How I Feel After Completing a 25-Year-Old First Draft

It started as a childhood game of make-believe. I’d go into the forest near my family home (usually in the rain) and would make up an ongoing story for myself involving a sprawling epic of adventure and magic in worlds of my own imagination. The characters and details frequently changed, but the core of the story was there every time I was ready to escape to my ever-expanding world.

Years later, I took the ideas from my childhood make-believe and began adapting them into my first novel. It was a massive undertaking. The world-building was immense, and the characters and plot kept changing as my interests evolved and my maturity developed. Throughout high school and beyond, I started and abandoned more than a dozen first drafts and filled countless little notebooks with world-building ideas.

Eventually, I decided that the project was just too big for me and I started writing smaller scale stories as creativity lifeboats, abandoning the massive project in favor of smaller-scale dreams. Lost Under Two Moons was the first of these, followed by the Keltin Moore online serial and later book series. But that original project was always there, not haunting me, but a reminder of a dream that may have been too big to dream. Too much to reach for.

I’d like to say that there was some major, pivotal moment when I challenged myself to return to the manuscript, pouring my heart and soul into it without eating or sleeping for weeks to the accompaniment of a Rocky-esque soundtrack. But the truth was far more mundane.

I started using the manuscript as a warm-up, adding one sentence a day before working on other projects. Since the manuscript was already the size of a Keltin Moore novel and nowhere near done yet, these tiny additions were just drops in a bucket that I hardly took seriously. But the process became a habit, and no matter how bad each sentence was, I added it and kept it, and the overall word count would incrementally grow. Sometimes I’d get a spark of inspiration and I’d add several paragraphs or even a page or two, but for the most part, the story grew in installments of less than ten words at a time.

This continued for over a year, until an early morning this month when I suddenly realized that I was within sight of the finish. I was genuinely surprised at both my progress and the sudden excitement I felt. I turned down the lights, closed the door to my office, and wrote with a sudden ferocity that I hadn’t felt in years. Several hours later, it was done. I had finished the first draft.

For days afterwards, I felt like I was floating on waves of validation. After more than two decades of labor, guilt, and dreaming, I had accomplished the first part of a dream that was birthed in my childhood imagination. Since then, I’ve been taking time each day to read the manuscript and map out my plans for revisions. It’s a big project, and I know it will be intensive. But I have the time, talent, and tenacity to make it happen.

Is it ready for readers to see yet? Of course not. But at this point, it’s not really meant for anyone but me. This is my story, and while it will be ready one day to share with the world, for right now, I’m going to savor this process.

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