Today I came across an essay I wrote earlier this school year about my writing journey. At this point it’s slightly outdated, but only slightly, and it’s a good summary of my writing and how it has grown and all that good stuff. I think it’s a pretty good essay, and fairly enjoyable as essays go, so I decided I’d share it with you guys. It’s from last November.
My Writing Life Essay
My want to write began with reading. I have always been an avid reader, and my reading has heavily influenced my writing, as well as the other way around. At this point I have divided my writing into different eras. The “totally crashed and burned era,” the “this could use a lot of work era,” the “this has a lot of potential but needs to be improved era,” and the current era which is “this is probably better than it seems like to me.” So this essay will be divided into those categories.
The basic focus of this essay is to show how my writing has progressed over the years. I didn’t become a good writer overnight. For “show, don’t tell” purposes, I’ll also have an excerpt or two at the end of each category.
The “Totally Crashed and Burned” Era
My first reading phase was mystery, so that’s what I started writing. I think I was about six when I wrote my first mystery. It was a disaster. It so totally crashed and burned that I later threw it away, and now I wish I had not. I had no concept of originality back then. I did not create new characters, I did not create new settings, nothing. It was all “borrowed.” Maybe it is good that I got rid of it, after all.
Later on I wrote a play, which I performed in my church talent show. This was also a disaster, though not quite as horrible as my mystery story. I was about eight at the time, I think.
I did create new characters for that one. Ruby, Rose, Lily, and Lilac, I think were the main character’s names. Lily and Lilac were sisters, as were Ruby and Rose. But the villains were Baron Raymondo, “borrowed” from Sid Meier’s Pirates, and Captain Hook, obviously “borrowed” from Neverland. Except that I made them brothers. I really liked the idea of siblings in that play.
The play was interesting to put on. I got several girls from the church to be in it, as well as Sophia and Dad, and at one point we forgot our lines. The crowd laughed, I think. If I remember correctly, we did eventually remember what we were supposed to say.
It was a lot of fun, even if the story was not that great.
Next came the notebooks, and the terrible, awful, no good, horrifyingly bad, laughable short stories.
My first notebook, I believe, was blue with colorful flowers on it, and it is chock full of terrible. The Snow-Globe Boy is the first entry in there, and the title is only a taste of the laughable horror within. I think I was about seven when I wrote this. It’s about a boy who gets stuck in a snow globe by his evil stepmother. Hmm. That doesn’t sound cliché at all!
And on top of that, I “borrowed” characters again. I was apparently still in love with the Boxcar Children.
After that we have the Taravina Trilogy: The Quest for Taravina, A Princess for Taravina, and A New King for Taravina.
Yep. They are just as cheesy as you would imagine. Apparently I had entered my fantasy reading phase. Two things show this. Number one: It’s a fantasy genre story. Number two: It was heavily inspired by the Kingdom of Landover series by Terry Brooks.
At this point I am considering rewriting them, or at least the first one, and seeing how they are improved or changed or whatever. Being the write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer that I am, there is no telling how different it will be when it is finished.
There are a couple of other stories in there, but I will not bore you by telling you every single story I have written. I will just pull out the highlights.
The next notebook, I believe, is the black composition book. This one came into being after my aunt published her book Prompts and I started working through it. This, on retrospect, is a rather peculiar way to use the book.
Probably the cheesiest piece in this book is The Quest for Topazia. Yes, it is as stupid as it sounds. It follows a brother and sister as they find two aunts they never knew existed and go on a journey to save said aunts’ homeland. I told you it was stupidly cheesy.
One that’s not quite so terrible, mostly boring, and takes up probably the largest chunk of the notebook, is The Duke’s Daughters. I still had a peculiar fascination with associating names with colors. The main character has eight sisters: Violet, Grace, Lila, Abigail, Emma, Iris, Bella, and Daisy; and her name is Willow. The first three like purple, the next two like brown, the two after them like pink, Daisy likes yellow, and Willow likes green. All based on their names.
The story focuses on Willow finding her great-great-great-great-grandmother’s old ballet shoes and starting ballet lessons. Now, writing something like that would bore me to tears.
And in this notebook, you can watch my handwriting improve over two pages. On one, my handwriting is huge and my descenders do not descend. On the next, it is much smaller and my descenders are written as they are meant to be. It is wild to see. And then on the next page, it has grown larger again. Excitement, perhaps?
Ah, the Zarwald. It is perhaps one of the most prominent of my stories in my mind. The whole thing began with one starting paragraph.
“Out of the shadows came two glowing red eyes. I could feel the evilness of the air, hear the venom dripping from the creature’s fangs onto the cold stone floor. I could smell the slimy foulness of its skin.”
It is still possibly one of my most descriptive paragraphs. I wrote it when I was about eight, I believe, and I cannot remember where the inspiration came from. I wish I could.
Part of that story was heavily influenced by the transporter books of Myst. Video games have actually been a rather large part of my inspiration for my books, Myst and Legend of Zelda being chief of those.
As evidence of my terrible writing skills back then, here is an excerpt of dialogue from The Snow-Globe Boy.
“Hi Henry,” she said, “You have grown a lot!”
“Thank you. Could you please set me free?”
And just a line of narration.
Suddenly, the inhabitants were all set free and enlarged again.
I mean, it was really crappy writing.
Talk of video game inspiration brings us to our next notebook, the white doodly one. This notebook is in my top five favorites. Why? Because this is where The Half-Elves began. Do you remember how I said that the Zarwald was possibly one of the most prominent of my stories? Well The Half-Elves takes the title of absolute most prominent. In my mind, there is sort of a hierarchy of distinction that my stories are placed upon, and The Half-Elves is on the top of that hierarchy.
The Half-Elves was begun perhaps seven years ago. I finished the first draft three years ago. This story has been five years in the making, and never once have I gone back and started the whole thing over. At least not for more than a few pages. If I were to rewrite The Half-Elves completely, it would no longer be The Half-Elves.
This story was inspired by the Legend of Zelda games. In fact, it was originally a fan fiction starring Link and Zelda’s children. However, I have since removed it from any association with that and it is now in its own world of The Hylands.
The Hylands have become perhaps like a second home to me. The characters are like family. The series has one second draft – my only second draft – as well as three first drafts and plans for eight more. It is so hard for me to let the series go, because it is so a part of me at this point. I would feel like I was abandoning the characters if I let it go. Perhaps that is odd.
The Half-Elves is the only story in which I ever worried for a character, and that was when Crimson Arun nearly died. Never have I felt so attached to characters or to a series as I have with The Half-Elves, except perhaps with the characters of the Shades and the Elect.
In fact, at this very moment, as well as for the past couple of days, I have had this odd urge to write the third draft of The Half-Elves. I hate editing, yet I really want to edit this story, because I want it to be polished. I want it to be ready to be shared with others, because I want them to love it as much as I do. For now I’ll just settle for giving you a little taste of it with an excerpt.
“A clever display, wasn’t it?” He asked, though it was more of a brag than a question.
“A bit showy for my taste.” Elk responded, not moving.
“Please, have a seat, make yourself comfortable. We want you healthy so that you can go save them.”
“You want me healthy? Why not just kill me?”
“Oh, what’s the fun of that?”
“I don’t know. You could throw me in an arena with lions first and watch the fight.”
“That’s actually a good idea, I might do that.” Homare hesitated, “No, King Julius wants you in perfect condition when you see him in the Temple of Time tomorrow.”
I love it when my characters banter. Especially protagonists and antagonists.
I feel like this whole section has perhaps come across a little odd, but I’ve always been a little odd, so that’s no surprise. But in case you’re tired of my weirdness, let’s move on.
The “This Could Use a Lot of Work” Era
We’re still in the white doodly notebook, but past the sixteen pages of Half-Elves. We’ve now reached The Adventures of Ferara Willoughby.
This one stemmed from a dream, I remember, and it was a rather intriguing dream regarding a Christmas tree and a few staffs. Translated into a story, it became three college students and three staffs, each one with a different power, and all three together resulting in a portal to another world.
It could use some work, particularly in deciding on a good other world to use as a destination. The original idea was Camelot, but I know so little about Camelot that it would be a terrible choice. I have plenty of my own worlds to choose from, but that is kind of the problem.
If I were to finally decide on a destination, it could definitely be interesting.
In the yellow wire-bound notebook – which was originally begun thanks to a history project of writing historical fiction set in the Civil War – we have very little that is worthwhile. But we do have one story, and that is The Storm Slayer.
Another one that could be really interesting with some work, this one focuses on a woman who can protect people from storms and kills the storm hounds that accompany each storm. It is a rather interesting system, but I have no idea where to take the story yet.
Dark clouds rolled across the sky, obscuring any trace of light.
“I think it’s going to storm.” Jilliana warned.
“There’s only a fifty percent chance of rain.” Her friend, Sabrina, objected. A chilling wind swept across the forest, scaring Sabrina.
“We’d better find shelter.” Jilliana struggled to be heard over a roll of thunder.
A bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree accompanied by a thunderclap that could be heard for miles. In the flash of light, Jilliana spotted a cave with an opening big enough for a person to fit through.
“There.” She pointed.
They rushed into the cave just as a torrent of rain started pouring down.
The “This Has a Lot of Potential but Needs to be Improved” Era
Most of the stories of this era are on my computer, and many have been moved to my “Archives” folder. This means I’ve shelved them for the time being and thus may never look at them again.
Most of the stories from this era are set in Concordia, probably my second favorite country, which really just means I was too lazy at the time I wrote them to actually come up with a setting to put them in or to pull out a map of an existing country of mine and follow it.
We have, for instance, The Uprisers. This one focuses on a group of kids who were chosen to join a school for those who protect Concordia using tech. This one is on the border between “this has a lot of potential” and “this needs a lot of work” eras, but I’m going to put it here.
A better story for this category would be Dragon of Chaos. It focuses on dragon riders who are plagued by a Chaos that throws the entire dragon rider community into disorder. I won’t give away the whole plot, obviously. It began as The Dragon Riders – how creative – and then I decided to rewrite it and came up with the new title, which I was super excited about because titles never come to me. There have been only four titles that have merely come to me that I liked, and three belong to a trilogy, which we’ll talk about later.
The characters in The Dragon Riders were cardboard, but when I started writing Dragon of Chaos, they came to life better. The chatterbox, for instance, was actually a chatterbox instead of someone who is just kind of there in the background and does nothing. But my action writing just flew out the window on that one, which isn’t good when you’re dealing with dragons and riders struck by chaos.
The same could be said of Outlaws of Thesbia. It really focuses more on the politicians of a particular province than on the outlaws, because the politicians are more interesting than the outlaws. This both annoys me and kind of scares me. It annoys me because the outlaws are supposed to be the focus, and it scares me because I don’t want to write a book about politics. I want to write a book about an adventure. So the whole thing is just a mess. However, the book does have a lot of potential if I can just get past those roadblocks.
It was a rainy day when Licilla and her father went to Teardale. He was a merchant from Cythera, and after years of her asking, he finally let her come along on one of his trips. When the merchants lowered the gangplank and stepped down onto the cracked boards of the dock, Licilla went with them. The boards felt slimy beneath the thin leather soles of her boots.
As soon as she saw the people of the city, her heart broke. The first woman she saw looked uneasily at the merchants and grabbed her son, hurrying along.
The woman’s eyes were sad, and her brown curls were muddy and tousled. Her threadbare tunic was too big and pulled at her slumped shoulders. Her leather pants were torn at the knees and stopped far above the bare feet, their edges jagged.
Her son was no better off. His sandy hair was as muddy and scraggly as his mother’s, his tunic no less threadbare. His pants, however, were too big, and held up by a rope tied about his waist.
All of the people were the same, tired, worried, and poor. Their skin was tight against their bones, and they were obviously underfed. The men often went shirtless, giving their tunics to their wives to protect their modesty. None of the clothing fit its wearer, whether it was too small or too large, and everything was torn. No one wore shoes, and the children ran through the mud in their bare feet to get to a grove of leafless trees.
The “This Is Probably Better than I Think It Is” Era
Ah, the current writing era. How exciting. Not really. I have so many roadblocks lately!
The first of my current stories is House of Mages. Remember that trilogy of titles I told you about? Yeah, this is the trilogy. The Mage of Thorns Trilogy: House of Mages, House of Thorns, and House of Elves.
Or at least, that was the idea. Now it is just House of Mages. The plots of all three books snuck their way into the first one and now there’s nothing else to write. That is it.
First all three plots snuck into one, and then a secondary character hijacked the plot and completely took over the role of main character. On top of all that, my climax didn’t climax properly and I can’t figure out how to end it.
On the bright side, I like the characters and the basic plot.
My second current project is Aftershocks and Anarchy. This one is a post-apocalyptic America and the birth of Concordia. This one stemmed from a theory I had that perhaps Concordia was not its own country at all, but a post-apocalyptic America. Plus I had a post-apocalyptic story that I had already started and that was not going well, so I just took the characters from there and plopped them down into Aftershocks and Anarchy. Voila, instant origin story.
Supposedly. Honestly, I have no idea what my characters should do. How do you go about rebuilding America after Yellowstone Caldera erupts?
Dillon Thompson walked around the ruins of the Library of Congress. Books lay scattered every which way, and some were torn apart or charred. A thin layer of dust and ash coated everything, and the whole place looked like it had been abandoned for years, not days.
He brushed a hand through his red curls and heaved a sigh. It would take a while to clean up this mess.
He started from where he was and picked up the books, dusting them off lovingly and setting them back on the shelves.
Heels clicked on the marble floor near the door and Dillon looked over to see a woman walking in.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“No, not really. I was just looking for someplace to stay while the ash settles. I was just visiting when the earthquakes hit. I came to see the Library actually.” She chuckled. “I guess there’s not much to see, now. Need any help with the books?”
Dillon glanced around at the scattered books.
“Yeah. I could use some help. Thanks.”
Watching My Writing Growth
On a brighter, more interesting, less story-based note, let us talk about my writing growth, which is really what I wanted this paper to show.
My writing began with a terrible mystery story and a play, and now I am standing here telling you about dozens of other stories I have written over the years. With so many years of doing this, there is no possible way that there has not been growth. And I can see that there has been. You have to start somewhere. You have to start with that crappy, so-bad-you-threw-it-in-the-garbage draft. You can’t just put pen to paper and magically be an amazing writer.
I have been writing for eight years at least and I am still not an amazing writer! I’m far from it! But if you allow yourself to start badly and to grow from it, you will eventually be a good writer. You will run into roadblocks all the time, I can tell you that. You will want to cry, laugh, gag, or some combination of the above at your old writing, but you will also watch it grow.
In my first stories, I had no original characters. In my later stories, I had names that were far too similar and confuse me, not even to mention other people. Now I have original characters with backgrounds and cool names and feelings. I have characters that I can get overly attached to, despite the fact that they’re fictional.
My writing itself was terrible most of the time. Just look at my excerpt from The Snow-Globe Boy!
Now I can write a snippet of back story like this:
It’s fifteen years ago. He and his parents have just returned from the hospital with his baby sister. His dead baby sister.
His mother is sobbing in the kitchen, and his father is trying to console her. Alick has no intention of doing anything but going up to his room and going to bed. Maybe it’s all been a nightmare. A terrible, hellish nightmare.
But when he wakes in the morning, nothing has changed. His mother no longer has a baby bump, and her eyes are red and swollen from staying up all night crying. His father doesn’t look much better as he nearly misses his mug with the coffee pot. His hair is a rumpled mess, and his eyes are bleary.
Alick bursts into tears. He can’t help it. His baby sister is gone forever.
His mother starts crying immediately after and he feels guilty for making her cry.
“Is she really gone? Marie is gone?”
His mother sobs harder, and his father nods.
“Yes, son. She’s gone.”
Mark walks over to his wife and rubs her shoulders, trying to calm her.
“It’s okay, Sharol. Everything is going to be okay.”
“No! It’s not okay! My baby is… My baby’s dead.”
“When are the services?” Alick asks, not wanting to upset his mother further, but wanting to know when this nightmare will be over. But he knows it will never truly end.
“This evening,” his father replies.
“I have to go clean up,” his mother says, wiping her eyes and heading up the stairs.
“I’m sorry, Dad.”
“I upset Mom. I didn’t mean to, but I did. I thought maybe it was a nightmare, but it’s all real. How can this be real?”
He teared up again and his dad walked over to hug him.
“Oh, son. It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault. And I don’t know how this is real. I don’t know why God did this to us. But all His plans will be revealed in the end.”
It is just fascinating to me to watch how my writing has grown and changed over the years.
So basically, don’t give up. Whatever you do, whether it’s writing or otherwise, don’t give up. Even if you’re bad at it now, you won’t get better by never doing it. You learn by doing. So get out there and grow!
In addition to the eras mentioned above, there is also now another era that currently has no name, which I entered into in about March, and all of my current writing fits into that era. My deep worldbuilding project and my aim with The Heart of the Baenor to include more description and internal dialogue into my writing did spectacular things for my writing, and looking back on my earliest writings and then back to my current projects is just incredible. I’ve grown so much since then and it’s amazing to me.
Anyway, I hope this blog post was enjoyable and not too terribly long (3,985 words. :O), and I hope to see you back here soon. :)