The Story BEhind The Tréaltha Series
As I mentioned in my "Why I Became a Writer" page, I've enjoyed entertaining myself with my own crazy worlds and stories; I will admit that I borrowed the worlds from books, movies, and TV shows I love, but my central character always was my own creation. Annie was my first creation in my Wizard world. I dreamed her up sometime in 2000 after reading a book series that especially sparked my imagination. And no, I won’t say which one, because I don’t want people drawing comparisons. Maybe if you’re really nice to me, I may someday, but for now that’s my little secret. Annie started bouncing around my head, wreaking havoc wherever she went.
Then in August 2003, I was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Oxnard, California. At the time, my partner (or as we call them, "missionary companion") loved writing as a hobby. I'd never thought much to writing down my stories—except for one miserably failed attempt when I was in high school—but the two of us began entertaining ourselves by telling the stories of these characters we'd both created. Annie got a new friend, Emma, and started to run even more amok.
Shortly after that, I injured and was sujected to a month of bed rest. There’s only so much Wheel of Fortune a person can watch before they go stark raving mad. One particular evening, my parents and I were at our family cabin and Annie's stories called to me. With nothing else to do, I grabbed a legal pad and pen, and jotted down ideas for her own world in which to play. That night the Drogue and Dark Knights were born.
Of course, it’s been more than a decade since that time. I started the story, but knew little about creative writing. I took tons of English classes in high school and knew how to write a killer essay or technical paper, but creative writing was a foreign concept. It took about two years for the first draft to come to life while I was listening to podcasts and reading books on the process. And I thought that book was amazing. I can still remember the exact moment I wrote, “The End”. Not that I really ever kept those words there, but after all that work, it seemed like it needed an appropriately somber and official recognition that it was done. At the time, I imagined going and finding a publisher and becoming the next New York Times Bestseller, rivaling the great literary geniuses of our day.
And then I handed it to a beta reader.
My niece must have been about twelve or so at the time. I waited anxiously for the moment she would call and tell me she finished the book and yes, it was the epic adventure I had hoped for. But when the call finally came, there was more hesitation than elation from my sweet pre-teen beta reader. After a bit of prodding, she admitted that she was being honest—she did like it—but it reminded her heavily of the book series that had first inspired Annie’s adventures. It was a little soul crushing. I thought I’d made it unique and different, but my niece saw straight through it. So, I chucked that book.
I liked the general story, but it was clear that it needed heavy revisions. Over the next decade, I rewrote this book several times. At one point, I chopped off the ending and rewrote that. Then I chopped off the beginning and rewrote that. And then a huge chunk of the middle. I often hear people say that an author’s first book is never any good. I don’t know if I completely agree with that, but I know mine wasn’t. The book I’ve published may be my first book, but I’ve rewritten and revised it so many times that there isn’t a single word in it that is the same from the first draft. I estimate that I’ve written some 700,000 words over the years. People might think I’m crazy for not moving onto something else, but I felt the story had promise. I loved the characters and they belonged in that world with that story.
Luckily, I’ve sped up my writing process. I’ve developed better writing habits and skills, so my future books won’t take anywhere near that. In my defense, there were at least five of those years that I wasn’t able to do much (if any) writing. Stupid life likes to get in the way.