TNT: An Origin Story... mostly
To tell the story of how my novel, The Nightmare's Truth, came to be, I've gotta take you way back. Aaand I also have to trim this down or you'll be here until your ass goes numb (from sitting, cheeky!) or your finger cramps from all the scrolling.
You've probably heard a version of the adage that great art often comes from places of darkness or emotion so raw, so turbulent, it infects every crevice of the artist's life. Of course, this isn't always 100% true, but it's damn close from my experience! Whether you're writing a song, painting a masterpiece or forging a world of imagination through words, the result is gonna be decidedly hollow without feeling. Without emotion. Imagine biting into a tantalising doughnut only to find there's no filling. Hey, maybe that tickles your fancy. Maybe not. How about an empty Twinkie? For me, I like substance, depth. I want art to make me feel, think and question my reality. That's not for everyone mind you, & requires considerable effort from the artist not to overdo it for those hunting entertainment & nothing else.
I never set out to write or release this book. Not in the beginning. Not really. I was in a place of despair & gloom, wallowing in the past without a clue towards the future & with no appreciation of the present. There was no light. Everything was out to screw me over. The game was rigged. Screw the future, I'm cursed. Sound familiar? I'm sure most of us have been there before. Guess what? It's total bullshit. But I didn't know that then. I'd always turned to writing music in those times before, but this time something different hung in the air. Call it fate, catching lightning, a brainwave - whatever the hell you want! Suddenly, injected into my little bubble of darkness, came a new light. A resurgence of ideas I'd toyed with in my mind for years. Ideas I'd never pieced together or given due effort. Ideas inspired by all the stories I'd loved religiously through the years. And so, with next to no experience of writing something so vast, I dove in. I wrote this for me. To help me vent and deal with the demons haunting me. And bugger me sideways, it worked! The story flowed onto the page in 3 short months and left me grinning wider than the Cheshire Cat (and with a serious case of lockjaw after).
Damn, that cat's freaky. Anyway. This was years ago, by the way. And that original draft makes me cringe to read now. But everything has an origin story, and that origin is rarely as glamorous as the result ends up. I can't tell you how the ideas for my story came to me, exactly. As I said, I didn't set out with a plan for this to happen, it just did. Maybe my mind was over-saturated with all the books, films, TV series' & events across the world or in everyday peoples' lives to keep it all contained any longer. Stories surround us daily. Everywhere. In our minds, in our companions & in the media we consume. When you're open to them, the challenge becomes tuning into the right ones. The ones you want to tell. You want to write your own book? Just do it. Get started. Write the story you want to read. Fuck what anyone else may think or say. Only those with no idea what it means to create & develop will tear you down, and who gives a sunny shit about the opinions of those ass-clowns? People react more to emotion than technique, so get your story down and let it evolve freely. A tree can't grow if you never plant it.
I believe everyone has a story to tell. Many, in fact. You just need to decide to go for it. And by the way, the word 'decide' gets heavily misused these days. Its Latin origins literally mean to cut off from any other option - once you decide, you do. True decisions happen immediately, it's only the build up to it which takes the time.
So, what happened next? Well, I got more excited than Garfield with a catnip-laced lasagne, that's what! I sent this (crappy) 1st draft to anyone who wanted to read it (friends, mostly) & anyone who didn't, too (literary agents, etc). Sending it to those interested in reading it was a brilliant idea. That helped me realise I was onto something here (even though a part of your mind always questions the authenticity of friend feedback). Sending it to agents, on the other hand? Jeez, can you say jumping the gun?! Needless to say, despite some minor interest, there were no bites. Over a period of a few years, while climbing the corporate ladder, falling in love, tackling grief & mortality and expanding my mind through mindfulness & soul-searching, I learned the writer's truth. Are you ready for it? Editing is where the real magic happens. And I mean, real editing. Tear that fucker apart, re-write it if you have to (I did, from the ground up!). It only hurts until you realise how great a service it does for your story. Now, you can hire an editor (which can get pretty fucken pricey!) or turn to a knowledgeable friend for a modest fee (which I do not recommend). Or go with option 3, the route I took. There's some wicked editing software available at very affordable rates which helped me hone my skills and pinpoint where I was dropping the ball. And while I could praise the software I used (called Pro Writing Aid, for the curious among you) until Judgement Day (the one from Terminator, not the bible), all I will say is this... There's no substitute for the eyes and attention of another human. Beta readers who are genuinely interested in supporting your story and offering their feedback, well, they're pretty much akin to sharpening your blade on the whetstone. You want a sharp edge? You want refinement, professionalism? Then Beta readers are essential. And you can't get discouraged if some drop off the merry-go-round. I started with many, one shone above the others, some made it to the end, others didn't. And now I have even more lined up for next time. The process is ever-evolving, but if you show your gratitude for everyone who lends any honest opinion, you'll fly miles. All you really need to remember regarding the opinions of others has been put beautifully by the incomparable Neil Gaiman. I'll let him lay down this slice of wisdom...
And from there, you know the story (at least generally speaking). You've seen me marketing the crap out of The Nightmare's Truth (sorry, not sorry), and you've read my previous post on the self-publishing route I took with Amazon KDP to get this book into your hands. And if you're sitting there scratching your head now thinking "Wuuuh?" - well, go read my other posts, follow me on social media or buy my book! You can check out a FREE sample of the novel's opening by clicking here.
Write a story which speaks to you. A story which comes from your heart and touches your soul. There's a story behind every story.
Embrace your emotions. Some of the greatest triumphs come from the darkest nights if you only seize the courage to face them (and this isn't restricted to bad shit, either, don't overlook your brightest moments for inspiration).
Accept wholeheartedly that your first draft isn't going to be a masterpiece. All it needs is to exist, that is a first draft's perfect state.
Writing is re-writing. The real magic and depth of your story comes during the editing phase. You're not going backwards by picking your beloved apart & going for round 2, you're moving forward.
Reach out to story lovers who are prepared to go the next level & help your story realise its true form. There's no substitute for a fresh perspective.
Never let anyone tell you that you can't or shouldn't. You can. You should. Please do. This journey has been beyond enlightening for me. I know who I am now. I'm the fucking storyteller.
Click here to buy your copy of The Nightmare's Truth (USA) Until next time, Ciao x