It isn’t so long ago I’d have thought this blog post too embarrassing to write, but at some point that changed (obviously). Now, I find I’m proud of all the writing that came before 2016, even if some of the associated memories remain painful, yet valuable to my writer self. Stepping stones, that’s what those early efforts were, and for that reason alone, each novel is invaluable.
It’s crossed my mind that I’ve given a false impression about my writing origins. My story charts serve as a huge boost for me. Are there those, I wonder, who can’t fathom how I started churning out promising novels from the start?
The truth? I didn’t.
There were a lot of words written before I drafted Trust in the Forgotten in 2016, a lot of difficult and invaluable lessons learned. That’s why I’m going to swallow hard and open the door…
The Other Side of the Aperture (2000-03)
This was it, the beginning. My first Ontyre story, my first completed novel, and the novel that’d haunt my writing for more than a decade (more about that later). It was written while developing the magic system and maps I still use, though I’ve enhanced both. It was an exciting time—and I had no idea what I was doing.
At the time, my vision for Ontyre was a medieval world of epic stories. Yes, think Tolkien. His worldbuilding, especially, was my inspiration. The world has changed in many ways since, but the geography, history, magic system, and peoples remain. The Aperture even remains a spell mentioned in Bk2.
Aperture was a portal story written in present tense, Distant 3rd. It was also FIVE volumes, none of which was a standalone. Those volumes, after the novel’s lone edit, totaled 650K. I might—might!—have it on a floppy disc somewhere. For certain, it’s in a 4-inch binder on the shelf behind me as I write this. The novel hinted potential and exposed a few personal truths, but I wasn’t close to finding myself as a writer.
Yes, this was drafted on the side while working on Aperture, which wasn’t filling a need. My guess is it’s about 200K. It, too, is on the shelf behind me. Present Tense. Distant 3rd. It’s also YA, an Earth story with science fiction elements about a secret government experiment. It was when my writer’s heart began opening and I learned the importance of a great midpoint. The characters possess more depth than in Aperture, and they’re more honest.
Promise Best Unspoken (2003)
Another YA Earth story. Present Tense. Distant 3rd. Also existing on the shelf behind me. This time, it’s about magic gone wrong. It’s probably about 120K. This story is very dear to me and remains a breakthrough in my writing. I found my preferred (and sane) fantasy length. The dialogue is witty.I remain pleased, for the most part, with the characters, especially my insecure, but determined, heroine, Lisa.
A great novel? Absolutely not, but I can look at it and see how Promise is a distant cousin to Protecting the Pneuma Key. Promise was that critical step I needed to take to become an honest, open-hearted writer. In its aftermath, I should’ve built upon it.
Instead, life sent me careening down a steep road with no breaks. One life-altering event followed another on my way to the ICU in 2010, my lungs permanently ravaged, Chronic Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis a part of my life going forward. Too, that year, the doctors overdosed me on Prednisone for two months, leaving me with heightened levels of anxiety and a panic disorder.
I moved away in 2014 before additional medical incompetence could kill me, though I’d battle oxygen deprivation on and off through 2016. In the meantime, I tried to rebuild my writing life.
Where Light Devours (2012)
Remember when I said Aperture would haunt me? This began that phase. Somehow I’d convinced myself I had to fix the old fantasy novel. This was an attempt to extract one arc from Aperture. Past Tense. Distant 3rd. About 140K. The portal element was removed. There were hints of the potential Promise showed, but in truth this was a step back. The extracted arc had possibilities, but I was too shackled to the original to work.
*Eventually, though, I’d learn my lesson. In 2016, I wrote Trust in the Forgotten, which borrows the premise, but is then its own, new story because I ignored the old version.
Background Noise (2014)
My first NaNoWriMo, and begun with no planning after a horrific bought of depression. Past Tense. My first ever attempt at Deep 3rd (meaning, it’s a mess). It was an attempt to capture the magic of Promise, and failed, but I learned a lot. It’s only 65K because I wanted to end the misery as soon as possible. I reread it a few months ago. At first, I thought it kind of worked, but after the first 20K it was pointless. The huge takeaway was that I’m not a pantser.
Bleeding Heritage (2015)
In a moment of supreme weakness, and in reaction to the last novel, I again tried to surgically remove an arc from Aperture. Second NaNo. Past Tense. Deep 3rd (sometimes). About 130K. I proceeded to make all the same mistakes I made with Where Light Devours. Enough said. This misadventure is chronicled in a different post.
Otherwise, this ends my unsalvageable novels. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t difficult to recount. Not because I’m embarrassed by my efforts, but because these recollections come with some painful memories. You can guess but a few.
Still, I look back and see my mistakes and my growth. To this day I steal moments here and there, but never, ever directly reference the old stories. They’ve become influences, life experiences I draw upon. Aperture can finally sleep. Promise Best Unspoken now exists only in my heart, where it should be.
Sixteen years, but with a gaping void in the middle. If you’ve been keeping track, I wrote approximately 1,305,000 words before I drafted Trust in the Forgotten. There’s fondness for those old novels, no matter how awful. They’re a part of me. I could go on forever about how some element led to this-or-that later on. Like story elements, each novel is a thread weaving through my growth as a writer. From Lisa (2003) to Zephtasha (2019), I’ve built a sisterhood of heroines, each holding tight to many of the same themes.
Sixteen years. Over a million words. Countless posts and books read and studied. Novels read and, eventually, studied from a writer’s perspective. Experimenting with short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels. Above all, through it all, writing, writing, and more writing. An easy road? It’s been nothing of the kind, but nothing could have been more rewarding.