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Another Name for Nostalgia
Living life backward and forward
Hey! Feeling the winds yet?
Seasons are a funny thing. The Earth telling us to change our clothes. Bundle up, dress down, put on a raincoat or maybe stop and smell the flowers. The exact moment dancing on the planet’s surface, performing an impressive three step with the waltz of the equator.
I mentioned last week I would be beginning a new journey, documenting my thoughts on writing another story in an attempt at self-promotion.
Well, that’s begun and I’m currently looking over my old manuscript for Maneus. I’ve spent long shifts at my keyboard staring into the bright light of my computer screen, leaving me somewhat blinded by the memories of a forgotten passion.
Combing through the typos and the errors in structure, I ended up thinking about how exactly I came to call myself an author and how I failed in writing my first novel.
Now, I’ve already edited Maneus quite a bit from the older versions, but let’s begin where a story rightly should: the beginning.
Maneus - or at least the framework for what it would become - has known many names. The first sparks came from a time when I was knee deep in blogs and podcasts that were very far from successful.
I was writing for whoever would pay and editing for free. As a part of that life, my friends and I were experimenting on the cutting edge of the medium.
The weekly grind of articles and audio wasn’t enough for my creative soul and I thought to build a new dream. A longer story that would match the ambition of our main stage show.
Amateur actors providing voice and emotion that I would later edit into a coherent narrative.
A team effort to catch lightning in a bottle.
So I started writing. Unsure of myself and clueless to the proper methods, I filled up notebooks with my messy strokes.
From outlines to dialog, I was aimless and lost. None of that really mattered as long as I could finish the project and we could get to recording. I believed I could rely on improvised flourishes whenever my pen was at its dullest.
Destiny laughed at my arrogance. Like many grand endeavors, the plan fell apart and I was left with nothing but scraps. A thick stack of text trying its best to masquerade as a script.
For years, I believed the flame had been snuffed out. An artistic vision memorialized in that fleeting moment. Nothing but a relic of the past. Passion better left dead.
Until a dark day in a whisky haze when I remembered that notebook filling up with falling dust. The audio drama would never be revived, but what if…
What if I turned it into something else?
In a corporate hellscape that nearly cost me my all, I was already writing close to a hundred pages a week. None of it for my own self-worth or benefit.
I knew I had the motive and the mindset, but strongly questioned my talent.
Drunkenly looking over those pages of a story, I would have sooner thrown it all away then let it reignite a fire in my dying soul.
So I sent a curious email to my oldest sister Katy. She has always humored me and I knew I could trust her opinion and her advice.
Waiting for a response is always the worst bit. My mind thrives on the darkest thoughts as the hours stretch into days. I can’t help but imagine how far I’ve fallen and how much I’ve failed.
But she answered with the fullest spirit, reading the complete story and drinking in the full setting over a bottle of wine on a calmer evening.
Katy shared an appraisal that highlighted both my folly and my fantasy. She admitted to an overarching note of intrigue hiding behind those rough edges. She was also very clear in her reply, telling me a full novel would need much more care and attention if my goal was really to create something worth reading.
At the time, I didn’t think I was good enough to flesh out the outline - never mind the full script.
The dream died there for a few years more, resting in my cabinet as regret filled more of my days.
When I finally found the time to write, the full text swelled to a massive size and I was honestly surprised at what I had achieved. The silly side project was growing into my main piece of art. A rough draft of a minor work meant for the ages.
My empire of dirt.
I sent out query letters to literary agents around the world. For years I received nothing but rejections. I would say it’s safe to bet the number flirted with a thousand before I gave up.
The process left me more than defeated.
I was a failure.
And I am still a failed author.
Honest opinions are the hardest to come by. I was desperate for any feedback and sent my manuscript to any and all of my acquaintances. Most never responded.
Of those who dared reply, many never read my work.
My begging and pleading were prayers unanswered as the failures piled up into a sad pile of wasted time and effort.
The darkness was however not completely devoid of conversation. There were some who read Maneus and we discussed at length the characters and themes. They convinced me there was meat to the bones with a story worth telling.
They all talked about how Maneus asked important questions. But the Structure was too strange. Disjointed and depressing. Sloppy and confusing. Slow and boring.
The second ax came from a simple response. My uncle has a reputation for being brutal without reproach and loyal to a fault. I could trust his word to be true to his heart.
I knew the issue was more than Maneus simply not being for everyone.
So I left it to rot.
Dead in a ditch of broken dreams.
I used to think Besnowed was a bad story. The mountain of rejections made me question every detail of every idea as I receded into my own mind.
Before joining Buildspace I gave up on the idea of finishing a complete draft of Besnowed. I believed my dreams of being a writer were better left in the dirt.
And so when I was accepted, I began reciting my last Hail Mary and my final Holy Grace.
No matter the outcome, I would double down and dig deep into my trench. Everything needed to be done right if this was going to be the last story I ever told.
When I was writing - or rather rewriting - Besnowed, I was thus unburdened of expectations and simply wanted to find something good enough for me. I was a ghost walking in the shadows of the reaper with nothing to lose.
I gave it my full attention and effort just to see what would happen.
Over time I was amazed and astonished as the wave of motivation grew into a tide of support. Even now, I have trouble accepting there are people willing to show any interest in me and my work.
The ultimate vindication came from that same uncle sending me a message after he bought his own copy of Besnowed. One of those people in my life always hiding a truth worth hearing.
I ended up losing the competition, but was grateful for the momentum Buildspace put in place.
I knew then and there what needed to be done.
Find that story gathering dust on the counter: Maneus.
Looking over the chapters, I saw what was lacking. Mistakes and missteps made by my own hand. Confusion in conflict and wandering rambling without a proper direction.
I was amazed at how much my own writing seemed to have improved since I started those rough drafts.
By far the most significant change is something harder to see in the individual words: a feeling of confidence and clarity in the plot and structure.
Between first diving into the water and learning to swim, I must have realized that the rules are less important than capturing an image that defines a world and its story.
I haven’t heard back from Buildspace yet, but I feel confident that I will be a part of the next season. However, even should the worst come to pass, I still plan on pursuing this path and publishing Maneus.
After all, you can do everything right and still fail.
But that shouldn’t stop me from trying.
Until next time.