same book again. Then I spent the next 2 years editing, re-writing, and editing some more. I submitted that book anywhere I could, only to be rejected over and over again.
It took me a long time to finally put book 1 aside and look at the pages for book 2. I’d changed positions at work and was sent off for a week-long training. I took my laptop and decided, I’m going to write book 2. Let’s see how much of a start I can get into book 2 on this week long trip.
I left Sunday afternoon and checked into my hotel. I wrote all night long until around 10pm, which was my normal bedtime. I was up at 5:00 am, showered and ready by 5:30 am. Uh…I didn’t have to be to class until 10:00 am. So, I sat and wrote until the last minute I needed to be out the door. Packed up my laptop, and off to class I went.
We had an hour long lunch. Being frugal, I’d brought lunch. I had an hour to sit there and write. We had 15 minute breaks regularly. I’d write. We’d get done around 4:00 pm. I’d go eat dinner, go back to the room, call the Mrs, then spend all night writing.
Over the course of that week, I wrote book 2. It weighed in around 60,000 words. I couldn’t believe what I’d done. It was finished. It was, to this day, the fastest I’ve ever written anything. The closest I’ve come is writing 95,000 words in one month.
Of course, both book 1 and book 2 in that series were terrible. So was book 3 and the half of book 4 I’d written. It’s not garbage. I learned a LOT writing those book. They were all lacking.
I’d finished them, though. I learned that the best thing I could do was to finish a book, and move on to the next. By doing that, I became a better story teller.
This post is getting long. I ramble more about this in the video. Suffice to say, this is only the next stop in my writing journey. I’ll talk more about that journey tomorrow.
Until Next Time!