Now that I’m going to be posting more about my writing, I thought I’d start with a little history of how writing became such a part of my life and where I am now. Why do I write? What have I written?
I had always been an imaginative kid. Every toy had an expansive backstory, every game with my cousins became an epic play we’d act out—at my direction; I’ve apologized for being the Bossy One—playing in the giant sand pile in our grandmother’s backyard turned into being stranded on an island with pirates, playing a game of hide-and-seek became a hunt for an escaped prisoner. We battled aliens, fought wars, created worlds. The Mountain, as we called (in reality it was a glorified hill with trees and big rocks, so mountain, obvs) was our fortress.
Soon I turned our games into stories, ideas for not books, but movies—I seriously considered becoming a screenwriter or a director for the longest time, by the way. I would make plans to have my cousins and I to play the parts, made lists of props we’d need and drew ideas for sets to build, and costumes to make. None of that happened because…well, we didn’t have a camera. That’s kind of a key component to film-making. But what did happen were the plans, the writing. I’d write for hours, scribbling in notebooks or stealing time on my mother’s computer when she wasn’t working, just to write out scenes and ideas for stories. Most of these writings were synopses of what would happen in the movies we would make, long explanations and bits of terrible dialogue.
And then something happened. Something big. My mother, who admittedly made an error, let me watch Misery when I was about eleven.
Now a normal human would watch Misery and think “I never want to be a writer. What if a lunatic fan kidnapped me?” Well, I would never want to be kidnapped by a lunatic fan, obviously, but what got me was James Caan’s character. Eleven-year-old me wanted to be him—sans hobbling. The scene with him in a wheelchair, sitting by the window and writing on that typewriter for hours and hours and days and days, the pages flowing, Chapter 32…Chapter 33…Chapter 34…That’s what hooked me. I watched that scene and thought, “That’s what I want to do. No more movies. I’m writing books.”
A few years earlier, my grandfather had given my sister and I a typewriter that he never used. We liked to type messages on it, slipping them under doors and leaving them in pockets of coats in the closet, but eventually we became bored after a few weeks. We stuffed the typewriter in the closet and forgot about it. But after watching Misery, I dug it out and began my life as a writer.
I wrote one chapter of a story. It was about four siblings going on a great adventure. Then I realized that typing on a typewriter was hard and thinking of a good story was hard, so I quit.
But that wasn’t the last of my attempt at writing. Around that same time, I really started reading books and enjoying them, never having an interest in them before then. I became obsessed with Christopher Paolini’s Eragon in the 5th grade (and obsessed with dragons in general) but I didn’t finish it until the 8th grade because I was a slow reader and I had to keep checking it out of the library over and over, and then had to leave it there over the summer, so I restarted reading it a few years later. (To be honest, I was the perfect target audience for the Harry Potter series, but I wasn’t allowed to read them. I might make a post about that one day. I’ve read them now, though (all but the last book, I stopped mid-way through to read a new release and never went back to it, but plan to soon.))
In the 6th grade, maybe a year after my stint with the typewriter, we had an assignment to draw a picture of dragons, or a dragon, and write a short story to go along with it. This re-sparked my love for writing and it hasn’t stopped since then. I went from short story to short story, I wrote with friends—starting on a notebook we’d pass to each other in class (a long story with different POVs) and then moving it online to a message board just for our stories—up until just after high school, I planned big epic books like Eragon and drew maps and dragons, but I never really did much writing that was substantial, on my own.
In my sophomore year of high school, I started dealing with my depression and anxiety. There were a lot of causes, but for the most part, I felt completely alone because of it. I had friends, but had very few classes with them. Everyday, I felt terrified to go to school even though I knew it wasn’t rational to think that way. I closed myself off a lot. Most of my family and friends didn’t even know what I was going through. Most of the time I acted as if nothing was wrong, keeping it inside. (I’m a lot, a lot, better now. Even starting with my junior year, a big change happened. It started to get better and better, and now, almost 8 years later, I’m doing good with the occasional bad day. I still deal with anxiety, but it’s a thousand times better than it was just a few years ago and especially then.)
Anyway—it started to get better. But while I was in it, and ever since, I wrote. During that year, I wrote to keep myself occupied, to keep my mind off of what I was going through, what I was feeling. It was during that year that I started my first book. It started as a combination of two short stories I was working on (I used to use the same first names for characters a lot, and the two stories merged together because of it). I became obsessed with researching online “how to write a novel” “how to outline a novel” “how to get a book published.” These led me to finding other writers and authors who had websites, and were eventually on Twitter, and listening to them and agents and editors with helpful blogs helped me learn all about writing and publishing. I realized during this time that wanted to write for real—like for a real job, not just something to do in my spare time.
I started writing that book in the tenth grade, but because I’m me, I spent almost two years just planning and outlining the book and the entire series it would be the beginning of—and wrote a single chapter. In my senior year, I really started writing the book and finished just after I graduated in December of 2011.
I’m done! I can have it published now! Oh, young me. Yep, you guessed it: I wasn’t done. I read through it and cried. It wasn’t ready. It wasn’t even close.
So I started rewriting and planning and working it out and editing and hey, 2013, how’d you get here? Yes, a year went by and I still hadn’t finished. I kept burying myself in more and more editing and rewriting, eventually realizing that it wasn’t working. It spiraled out of control. That’s when I decided to take a break. Because ideas come when they want to, over all that time, I’d get distracted for a couple of days by a new story idea. I’d take those days, write everything about the idea down on paper or onto the computer, then I would let it go and get back to writing the Book. With that break, I decided to start one of those ideas I’d written down months earlier.
I had two ideas that I really loved and was excited to start writing: the first book took place in a secluded town in 1910s New England where the Salem Witch Trials never ended. A young girl there is found to have dangerous powers and accidentally kills 12 young boys, so she’s banished to a place off the coast called the Island where she finds a secret village of witches. I wrote the first draft, really loving it, and am still proud of that draft, even with its flaws—the story works, and even after rereading some of it, I’m still into it.
After that, I quickly moved on to another first draft of a different book I’d loved the idea of—and it’s the book I’m currently working on. It’s set in the future with cops and telepathy and an underground rebellion. I plan on writing a whole post about this one, so I won’t go into too much detail here.
That first draft was finished within two months. I went back to the Book and struggled until October 2015, just this passed fall. Not only did I struggle for time to work on it after starting a business and starting the fall semester, I struggled with the book itself. The Book is so close to my heart, the world and characters and story is right there with my soul. It’s a part of me. And it crushed me to realized that it just wasn’t working. Again, I’ll write a whole post on it eventually, but it heavily wore on me for the rest of 2015. But I’ve started this year with a new energy and I’ve been able to move on. I had to shelve it, even though it hurt. I knew it wasn’t working how I wanted it. It didn’t mean I’d given up on it forever, but I felt like I kept working on something that just wasn’t going anywhere. And I needed to move on with the promise to come back to it later, even if that was years down the road.
So I looked at the two drafts I had, Witch Book and Future Book. I weighed them for a while, figuring out which was the stronger story, which I wanted to work on more, and the one that I thought was most publishable, because that’s the end goal after all. Future Book won.
And that’s where I am now, knee-deep in the first draft of a book I wrote two years ago. But to be honest, it’s working. I feel it working. The story is stronger, the characters more alive in my head while I write, and the world growing as I type. It’s going to be quite a bit of work, but I have faith that it will come together.
That’s all for now! I plan to post something about writing at least once a month along with the regular design-related content and I’ll post again soon.
EDIT: January 23rd
I recently cleaned out my childhood closet and found that original drawing of the dragon from the 6th grade that I wrote a story about (his name was Jadon and he had an elemental affiliation with water because I was also going through an Avatar: the Last Airbender phase…which I am still going through) and the old typewriter from my grandfather (that I’ll now be using and displaying on a shelf, because I like it.)