How many people do you think have said that? Right, probably a lot. But I wonder how many of them followed through and did it?
As a kid, I can remember wanting to see my name on the front cover of a book and a picture of my face on the back. Who wouldn’t?
When I was eleven, I sat down at the kitchen table and tried to write my own story. I had this vision of a knight hunting down and slaying a dragon (You would too if you spent every waking hour reading Dragonlance and Ravenloft fantasy novels). I think I wrote two lines before I gave up. I quickly discovered that reading the stories was a much more rewarding and satisfying way to spend my time.
For the longest time, I was content on being a consumer of the written word. And I read a lot. I filled my bookshelf with titles written by greats like J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, J.K Rowling, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Umberto Eco, Pablo Neruda, George Orwell, and Henryk Sienkiewicz just to name a few of the top of my head. You’ll also find dozens of military books, history books (the Civil War, WWI, WWII, etc.), memoirs, and of course books written by Tom Clancy, Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva, Steve Berry, etc. etc…. I could go on and on.
But in January 2016, I channeled my eleven-year-old self and decided, once again, to put pen to paper
I had just crossed off something on my bucket-list (I competed in a body-building competition where I took home a couple of trophies), and I was looking to challenge myself to cross off another. This one, though, was going to require me to put out more of a mental effort than a physical one.
The story came to me in the shower (which happens to be the second greatest place men usually find their inspiration. And in case you are wondering the first place is on the toilet.)
Naturally, I had the beginning and the end, but I had no idea what happened in the middle of my story. I remembered reading somewhere that “the story writes itself,” so, I sat down at my computer and starting typing as fast as I could get the words out of my head. (I reckon not many people still write their stories out longhand)
I threw caution to the wind, typing whenever I had any free moments which usually meant late at night after my wife and kids were asleep. After three months, I had 20,000 words and the beginning of a masterpiece.
Reality check. It wasn’t a masterpiece…it was CRAP.
Brad Thor once said, “You should allow yourself to write a crappy chapter.” Well, I had written about ten crappy chapters. Yet, I still gave it to a couple of people in my family to read. And their feedback confirmed my feelings: it was indeed CRAP.
My brother was a little bit harsher with his critique and told me he hated it. But he also said that he knew I had it in me to write something great and encouraged me not to give up.
After tossing what I wrote into the digital trash, I took some time away to gather my thoughts. Over the next couple of weeks, I put together a rough outline of a more compelling storyline. The next time I sat down in front of my computer, I wasn’t going to write the story on a whim, there was going to be a purpose to the words I was laying down. I didn’t want to waste any more time. (Although my first attempt at writing a story wasn’t exactly a complete waste of time, because it helped me to learn how to “write” better.)
So, I got to it, using the outline as my guide. As the story evolved, it went in a direction I hadn’t envisioned, and in the end, the story wrote itself.
In September 2017, I typed the words “THE END.” It was 2 a.m., and I rushed upstairs (at the time my office was in the basement of our house) to share the news with my wife. “Yes, yes… that’s great honey,” she mumbled before going back to sleep.
I crawled into bed next to her and thought happily to myself, “I did it. I had written a book.” But little did I know what came next was going to be just as difficult.