January 2011: It’s two months before my 40th birthday, and I decided to start writing. Not exactly out of the blue, and certainly not randomly, but it was definitely the first time that I sat down in front of the worn-down old family laptop and began to punch out a story that I really liked, and that I really thought was worth capturing.
I came up with the idea probably sometime around 1989, my senior year in high school. I had a most excellent set of best friends that loved role playing games… like the stuff that *used* to be called Dungeons and Dragons. We did not play the “official” games, though. We created an adapted version that dropped the books, the papers, and especially the dice in favor of pure imagination. I had been reading Tolkien and Eddings and Feist and Donaldson and Lewis since I was a kid, and had a particular love for The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, and it struck me that the stories that my friends and I were creating might one day make an excellent book of their own.
EXCEPT for the fact that almost every single idea we used was stolen from one already-published fantasy book series or another. There really wasn’t a lot of originality in the characters and the storylines… but the action and the drama were fantastic! But no… if there was ever going to be a book about these characters, I would have to do some major re-engineering of subject matter.
And so I found myself outlining a story that did exactly that during the summer of 2010. And by fall, I had completed a thousand entry timeline of a plot that was incredibly complex – but totally reasonable (in my own completely jaded opinion). The re-engineering was done, and to my shock, I really liked the overall idea that sat there in my Microsoft Excel spreadsheet timeline. Lots of characters… probably too many. Lots of words. Probably WAY too many. I had the makings of a multiple book series all planned out, mabe even several multiple book series. And so I had to make a decision.
To write or not to write? Would it be worth spending a lot of my spare time (of which there is little) writing a novel when a) it will likely never be published, b) I have never written anything of any consequence and it might not even be GOOD fantasy writing when finished, c) it might not even be as great a story overall as I feel like it is, and d) did I mention that I don’t even know if I am a good writer????
Two things swayed me toward my decision. First, was just how fitting it would be for my “mid-life” crisis activity at age 40 to be – writing a novel. Not a sports car. Not a motorcylce. Not skydiving. Writing. What a rebel. The second reason goes back to my love for all things Tolkien and Lewis. The plot I came up with was strongly grounded in some key Christian themes, and these themes added a deeper level of symbolism and meaning to the plot that really warmed my heart. There were Bible lessons buried in the sub-text; challenging, important lessons. I had no clue if I could deliver on the promises that the overall structure of the books was offering, but in the end I decided that I had to try.
June 2011: Six months, 19 chapters, 152 thousand words later, and I am about at the half-way point of “The First Proving”, the first book in the Tome of Greystone. My genius wife Jenny suggested that this might be a good time to begin blogging about the writing process, and so I have.
I am overwhelmed with questions at this point. Am I kidding myself writing something this long? I targeted the length, based on the action, characters, and twists in my timeline, to be about the same as a book by Brandon Sanderson (like The Way of Kings) or Robert Jordan (any of the Wheel of Time series). I had learned from Sanderson’s blog that these typically represented about 300 thousand words, typically yielding 900 to 1000 pages hardcover. And sure enough, I am on track to spit out a novel about that size with The First Proving. But then again… since I do not know if this will ever be published, what difference does it make if it’s too long? If some publisher takes interest and wants me to chop it down, then a-chopping I will go (within reason). For now, I will just write.
Another question: Am I crazy to try to write a book with so many characters? I basically have 8 core characters and 7 important supporting characters to track. That’s a lot. But I have seen it work within other omnibus-sized fantasy novels, so what the heck. Still, I think I might tone down the storylines of the supporting characters over time – For my own sanity.
Then of course there are all of the easy, common questions such as 1) is the writing any good, 2) what style to use for capturing action scenes and fights, 3) how to best monitor internal consistency across the countries and cities of the Land of Greystone, from politics to commerce to culture to industry to medicine to schooling to history to science, etc., 4) and, oh yeah, is the writing any good?
So there you have it. I can’t wait to see how all of this pans out over the next six months that I expect this first book will take (but just between you, me, and the fence post, I am targeting October. I think I can work faster now that I am over the initial work of setting up some of the characters and places).
More posts are to come, discussing progress overall and eventually discussing the book itself as early reviewers step forward to give it a read (hint, hint…).