A Dream in the Shape of a Book

For as long as I can remember I wanted to make books. When I was four or five I was the illustrator. I spent hours drawing pictures of me going to the library for storytime or doing cartwheels in my gymnastics class. I remember writing stories about fairies who lived in trees, and re-telling little red riding hood. I dictated the stories to my mom and she wrote them down.

It was after the excitement of learning to read and write wore off that I discovered my dream.

I was going to write a real book.

I was seven then, and the book was ‘Return to Treasure Island’. It was filled with friendly monsters, swordfights with evil pirates, and a tiny gnome with my little brother’s name. All summer I scribbled words into this little blue notebook. It had a felt cover with a tulip cut into it (I know, perfect for an adventure story!)

I was convinced that I would finish it and give it to my family and friends. It was going to be the best book ever. I got right to the end. After a long and bizarre journey filled with about every adventure my brain could think up, my characters found the island. They were searching for the treasure and had even found a talking goat to help them!

As the years went on the stories changed. There was a new one each summer– a girl magically becomes magical and turns her brother into a frog, some kids go diving for the lochness monster, a horse named Persephone gets stolen by a vampire… they were always different, but they were all going to be my first book.

Then I was twelve, and I had a new story idea. It was based in a forest of conifers, and the main character wore a white cloak that could be reversed to show a mottled green side whenever she needed camouflage. Made up creatures like wolvins and retences crept into the sentences and I fell in love with the Sky Trinity. Whenever I sat down to write I had the strange feeling that the words weren’t mine– they were hers. Her name was Aza, and her story sucked me in.

My whole dream was bigger now. There were over 30,000 words, a whole tribe full of characters, and two different climaxes that I had to decide between (I later wrote a third one!). I didn’t just want this story to be for friends and family. I wanted to share it with everyone who liked stories.

Writing and editing it was not easy.

When people hear that I’ve written a book they look at me with wide eyes and say “how did you do that?” It’s an important question, but the answer isn’t very fancy– I wrote; I sat down and I worked on it, a lot.

I think writing takes one main thing– not quitting. All the other story drafts I had were good (okay… maybe not the one with the talking goat!), but I didn’t push through with them. They’re still sitting on a computer, hibernating in their fetal forms. But in some ways I think that’s good. I’ve heard several writers tell me these words, “Sometimes there are things that you’re not ready to write.” And I think they’re right. I’m writing a new novel that could never have existed before this summer. If I’d written it last spring it would have been only a shadow of an idea.

Sometimes, maybe the stories wait for a reason.

But Aza’s story was ready for me, or at least I convinced it that it was. There were weeks when I considered giving up and working on a different story, but I didn’t let myself do it. I spent two and a half years slicing, rewriting, and sticking new scenes into my fledgling. My word count, somehow, went from 30,000 to 56,000. I wanted Aza to be as perfect as possible, so I forced myself to see its faults. I learned to listen when readers told me “this scene doesn’t quite work”. The critiques weren’t cruelty, they were gifts. Each one pushed Aza a little bit closer to greatness.

When I finally held the finished copy in my hands I was thrilled; I was completely filled with joy. My dream had turned into reality, because I had made it true.

So I’d done it. But even at that moment when I clicked the button to put Aza on Amazon I knew that my dream wasn’t over. Like my story ideas, it had morphed over time.

Now, my dream is no longer a single book. It is books. I want to continue sharing my characters’ stories. And now, I hope to share the stories of how I make this dream into a reality.

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