In November 2001 I started writing an epic fantasy novel for adults. I spent the following years writing this tome on and off. I even sent it out to professional freelance editors. I participated in public readings. After revising the story I shopped it around to different publishers and in my naive and uneducated fervor I broke every rule there is when you submit a manuscript.
Of course the book didn’t get picked up. Partly because I didn’t understand the publishing industry, mostly because it just wasn’t any good. However, one of the rejection letters stated that even though they didn’t publish exactly this kind of fantasy, the world I had created was a compelling one, in particular the names of the characters appealed to them. (Probably because it was a fantasy novel with not an apostrophe in sight…)
This letter stayed with me when I put the novel to the side and instead focused on writing a dissertation in medieval history. The years as a graduate student are some of the toughest in my life. It literally was five years of blood, sweat, and tears.
Would I do it again? Hell no.
Would I have those years undone? Hell no to that too.
Why? Because those years gave me thicker skin, they taught me how to write, they taught me how to get published, they taught me how to research a book, and they taught me how to bring a book project to completion within a reasonable amount of time no matter what came at me while I was writing.
And as I neared the end of my graduate studies and as the defense of the dissertation was behind me, this fantasy epic reared its head again. I remember sitting in an office at a university where I was filling in for another teacher and I had a couple of hours to kill before I had to leave for the train.
The office was quiet. It was as if sound had ceased to exist.
And I began to write.
And I didn’t stop until I had finished a completely new version, using the first novel I wrote all those years ago as backstory.
This time around I was able to determine on my own that this wasn’t any good. I didn’t need to hire a professional editor or insult publishers to understand that I still wasn’t ready.
So I put it aside again. I worked on getting some kind of traction in the new place to where I had moved. I started freelance writing, I published research articles, I started teaching college history part time, I started tweeting, blogging, and I started to write short stories to hone my craft. I shopped those stories around. I got rejected but I also got enough encouragement from editors to know that, just like with my very first novel, I was on to something.
And then one day–in July 2015–the novel came back to me. And again, I wrote a completely new version, this time based on the second novel as well as the first novel.
I started working on this version in earnest in October 2015.
On May 23, 2016, I finished the first draft of the third version of the epic fantasy novel for adults that I began writing in November 2001. Two days ago I printed it.
First Draft. Large font, double-spaced, 20k words too many.
So, will anyone want to publish it? I don’t know. What matters to me at this stage is that I finished it and it works.
However, when the time comes to shop this novel around, I think I might stand a better chance if I let this be the title:
The Girl Who Went in Search of Her Dad.
Even though the girl is actually a 25-year-old woman and the search for her father is only part of the story.
In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.