I’ve had this idea for a short supernatural horror story for years, but never actually committed to writing it. I guess the idea of the thing was so pleasing to me, I didn’t want to risk ruining it by writing it badly.
But a few months ago, I wrote an entirely different story, and showed it to a friend of mine who is a fucking amazing author who had offered to take a look at anything I wrote, if I ever wanted his feedback.
So on this other thing (which is called The Magician’s Path), I just wasn’t sure if it worked. I wasn’t sure if it all held together, or if it even told the story I wanted to tell. I sent it to my friend, and told him that if he thought it sucked, it would be really useful and helpful if he could tell me why it sucked, so I knew where to focus on developing my skills as a storyteller. He didn’t reply for a few days, and I thought, “Jeeze, I guess it sucks even harder than I thought it did.”
Then he texted me and told me that he really liked it, and didn’t think it needed much work. He hadn’t replied to be because he had gotten busy. Let that be a lesson to all of us about the things we presume based upon incomplete information.
As it turned out, he was coming to LA, and he offered to come to Castle Wheaton and go over it with me, so I could understand what I’d written from a structure standpoint, a story standpoint, a prose standpoint, etc.
We sat in my kitchen and went through it (it’s not long at all, like 4000 words) and while he showed me things, I began to feel like I was more capable than I thought I was. My instincts were good, my ideas made sense, and while the draft didn’t exactly need anything, if I did a couple of things to it, it would help it be better.
I want to say that it was like learning to walk, but it was more like suddenly having the confidence to stand up and stop crawling. My friend unlocked this thing inside of me that I’d been holding back because I was so afraid of failure, and all these ideas that I’d had for years started clamoring around inside my imagination to get out and become proper stories.
I started and abandoned a couple of things, because they weren’t the right thing for me to be writing at the time, and finally settled on the thing that was a short story that became a novella that wants to be a novel and still really needs a good title. Neil Gaiman says that each thing you write teaches you how to write it, that you have to learn while you’re doing it, and that every story is different. While that thing was teaching me how to write it, it was also teaching me how to just write the idea I have, without fear or judgement, and keep going until it’s finished.
Around the second week of October, I had to write a really difficult scene in that story. Without getting too precious about it, I just had to walk away from it for a little bit, and my brain was all “Why don’t you write the swamp story, and release it around Halloween?”
There isn’t a swamp in the story anymore, but I was like, “Good idea, brain,” and I got to work. It ended up being more than I expected, and I didn’t come close to making that Halloween deadline. But I finished it on Friday, and I’ve been deliberately taking this weekend off from it, even though I really want to get back to work on it and do the rewrites.
I’ll probably finish the rewrites sometime next week, and then I’ll go back to the novel, which feels like it’s about 90% finished, because I want to finish the first draft of it by the end of the year.
When it’s finished, I’ll go back to my whiteboard and pick the next thing that’s going to go into the collection of short stories that all of these things have come out of, and if everything goes according to plan, I’ll have at least one book (and hopefully two) published early next year.