Toby’s Update – May 2018

Time to first draft: let’s be honest, 23 years. To second draft? Two months. Third draft? Four months. Fourth? About ten days.

In fact, I wrote most of the fourth draft over two days, during a weekend in which a lot of pieces of the puzzle seemed to fall into place. Now, to be very honest, I have put the manuscript aside for five days, to create time for the dust of creative thoughts to settle. And man do I hope that all the cuts – about 1/3 of what I had at in draft three – did not gut the story.

Ofcourse, the first signs are good as my wife is now reading at finds at least the first seven chapters interesting enough to keep going – which is exactly what the aim of the third draft was. Embellishing the early chapters and setting a good pace towards the finale.

About a year ago I watched a set of lectures by Brandon Sanderson – a prolific writer whose books I have enjoyed – recorded and published on YouTube in which he said many useful things, but one that stuck out to me: you need to write five books before you write a good one.

Challenge accepted.

And fate intervened on my behalf.

Upon hearing that something clicked. It did not matter how many good ideas I had or notebooks I filled with backstory, or attempts I made to write the best damn fantasy book in the world.

Then, during a bout of illness I stumbled upon some LitRPG series, Eden’s Gate by Edward Brody. A read which I really enjoyed. I cannot recall the character names or what happened so many months later, but I distinctly remember enjoying the read.

In my opinion, this writer has some craft and talent, and I look forward to reading a book he might write set in his own setting; but that is a different story.

Upon reading this form writing I realised something. My own standard for my first book was too high. Rather than write the successor to A Song of Ice and Fire, at this stage in my life I was much better equipped to attempt to write something I could grasp, like a simple adventure with a compelling story. I just needed to write something that I would enjoy reading. As Robert McKee puts it: “A good story, well told.”

Enter Critical Role. That’s right. At thirty-four years old I discovered D&D.

And I was blown away. They are a phenomenon within a stream that is just an awesome way of developing storytelling skills. I needed to do this.

After watching several episodes and getting completely hooked, I followed some online tutorials and that first one-shot game that I wrote indeed became my first attempt at a finished story.

Somewhat into the process I realised that a D&D game told well is different from a short story or novella, but at least I now had a beginning, a middle and an end.

It has been an interesting ride and I look forward to continuing it with you.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll check back in at the end of May.


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