Reflections on Finishing My Novel and (Nearly) Achieving My Dreams

On August 29th, 2017, I wrote the first words of the novel that I’d been dreaming about since I was 12 years old. And on April 10th, 2019, I wrote the final words of the Epilogue. When you think of all the people that spent 10 years writing their first novel while working at a coffee shop, a year and a half might not seem like that long. But I assure you, writing 226,319 words would always feel like it took an eternity, even if you did it in a month.

Now before you start scolding me about how my word count is too high, relax—I ended up cutting around 75k words off the beginning, because when I neared the end of the story, I realized it should have started 1/3 of the way through. So my final word count is right around 155k. I realize that’s still getting into risky territory for a first-time Sci-Fi novelist, but they don’t call it Epic Gothic Space Opera for nothing, I guess.

sky space dark galaxy
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yesterday I started my editing journey, which hopefully will only take a fraction of the time that I spent actually writing the thing. If all goes according to plan, it won’t be too much longer before I’m ready to unleash this thing out into the world, at long last. But before you get to embark on a journey to the grimdark past of the Dysnomian galaxy, here’s your chance to learn a bit more about how I wove it all together.

A Journey Back to the Dawn of Time (Or At Least to the Beginning of the Story)

Now that I’ve written more words than most people ever write in their entire life in a year and a half, I find my thoughts drifting back to the beginning. My ideas about how to weave the story together were much different, then.

My main character, Prince Ralyn of Marduk, was actually way more of an asshole in the early stages of my writing process. As I got to know him better throughout the story, he ended up being much more introspective, thoughtful, and “morally grey” than I ever expected. It was remarkable how much he matured throughout the story, while I matured as a writer along with him.

Ralyn_Returns_to_the_Lake
Ever-seduced by the call of the stars (Art by Desmond Varen)

Cruel things that I planned on having Ralyn do in my original vision of the story would have made his skin crawl, now. Throughout the writing process, his voice eventually grew so familiar to me that it was as if he were chastising me for misunderstanding him so much in the beginning. And his personality wasn’t the only thing that evolved dramatically—the entire story ended up veering off in a direction that I never imagined and taking on a life of its own.

 

The Ravenous Monster of Inspiration

For me, inspiration has always been a ravenous, untamable monster that strikes without warning, when I least expect it. When it’s time for the story to move forward, it always will, with or without my input—and it’s usually driven by the iron will of the characters.

The two most notable characters, Ralyn and Vraethir, have had a life of their own inside my head for as long as I can remember. (If you’ve been following my creative vision for a long time, Prince Ralyn is the younger version of the character I used to refer to only as “Marduk.”) In truth, I consider both Ralyn and Vraethir “companions” rather than characters at this point. And everything of value that I’ve ever written is some warped reflection of them.

When inspiration strikes, it’s immediately apparent which one of them is driving it. Ralyn is violet dissonance, the cold sting of nostalgia, a craving for a flavor that I’ve never tasted—the impossible, hopeless longing for a tragic dream just out of reach.

Vraethir’s is a much stronger creative (and destructive) energy. He reminds both Ralyn and me to take that melancholic, forlorn longing and do something with it. In fact, I never would have started to write the story without his fire to burn away my doubts and inhibitions. He’s the thrill of taking a gamble, and the satisfaction of being right when everyone else always said I was wrong—the “monster” I once kept buried that would not die, no matter how many times I tried to deny his existence.

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Vraethir as he appears in his own dreams (Drawing by me)

Do the Creatures We See in Our Dreams Ever Dream of Us?

In many ways, Ralyn and Vraethir represent different sides of my personality, as well as what I find beautiful. As a manifestation of my depression and nostalgia, Ralyn is much easier to decipher—but Vraethir leaves even me scratching my head every now and then. He’s somehow the purest manifestation of me you’ll ever see, but also not me in the slightest.

In some ways, I dread showing the world “my true self” through these creatures that are made of my darkest dreams—but I’m tired of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. As I get to know both of them better, I feel much closer to achieving the freedom I always craved, and being the truest, best version of myself.

The World of the Story Reflects the Darkness Within

When I wrote the first few chapters of my novel, I finally decided that Vraethir and Ralyn needed a fully-immersive world to terrorize, rather than the constrictive walls of my own mind.

At first, I was going to say that the main characters were conceived over a decade before the world—but in truth, they weren’t. I’ve been drawing the lonely moors and twisted hellscapes of of Zyrgoth, and even the dissonant swirls of the Dysnomian galaxy, since I was a little kid.

A Taste of What We Lost
A Taste of What We Lost (Painting by Me)

Back then, the universe of the story didn’t have a name yet, but it was always haunting me. In recent years, I fleshed it out more than I ever dreamed possible, and took 75k words of obsessive notes about it—but it was always there, just as long as the creatures that lived inside it. I really enjoyed creating such a vast, meticulous galaxy for all the characters to explore, and I hope the readers will feel the same sense of wonder I savored all those years ago, when I picked up a pencil and drew Zyrgoth for the very first time.

Sometimes, “Real Life” is Far Stranger Than Any Dream

After trapping all this stuff in my head for what felt like several lifetimes, it was so bizarre to transfer the .pages document over to MS Word and see it all come together. Formatting it to industry standard yesterday was so surreal—I saw it go from 200-something to 500 pages in the blink of an eye, simply by making it double-spaced. I saw my own name plastered across the top of the screen, forever attaching my mask in the human world to these dreams that have always haunted me.

A few years ago, I never could have imagined channeling this story onto the pages of a book for all the world to see. But I’ve devoted a massive amount of time, energy, and hope into this project, and the thought of shoving it all back into the confines of my mind and pretending it never happened is . . . well, impossible. I would never want to live like that again, and I never will.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about my story as much as I enjoyed telling you—and I really hope we see each other again soon.

Me Holding Morg

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