“When you give up on your dream, you die.” – a quote from the character Nick in the movie Flashdance.
This was one of those quotes that hit me like a sledgehammer when I heard it the first time back in 1983. At the time, I had already given up on playing professional football. Although the open tryouts for the Denver Gold sure looked tempting. Or, going back to school to become a doctor. I was already working in emergency medicine from the back of an ambulance. So, what was my dream?
Over the next several years I would write down some short-term and some long-term goals. It was fun to tick off the goals that I’d hit. And, I rarely got upset if I missed a long-term goal. Usually, I would simply reset the due date and keep going.
Then around 1994 I tried to read “The Sword of Shannara” for the third time and gave up on “The Two Towers” for the second time. I got bored with them. That’s right bored. Now before you Fantasy diehards go off on me or click to another blog, hear me out. I have since finished both works and their accompanying books and I agree they are masterful. But they would not be my first choices to reread anytime soon. The trouble was, I prefer to let my imagination create the scene. I don’t need twenty pages describing a mountain pass or pastoral field. Just give me the basics and I’ll paint the picture. I enjoyed stories that move along and don’t get bogged down with details.
I had been writing character sketches for D&D characters for years. Some of them were pretty good. I convinced myself that I could write a story that I would like to read. I fired up my IBM PS2 Model 50z, opened Word Perfect and started to write. I started with a D&D character I created but never played. I placed him in a setting and pantsed my way through. By the end of the summer of 1995, I had 32,000 words and a half-finished story. For some reason I don’t recall, I set it aside. It remains unfinished. But, I have pulled it out and reread it on many occasions.
No dream but, a splinter was implanted in my brain from this first attempt. During this same time, I had written several nature type vignettes. A friend read them and told me I should get serious about it. “Yeah, okay”. Time passes…a lot of time passes…
Okay, a decade.
Then for some reason, I decided to take a class in something. Not sure what. So, I started doing searches on various things that interested me. I stumbled on The Loft Literary Guild in Minneapolis, Minnesota which was offering an introductory class on writing fantasy fiction.
I scraped the pennies together to cover tuition, obtained support from the domestic CEO, and registered. For the next eight weeks, twelve aspiring writers read various fantasy works and dissected them to see what worked. Some of us who were either brave, stupid, or crazy enough, submitted short pieces of our writing for the class to read and critique. I was shocked when my submission received positive comments from the class and the instructor.
Hmm, maybe I should try this writing thing.
I picked one storyline that interested me using another D&D character and started writing. The instructor told us about a writing group looking for more warm bodies. That was the spark that lit the fire to write something I could get published.
Uh oh, this sounds like a dream or at least a serious goal.
Gasoline was poured on the fire when I was lucky enough to see my name on a byline for a non-fiction article I’d written. No, it was not the great fantasy novel I was also working on, but I was writing almost every day and I saw the possibilities. That was enough of a push to send me to the next level.
Finish the damn novel!
As you may recall from a previous post, I did, in fact, write “The End” on that novel. Okay, check that box off. Most established authors will tell you that just finishing the first draft of the first novel is the hardest part. Some polls indicate that only 5 to 10 percent of people who begin writing a novel, actually finish the first draft! Woof!
So, after a break to let the story settle, I started on revisions. The goal now becomes to turn that stack of words into something that resembles a readable story. This phase of the process, self-editing, is much harder than anyone can explain to you. It does not take long before you tell yourself,
I NEED HELP! But I’m not ready to die so,
New Interim goal – Get help!
more to follow…