I wrote the first word of what would become my first finished novel, Designs of a Fox, when I was a junior in high school. Though I had been reading sci-fi/fantasy my whole life, I had just read A Game of Thrones and its (at that point three) sequels for the first time. I’m sure it was in part to the fact that I was an edgy teenager, but it was my first exposure to that kind of storytelling, and it really inspired me to start writing a story of my own. My AP English teacher, to whom my first book is dedicated, gave me more freedom in her class than any teacher I’ve ever had. If I had to credit any one person with enabling and inspiring me to pursue my writing, it would be her. I did poetry explications on Rush songs and did literary analysis on A Storm of Swords; that’s how much freedom she gave me. For my final creative writing project, she just let me turn in the first three chapters of the book I’d spent the whole year telling her I was writing.
The original story looked nothing like it does now, and I don’t know if any of the characters I wrote back then could be considered to be the same people in anything but name, but there was a constant evolution from there to where I am now. I didn’t work much on it for the first few years. It was just a fun little side project.
To be honest, I don’t know why I began to push it harder, but during my junior year of college, I decided to set myself a daily writing quota of 1,000 words. It took quite some time before I was regularly hitting that number, but I finished the first version of the book in about six months of hard writing, once I got the rhythm going.
Then I realized I had to rewrite most of it. In those six months, I had actually vastly exceeded my 1,000-word target. I suddenly had a 250,000-word behemoth of a novel that wasn’t even done yet. I read all kinds of advice online about how your first book shouldn’t be a big one, since publishers aren’t likely to take a chance on an unproven author whose book is going to cost a ton to produce. It was soul-crushing to read that, since I’d poured so much time and effort into this thing, only to find out that nobody would ever want to publish it.
As an aside, that advice was honestly a blessing, since I can confidently say that the original incarnation was an inferior story. Too many disjointed plot lines and characters to go into one story; nobody would have been able to follow it all. I’m much happier with how it turned out after some tender, loving chopping-into-pieces.
So I spent the winter break of my senior year hacking and slashing and basically rewriting the whole damn thing. Back at school, I slowly began filling in the holes, and managed to graduate with an all-but-finished story. Graduate school began. Between teaching my first semester and taking classes, I didn’t have tons of time, but I managed to write the final words that winter. It did wind up being somewhat longer than would be ideal, at 170,000-ish words, but the re-written story is much more focused, the characters more fleshed-out, and the foundations of the world solidly declared.
It’s been six years since then. What the hell have I been doing in that time? Editing here and there, improving some novice mistakes in the writing, and so on. A couple years back, I commissioned a piece of cover art for the book. But I haven’t really tried to find an agent or a publisher, or anything like that. I did write about 2/3 of what will become another story, Of Courtesans and Crowns, for National Novel Writing Month one year, and I’ve gotten about 20,000 words into the sequel to Designs of a Fox, titled A Wayward Raven, but that’s not much for six years’ time!
Well, I did get a Ph.D. in the meantime. And that did take a lot of both
time and mental energy. It’s sometimes difficult to transition from the rigorous, logical mindset of doing science to the wild, imaginative moods that it takes to write fantasy. I was learning how to live on my own for the first time. I met my girlfriend and many great friends, adopted two cats and coughlikesixcough aquariums, traveled the world shooting off rockets, and honestly had a great time. I finished my Ph.D. and took a postdoc in Alaska, where I’ve been living for a year and a half now.
But I wasn’t writing. As I mentioned, sometimes I lacked the energy, but that’s a poor excuse for not doing something that brings me a great deal of joy. I’m still not sure why I stopped writing. Perhaps it was a lack of tangible motivation. I didn’t have an agent, didn’t even know if the stories I was writing were any good. The people close to me with whom I shared them always seemed to love them, but of course they would.
I’m a pretty shy person. I’m not the kind of guy who actively shares my work with anyone who will give me the time of day. Not saying that would be a bad thing; in fact, it’s probably a recipe for success! I just struggle with a general anxiety about approaching people, especially for something as personal as sharing this thing I’ve poured my heart and soul into over the past ten years. Naturally there’s a lot of anxiety about rejection, about whether people will hate it. And for someone like me, a quiet, introverted person, that anxiety is magnified.
You know what, though? I’ve got a good job, and solid prospects for my career. I’ll be fine, even if I never sell a single copy of my books. Of course I’d love to be that next hit author, but if that never happens, I’m not going to starve. I shouldn’t have any anxiety at all about sharing my work. Still, it’s hard to shake it.
Which is why I’m here, finally. Putting my thoughts out onto this website not only gives me an outlet, but it also helps to motivate me to keep on writing. It’s my hope that, in addition to promoting myself and my work, this website will help keep me accountable, and thus writing on a regular basis.
So thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates! I’ve just returned from my second trip to Antarctica, where I did a considerable amount of writing, so I’ve got some things to talk about!