A Brief History of Stories, Part Two

Continuing the journey from last week through my older writing projects!

Stone Man

Now this was a weird one. Every other project I’ve done / attempted started as a seed of an idea that tumbled around my head for weeks and months and sometimes years. But when I finished Tinarel, I was sitting down, staring at a blank screen, trying to decide what my next project would be, an image came into my head of a stone golem gaining sentience at the very moment that he’s been thrown off a high cliff. So began the saga of Kraden, the stone man.

I took the image and ran with it. Kraden, with only spotty memories of his past and his former life,  ends up being hired by a powerful mage called Raphos to accompany him to the gang-ruled city of Drearshead. Travelling with them is Abrien, a newer mage who manages to convince Raphos to take him on as his apprentice in exchange for Abrien’s knowledge of the city.

In Drearshead, Kraden and Abrien discover that Raphos is out on a mission to ruin the reputations of the Quartet, the four greatest heroes of the current age. Raphos believes their reputation is based on a terrible lie, and is willing to risk everything, even Abrien and Kraden’s lives, to prove it.

So, I’d like to think that each of my stories was an improvement on the last one. But honestly, though Stone Man helped develop my writing, as a story it’s a total train wreck. I did absolutely zero planning, had no idea what the plot threads were, or what the ending was. As a result, there are at least four different sub-plots that got completely dropped, as I had no idea where to go with them.

The ending was actually  pretty cool – too bad it wasn’t based on anything that had happened previously 🙂

The issue here was I came up with a number of sweet ideas, and then just crushed them together. What I learned here, more than anything else, is that I need to do some world building and at least have a very rough outline before I get started – I just can’t wing it 100% like some people do and end up with something worthwhile.

The Sons of Oryx

Man, I really wanted this one to work out better than it did.

Coren and Malyx, a human and dragon raised from birth by a human mother, get sent to accompany a diplomat representing the country of Weseran on a mission to the foreign country of Rald. There, Coren is framed for the murder of a local noble and soon wanted by guard in town. Malyx flies to a supposedly friendly island outpost to get help, but finds that it’s been overrun by sadistic mercenaries.

While Malyx battles the mercenaries, trying to save the lives of the innocent Weserians on the island, Coren seeks out the help of a Raldian smuggler family. The two brothers soon realize their problems are two arms of a single scheme headed by the heir to the Raldian throne, and together they must race to stop him.

I liked Coren and Malyx quite a bit. I think taking a brotherly dynamic between two beings of completely different species is kind of fun, and I liked the rapport that developed between the two. You get some nice tension, like Coren obviously being very jealous of Malyx being able to fly and breath fire and such, while Malyx was envious of Coren’s ability to talk to people without having them run away screaming.

What was the problem here?

Well, after 100k words, I still didn’t have a damn clue how to end it. Parts of the story seemed to work pretty well, but other parts were boring and disjointed. Not one to give up on a premise I really liked, I decided to rewrite it from scratch…

Dragon’s Heart

…and here was attempt number two. Same characters, same rough premise, different execution. I didn’t use any of the scenes from before, and the diplomat character, Gart Gasper, who died in chapter 1 of the first attempt, stayed alive and became a major secondary character accompanying Malyx in this one.

This was a substantial improvement on the previous attempt. My writing was showing clear signs of improvement and the story was coming along nicely. I’d correctly identified a number of big flaws in the first attempt and corrected them. I even started to think, hey, maybe this is something worth polishing and trying to submit somewhere.

And then came the ending.

Or, to be fair, the entire last third of the book. It sucked. I couldn’t make it work at all. It was a total mess, and though I “finished” it,  the satisfaction of typing “THE END” was muted by the fact that I knew the plot still had major issues, and I wasn’t even sure what they were.

My friend Sean (featured in this blog post), was kind enough to do a lengthy post-mortem on this story. We talked about it for something like six hours straight. We figured out that one major issue I was having is that my characters didn’t have clearly defined goals for many stretches of the novel, and that this vagueness was bleeding into the plot and eventually resulting in a mess.

Looking back, the biggest issue here was a deep one – the plot wasn’t serving the interests of the story. At the time, I was confusing the two as the same thing, when they aren’t at all. I had a well-developed plot, I had an idea of what the heart of the story was, and the two weren’t cooperating at all.

I very much intend to go back to Coren and Malyx some day, but I’m going to tell a different story, one that takes place closer to home. The real story I wanted to tell was about two brothers who, despite being physically very different, were the only family each other had, and the plot elements I came up with here failed to serve that (for example, I split them up for most of the novel!)

So, that brings us up to last November, when I started a project that eventually morphed into the current story I’m writing. I’m going to save that for a separate post, as I have a lot to say there. Till then, I hope you enjoyed reading about these older projects. They were instrumental in my development as a writer, and even if they never see the light of day, they’ll always have a lot of meaning for me.

 

A Brief History of Stories, Part One

I thought it’d be a fun exercise to reflect on the various writing projects I’ve worked on over the past three years to try to see what worked, what didn’t work, and what I can learn from them going forward.

The Iron Circle

This was the first project I attempted after deciding I wanted to write. It was an epic fantasy taking place in a world with no sun, where the light was generated by a substance called shine that hovered above the surface and gradually became less dense the farther away from the ground you went. Mountain peaks would be permanently cloaked in shadow, whereas caves would be bright as summer. The cast of characters included a hero who used his stature to swindle people, a wizard and his demon familiar chasing after a fallen apprentice,  the leader of a secret government that existed within the empire, and a mysterious sorcerer (named Raven, and yes, I thought it was cool at the time, don’t hate me!) intent on unsealing an ancient prison, letting loose the wicked beings within.

I worked on it on and off for maybe four months, getting around 30,000 words written before giving up. The story was incredibly complicated – I realized I needed to focus on few characters and a simpler plot before giving something this epic a try. As this was my first serious attempt writing, the disconnect between what I wanted to say and what the words I wrote said frustrated me a great deal. I had this great, beautiful epic story in my head, and yet what ended up on paper was awkward and stale. The entire experience was depressing, and I didn’t try writing again for months afterward.

Looking back, the frustration was expected, but the depression unwarranted. The writing was mediocre –but what did I expect? It’s like anything else, gets better as you go. There were a lot of cool ideas in that story. In fact, I’ve already begun polishing this idea so that, at some point maybe a few years from now when I feel I have the skill to try something of greater scope, I can give it another go.

The main lesson here is that something this big needs a lot of world building and thought – diving in as a newbie author is just going to lead to disaster.

The Demon’s Son

After the depression of the first failed project wore off, I was re-invigorated and decided to jump in again. This time I was determined to find a simpler story, and to spend more time planning out the plot.

The Demon’s Son was another epic-ish fantasy, about a boy named Quen, the fifth (and inconsequential) son of a Duke who believes rank and caste are everything. Quen finds out that, in fact, he’s the son of a demon who had an affair with his mother, when his real father arrives and tells Quen he wishes to make him his apprentice. Quen is sent to a place called Dragonsclaw Fortress to be trained in magic, while secretly being trained in demonic arts by his father. There he meets two others with secrets of their own. Ellodin is heir to the kingdom but can tell no one till the king dies; Zade is at the fortress to free his uncle, locked in a secret prison below the fortress.

Wondering what the overall point of that is? Me too. The issue here was I came up with a premise, added some complications, advanced the plot…and had no idea where it was going. I had simply never figured out what the ending was. Also note that while Ellodin and Zade have clear goals, Quen (who was supposed to be the viewpoint character), doesn’t really, nor was I able to find one for him at the time.

Of course, I didn’t figure any of that out at the time. I struggled with this for at least four months, getting close to 40,000 words before giving up. Though my writing did seem to be improving, as a project this seemed a greater failure than the Iron Circle, simply because I had tried much, much harder to make it succeed.

The biggest lesson here is that the plot simply wasn’t working, nor was the main character, and I should have gone to the foundations of the story and changed some of the assumptions. But instead I was determined to make the idea as I had originally come up with it work, which ended up being trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole.

Looking back, I see a few ways to breath life back into this project. One would be to center the story around Ellodin instead of Quen – he was the most interesting character. Another would be to give Quen some kind of central goal, since he didn’t really have one. I don’t have a particular urge to revisit this premise now (I think it’s built around too many common tropes), but I keep my notes around in case inspiration strikes.

Tinarel

As we all know from books and movies, the main character has to fail something twice before he can succeed. Tinarel was my first successful story. It was about these two races, the satyr-like Eln and the foxlike Santii, who live together in a valley surrounded by impassable mountains. The two races believe this encompasses the entire world, and that outside the mountains is oblivion.

The Eln are the rulers, the Santii the servants, a hierarchy locked in stone for all time. Tinarel, a Santii, works as the librarian for an Eln lord. Tin’s never found himself comfortable with people of either race, and prefers the comfort of books. Then, Tin’s friend Karve convinces him to join a growing resistance movement, a ground of Santii sick of being second class citizens. Tin isn’t sure he’s comfortable with that – he’s always thought the Eln lord he worked for fair – but he quickly discovers that leaving the resistance is as dangerous as being part of it. While the resistance begins to plan acts of violence, Tin finds a secret door in the library. There, he finds ancient magic, and something else – a secret that, if revealed,  would show that everything the Eln and Santii believed was a lie.

I didn’t have high hopes for this project – all I had to start with was the concept of the world, the two races, and a bit of an idea for Tin’s character. I also had an ending in mind, which I suspect made the difference. I did very little planning, and after a slow start, it just took off. Three months later, I had a finished, 95,000 word draft in my hands, complete from beginning to end.

I was happy with that as my first novel then, and I still am now. It’s not publishable at all in its current state. The plot needs a lot more work. The skeleton is there, but it needs more polish. One of the crucial twists doesn’t work at all. The ending is quite dark, and may not fit the tone of the rest of the book. There are numerous consistency issues, and every character besides Tin and Karve is one dimensional. I also think this would be a hard story to sell. If I ever decide to go back and re-do it, I suspect it would end up being self-published.  I hope I do that one day – I’m rather fond of Tin, and would like to see his story told well.

Lesson’s here? One, that I was capable of finishing a novel – that was critical in terms of my motivation. Two – I could finish a novel with minimal planning, which surprised me. Three (which I didn’t learn right away) – I need to make my characters much less passive. Tin needed to make more decisions; he spent way too much time watching and thinking, not enough time doing.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed hearing about some of my older projects. This ended up being quite a bit longer than expected, so be sure to check out the continuation next week!

Awesome People: Sean “Day[9]” Plott

I’ve been fortunate in my life, to have amazing family members, teachers, and friends. They’ve inspired me, taught me, and helped me be a better person.

One of those people is my best friend, Sean Plott. If you’re at all into e-sports, especially StarCraft II, you’ve likely heard of him. Going by the handle Day[9],  Sean’s done a daily web show called the Day[9] Daily. He’s nearly hit 500 episodes, which is insane given how much time he spends travelling to cast StarCraft II tournaments (commentating on matches like a baseball announcer) or to take part in panels at conventions like PAX and SXSW. Along the way, he’s picked up a few other accomplishments, like being named to the Forbes 30 under 30.

I met Sean at Harvey Mudd. I was a junior then, and living in what we called the Halo Suite. Me and three other guys had grabbed a suite of two rooms connected by a bathroom, moved all the beds and desks into one room, and turned the other into a gaming lounge with TV’s, XBOX’s, and couches. A bunch of guys were practicing for their first pro Halo tournament. I didn’t play Halo at the time, but I’d been a competitive RTS player for years, and I knew the transition from playing with friends to playing with strangers for money was going to be a shock. It’d be like a recreational tennis player walking up to a division one level tournament, and discovering for the first time what 110-mph kick serves look like. People got that, when it came to sports. I’d never met anyone who got that when it came to video games, not then.

That day, Sean came over to check out the suite. Someone introduced us. “Hey Tristan, meet Sean, he’s a frosh. He’s really good at StarCraft.”

“Oh, cool,” I said. “I’m pretty good too.” Meanwhile, I’m thinking something like, yeah right, good like the guys in the other room think they’re good at Halo.

A minute into our conversation, I knew I was wrong about that. He wasn’t good, he was really good. Maybe one of the best in the country. At that point I was thinking something along the lines of: Holy Shit, I need to hang out with this guy.

The Halo guys went to their tournament and had a pretty good learning experience. Sean went to a tournament that year too – got 2nd at the World Cyber Game nationals, which qualified him for the grand finals. There, competing against the best players in the world, he made top 16.

I remember the first time I watched Sean play StarCraft. Now, intellectually knowing someone is better than you is one thing, but seeing it is another. I might have acted humble about my StarCraft skills, but inside, I thought I was pretty awesome. I’d been playing for a long time. I’d topped some ladders, done well in some online tournaments, beaten a lot of pretty good players. Sure, maybe I wasn’t about to go pro, but I could hold my own. I’ve worked hard on my game.

Back then, when people watched me play StarCraft, they’d be blown away by my hand speed. I played at around 140 actions per minute (APM), give or take, at that time. That means I average 140 mouse clicks or key presses per minute.

Sean played at well over 300 APM. He wasn’t just faster than me, he was accurate. Every click was precise. My 140 APM was at like 80% accuracy; his 300 was at 99%. He could maintain that every game, for hours at a time. If you don’t know StarCraft well, it was nearly impossible to even tell what he was doing. I’d say my emotional path, while watching him play, went something like this.  First there was jaw-dropping awe. Then: crushing depression. I was nothing. I shouldn’t even be in the same room as him. I wasn’t worthy.

After, I went back to my room. I fired up a game, and I thought – fine, maybe I can’t be as good as him. But I can keep improving. Let’s see if I can play even faster. Let’s see if I can up my accuracy.

Sean and I hung out occasionally at Harvey Mudd, but not a ton. College was busy. I graduated, and went on to the Ph.D. in mathematics program at the University of Oregon (which I talked about in my last post). There, I started to play a lot of online poker. Sean had picked up poker too, and was doing really well. As anyone who’s played poker knows, nothing beats calling a friend and talking about hands, whining about how unlucky you got, or celebrating each other’s victories. We started calling each other on Skype to do just that. Then, we got the idea of going to Las Vegas together during Spring Break, with a third friend of mine. At one point in the trip, I ended up getting very emotional (over something that most people wouldn’t consider a big deal at all). Sean spent hours walking the dingy hallways of the Imperial Palace with me, talking and listening. After that, I didn’t just feel better – I had a new close friend.

Every post I’ve made on this blog began as a seed in a conversation I’ve had with Sean. I remember, I asked him how he’d gotten so good at StarCraft. He said he found his weaknesses, one by one, and crushed them. I’ve thought about that ever since. It’s shaped how I learn, how I improve, how I think. Such a simple idea. Find your weakness. Eliminate them.  But man is it hard to implement. It requires brutal honesty about what those weaknesses are and hard work to eliminate them.

That’s how I’ve tried to proceed with my writing. Been at it for nearly three years now. Lots of bumps along the way, lots more on the road ahead. But by talking through them with Sean, figuring stuff out together, forging ahead toward my goals and his, I’m getting better. I’ve learned to be happy with where I’ve gotten but not satisfied with where I’m at, to push through and be better and better and better. Watching him succeed so much at his own endeavors has been the best inspiration for my own.

But Sean’s got a talent for that. He’s got this energy, this aura, this something, and what’s brilliant is it’s not just reserved for those who know him personally. He can show that to total strangers, to people who only see him on the screen. You can see it in his fans, when they line up to get their picture taken, to get his autograph, to talk to him for a moment. He inspires them, too.

Nothing exemplifies that more than what he did a couple years ago, for his 100th episode. He describes it himself as “Hear about my life of Starcraft, its downs and ups and everything in between.”

You should watch it. If you don’t know anything about games, or if you do. It’s one of the most touching, inspirational things I’ve ever seen, right up there with the James Owen stuff I talked about in my last post. It’s about how games are more than games, how the communities and relationships we build over them are as lasting and rich as anything else. It’s got 3 million views. You don’t need to know anything about games to appreciate the message. There’s a pretty good chance it’ll make you cry, but they’ll be good tears. Watch it here.

I want to reach people like Sean does. To make them feel something with my stories. I want to teach them, and to learn from them.  It’s what he does every day. My friendship with him has taught me I’m capable of doing that too.

Thanks, Sean.

(If you’d like to check out more of Sean’s content beside the amazing 100th daily, his archives are available at www.day9tv.com. He’s also casting the NASL season three finals this weekend, which you can check out over at http://nasl.tv/)

A Significant Experience

James Owen, in his book The Barbizon Diaries, wrote the following about being involuntarily committed to a mental hospital:

“After it had closed behind me, I stood in the doorway, unmoving, for several minutes, a single thought occurring and recurring in my mind: I am definitely having a significant experience here.

James (author and illustrator of the Imaginarium Geographica series), who was one of the speakers at the Superstars writing seminar I’ve alluded to a few times, has unfortunately had a lot more of these experiences than most people would ever want. He talks about them and their impact on his life in the books Drawing out the Dragons and the above mentioned The Barbizon Diaries.

To me, the most inspiring thing about those books is that James never lets these things beat him. He takes his licks, learns from them, and springs right back up. Sometimes that means accepting that the path you expected isn’t the path you end up taking.

An example of this is from the talk he gave at the seminar (which I believe is also covered in Drawing out the Dragons), where he spent all of his money on a one way ticket to Ireland, where he’d just gotten a job at a film studio. On his first day, the studio announced it was having substantial financial issues and would be laying off most of its employees. That morning, he had been sure that the job was the one, the thing he was meant to do. That evening, all he had left with the change in his pocket and no way to get back home. I think most people would have been crushed.

Not James Owen. He went and called his wife, and told her he was going to be starting a comic book company.  The path he thought he was walking had been closed to him, so he immediately started walking another.

These stories got me thinking about my own significant experiences. I consider myself fortunate. Nothing particularly bad has ever happened to me. But I’ve certainly had moments where things didn’t work out, where my expectations were crushed, where I’ve had to reconsider what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go.  The example that comes to mind is grad school.

I was in a math Ph.D. program at the University of Oregon (UO) for three years. I’d wanted to get a Ph.D. since I was in high school. It seemed like a natural progression: I loved math, and I was good at school. I went to a college (Harvey Mudd) which sends a huge percentage of its students to grad school. I did well enough there to get into a top thirty graduate program, one where I’d even get a lot of teaching experience in. “Perfect,” I thought, when I got the acceptance letter. “This is exactly what I want to do.”

At first, it seemed great. My fellow grad students were amazing, and still count among some of the closet friends I’ve ever had. As hard as teaching was, I loved it, and was willing to put my energy into becoming better. The classes were tough, but not unreasonably so. I was having fun.

The first semester ended. I hadn’t done quite as well as I’d hoped; in my three classes I’d gotten a B, a B+, and an A-. This, as it turns out, is considered much less impressive in grad school than in undergrad. I got an email from the head of the graduate department that said something along the lines of “We need to chat about your performance so far.”

Suddenly, I wasn’t having so much fun.

Now, those grades, while not amazing, were ‘good enough’. I was able to improve them slightly the next term, getting a B, a B+, and an A. One of my class mates wasn’t so lucky. He got a C. Really nice, hard working guy. He was asked to leave the program.

At Harvey Mudd, I’d always had a great relationship with my professors. I went to office hours often, and ended chatting with them casually as much as about school. The support I got from them was a big deal, and really helped bolster my confidence and get me through the tougher classes. At UO, I found myself unable to cultivate that relationship. I remember one of the harder classes I took, I went to the professor’s office and talked at length about my difficulties, various things I’d tried, and finally ended it with a request for advice. He put his hands together and bowed his head as if in deep thought, and then said “Yes. Perhaps, if you’d spend more time reading the text, you would understand more.”

Things, unfortunately, just got worse from there. I kept my grades barely above the minimum bar, for the most part, though toward the end of the second year I got a C as well (which is basically an F in grad school), in a class I found absolutely impossible in pretty much every way. Still, if I passed the qualifying exams, I could stay, the grades forgotten.

Quals are rough. You need to spend a good 3-4 months over the sum studying 10-12 hours a day to have a shot. It takes passion and commitment and endurance to get through that. Things I was pretty much out of by then. I’d stopped having fun. I was depressed (not clinically, just the vanilla variety), I ate too much junk, and I had a lot of headaches. Teaching was a huge emotional drain, as much as I liked it, and I often didn’t have as much energy for studying / homework afterward. I would describe my studying for quals as ‘tepid’, to say the least. I did a good amount of work, but it was more going through the motions. I took the exams. I passed one, failed one. At UO, they count that as failing both, and I would have to retake even the one I passed.

I decided then I was done. In hind-sight, I’d decided I was done at least a year before, but out of stubbornness and shame, hadn’t been honest enough with myself about it. I left the program at the end of that year with a master’s degree, and no idea what I wanted to do.

I got a job, a fantastic one, at a company called Palantir. One of the things I decided, in that summer between UO and Palantir, was that I was going to do the things I wanted to do. My motivations for going to grad school had been suspect. At least one person, my cousin Stuart, actually called me on this, but I didn’t realize that at the time. It had been an easy thing to do, but it hadn’t been the right thing, and I should have known that.

James Owen says, “Never, ever, sacrifice what you want in the long term for what you want most, for what you want most at the moment.” My choice to go to grad school was based on convenience and some short term gains and stuff like “finding a job seems hard”. It wasn’t based on my dreams or aspirations beyond vague thoughts like “it’d be pretty cool to have a Ph.D.”.

I had dreams, too. I wanted to write even then. I wanted to design games. I wanted to play high level poker. For various reasons, I’d discarded all three as possibilities.

Grad school taught me how important it was not to do that. You’ve got things you want to do? Only way they’ll get done is if you do them. Sometimes that’s as easy as deciding to act. Other times it means beginning a very long process with uncertain results. But the only way you’re sure not to get there, is if you don’t even try.

A month after I started at Palantir, I began figuring out how to write novels. That was a long process – took me about 15 months before I wrote my first one. The next spring, I went to Las Vegas and played in the World Series of Poker for the first time. I started taking piano lessons again. I adopted two awesome cats named Sabin and Edgar. I competed in some major StarCraft II tournaments. Game design has been deferred but not forgotten.

Anyway, James Owen says all of this a heck of a lot more eloquently than I. The two books I’ve mentioned, Drawing out the Dragons and The Barbizon Diaries are available digitally here: http://coppervaleinternational.com/ebooks/.  Take a look – they’re short reads, very well-written, and I think, quite profound.

Meta-Blogging

(I was having trouble thinking of a topic for this blog. As a result, you get a blog post about this blog 😀 )

Two months ago, I was in Las Vegas, sitting in a conference room in the Golden Nugget hotel with about fifty other people at the Superstars Writing Seminar. For three days, seven best selling authors regaled us with stories, advice, tips, tough love, and inspiration. Kevin J. Anderson and his wife, Rebecca Moestra organized the conference, and joining them on the panels were Brandon Sanderson, David Wolverton, Dean Wesley Smith, Eric Flint, and James Owen.

If you know me, you know I’m kind of shy. I do reasonably well in small groups, but throw me in a room with fifty strangers and a few personal idols, well, things get tougher. It’s really difficult for me to just go up to someone and start a conversation, much less insert myself into already-formed conversations. I hate intruding, I hate interrupting, and I hate seeming like I’m trying to draw attention to myself.

Problem is, one of the key lessons we learned during the seminar is you have to draw attention to yourself if you want to ever have a writing career. The authors noted that the issue right now, with both self-publishing and big print publishing houses, is that the market is very opaque. There are too many titles for even a well-informed, discerning reader to be able to look at all the possibilities and find ‘the best’ book. As a result, they rely on various indicators to know if they should buy a book. This of course includes reviews, titles, covers, and blurbs, though the most powerful is a good recommendation from a friend. The point being, even if your book is the greatest thing ever, it’s never going to sell unless enough people buy it initially and generate the good word of mouth to continue sales.

In other words, you’ve got to give readers a reason to look at your book. Maybe it’s because they know you personally. Maybe they read your blog or your Facebook or your twitter, or remembered a great comment on a writer’s forum, or met you at Superstars.

I didn’t like this. It wasn’t news to me or anything. I just secretly hoped that when the question came up, they would go, “Oh, no. That stuff’s totally optional. Just write a good story and it will work out!”

Nothing wrong with secret hopes, but in this I was simply in denial.

So I did my best. By the end of the seminar, I had managed to have one-on-one conversations with each of the seven panelists. I’d had dinner with Brandon Sanderson, not to mention the other great interactions with the attendees. But that was hard. Each time, it was hard. My stomach was twisted in a knot. Some piece of my brain screamed “No! Just sit down and listen, you’ll be happier that way.” Still, at the end of the seminar, I felt pretty good, like I’d had some small internal victory with my introversion.

Except, I realized if I wanted to succeed at this, I’d have to do this again. And again. And not just at seminars; on Facebook, on twitter, on a blog. At conventions. On the off chance I succeeded, I would have to do book signings. Interact with fans. And I had to do it all well, because there’s no other way to go about it.

Or I could not do any of that, hope that my book was the one that was just so perfectly brilliant it caught on like wildfire without any help of me, and I could retire a couple years from now swimming in a sea of money like Scrooge McDuck.

I went with the former. I started using Facebook more. I’ve begun to play with Twitter. I started this blog, hoping that I could write about stuff people found interesting, engaging, and exciting. So that I had some kind of platform and, on the future day when I publish a book, I don’t pop into online existence from the aether screaming “Hi! I’m Tristan! I just randomly decided to start this blog, and oh, did you know I just released a new book? It’s called The Wicked King of Gloom-Doom Tower, book one of the expected twenty book Towers of Shadowy Evil cycle!”

But each time I go to publish a new post, I get scared. Even this post right now.  All these self doubts start yapping in my mind. It’s arrogant. It’s poorly written. You should delete it and start over.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with self-doubts – I think they’re a key defense mechanism against having an over-inflated opinion of your work. But they can definitely go to far. I try to handle them as analytically as possible. Whenever they start flaring up over the blog, I think about all the people who’ve read it so far and given me feedback. It’s been positive. If people are hating it, they are the quiet hateful type (or perhaps storing said hatred for a later date.) I think there are clear things that could be improved, and so I’ll try to improve them. I’ll try to make them better with each post. But deleting every post isn’t going to make me get any better, so fears or not, I’ll continue to hit publish.

I do want to say this. For everyone who has read so far, thank you. For all the comments. Please, if you see something that you think could be improved, let me know. I’ve said before, part of the theme of this blog is self-improvement, and that means making the blog better as it grows. Self-doubts aside, I’ve been able to use this to connect to people I haven’t talked to much in a long time, and share stuff with people I know well that I might not have been able to do otherwise. I think, if nothing else, it’s worth it for that.