I was fourteen when a scene came to me, a man riding sluggishly through the midnight snowstorm. For weeks, it tormented my mind, so I wrote it down. I will admit that during that winter I experienced what I later found out to be depression. But while all that tumult in my head drug by, creativity popped up.
And it took half a year for me to find that idea again. I had just turned fifteen and decided to start my writing career.
I had messed with short stories beforehand, nothing major, a few openers to novels that didn’t go anywhere. But this story was ingrained in my head, flourished and grew. Every chance I received, I wrote with a fever in my hand. Christmas rolled around, and I asked for a laptop in the guise of college work. Instead, I began transferring my writing onto the blank page.
With this new power, an epic was born.
I kid. But I found the task of typing a much easier pursuit than the cramping scribble that is my handwriting. Plus, it felt more professional. It felt like writing an actual book, not some ancient scroll that is pretentious and shouldn’t see the light of day.
Okay, bad simile. But you get the point.
However, a problem arose that next summer. I joined a fantasy forum and sent my opening chapters out for review. The critique didn’t go so well. Actually, it hurt to find out my work was a piece of trash. Some people tried to console me with the fact that the first draft should be that bad. But I knew it shouldn’t be that bad.
Three months passed over the summer, and not a day went by that my mood soured because of the crap that I had spent a year on. Nearly finished with the novel, I came to a block in the road. I couldn’t go on. It wouldn’t work.
Around this time, I was experiencing my first modern piece of fantasy fiction. His great name is Scott Lynch. Blown away by the story, I found a few similarities in his and my work. It was scary, entertaining the idea that I had unintentionally plagiarized his novel to an extent. I mean, who else has the idea for alchemic grown fruit?
But as the defeat of one book was nurtured, I became fascinated by Lynch’s second book, most notably how he pulled off the heist so brilliantly.
That was it. I wanted to write a heist.
What to do? you may ask. Throw away that novel? No. I took the characters, the setting that had been edited multiple times, and expounded upon the plot, moved it further, two years ahead.
My spark wasn’t Lynch, though.
At that time, I had never read a science fantasy novel. At least, not a true genre defying story. Mark Charan Newton stepped into that hole. His Nights of Villjamur filled my mind with so much wonder, and I before then, I had never experienced a book so dark, so cold, so claustrophobic, and bleak. It was so atmospheric and grim, yet so weird. I had always attempted a sad story, and after reading the first Legends of the Red Sun, I was convinced this was how I could do it.
But the true spark was neither of these two.
That honor goes to Daniel Polansky.
Finding his debut was a bit by chance. I dropped in on the tail end of a book club read, picking up this crime/fantasy story with little expectations.
And I’ll be truthful. I didn’t exactly like it the first go around. There were some flaws, I felt, and the mystery’s resolution was easy to see. But as the days went by, and Low Town turned in my head, I became enamored by its haunting prose, its tough and witty protagonist, and its narrative style.
The more I thought about it, the more this beauty meshed with my own ideas. The pieces began fitting together, and I had a novel plotted out to some extent. With the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alter Bridge, and Damien Rice blaring on repeat, I set to work toward this noir novel on one cold September afternoon, rain drumming a tune on the roof quite like today.
And I find it fitting that right now, my novel’s beginning is so exactly like the end.
Yes. I find great joy in saying that at seventeen, at just over a year, I have finished my first draft of my first ever novel. A big feat for anybody. A shaking jump for joy in me. Sitting at just over 400 pages and just at 160K words, I find a year to be an okay timeframe.
Does it have some problems? Of course. A lot. But not as many as my first trunk work. There are scenes to be revised, characters to be built upon, and tiny details that need to be shown. The hard work is just beginning. But I’m getting there. I will win.
And even if no publisher wants me, I still have a story to tell, a quartet to finish. I have a long journey ahead of me. The baby steps are behind, and I feel confident that each one will be greater than the last. Will I stumble? Sure, but who doesn’t?
At least I can sleep easy at night knowing I’m done with the first part of The Sad Hero.