A Fifteen-Year-Long Rollercoaster
It starts with a creaking jerk that makes you grab your safety harness for support. Then the ride slowly ascends up, up, up the rising track until you crest the top of an immense drop, seemingly straight back down to the ground, with absolutely nothing to stop you plunging to your death. For the fleeting moment that the rollercoaster peaks at the first rise, your view is perfectly unhindered (if, for whatever diehard reason, you are like me and always want the front seat) as you hang precariously in the air, suddenly wondering why on earth you ever agreed to do this, and if these will be your last minutes to live. Then you drop. People are screaming and the wind is whipping in your face. You hang on for dear life, not sure if you should keep your eyes open or close them, praying that the safety belt is really working, and that you’ll live long enough to regret your decision to do this. But with every swoop and swirl of the ride, you lessen your grip a little more. The sickening drops are suddenly fun, just adding to the adrenaline. As the rollercoaster begins to slow down and grind to a jarring halt, you groan aloud, “Aw, it’s over already?”
Though not exactly in that order, or nearly so dramatic, the journey of writing a story for fifteen years has indeed felt like a wild ride. I considered comparing it to a marathon instead of a rollercoaster, for often the periods of plodding along with nothing but more miles ahead of you is much more accurately how it felt. (Not that I would really know what a marathon feels like, as I have never—thank God—run one.)
But upon further reflection, I realized that a rollercoaster is a much better metaphor, summarizing the fun, the hopes, the fears, the plunges, the twists, the turns, the regrets, the expectation of an early demise, the relief, the joy. Except, upon this metaphorical rollercoaster, there were also long periods where the tracks went straight and slow for incredibly long periods that almost put me to sleep in my seat, and several breakdowns, in which the ride would stop altogether, leaving me dangling for years at a time.
Perhaps you are wondering what kind of a serious case of writer’s block could I have possibly suffered from that caused it to take fifteen years to write a book. While there might have been moments of being a frustrated writer, most of the time writing was speedy and easy. Creating a world, however, was not.
When I was 14-years-old, and the first pieces of the story The Mark of Fire began swirling in my adolescent head, it was only a single book with a simple plot that I began typing up furiously. The details are fuzzy now, but over time my investment in the people, places, and plot increased until a long, complicated story lay before me. Whatever I had previously typed up was crumpled and chucked in the trash (unless rescued and preserved for posterity by my mom). To make a very, very long story short, the journey of writing my books series looked liked hours and hours of inventing names, drawing maps, flags, and character portraits; writing out pages and pages of another world’s history, character biographies, timelines, and family trees. Not to mention, writing the books themselves.
And if that does not sound time-consuming enough, I would then scratch it all and start the process over again. At one point in the journey, the third book in the series was about halfway done when I decided it was time to begin the series afresh, which rendered 1500 pages obsolete. I have lost count of the number of versions that I have nixed over the years, and continue to be shocked at just how many I will accidentally stumble upon, preserved in binders and floppy discs (yes, I told you it’s been fifteen years). You might think me a crazy perfectionist, I’m not denying there’s some of that going on, but the beauty of it was that with every renovation, the story would build and strengthen, both in my mind and within itself. Most of the time I rather felt like an archaeologist, uncovering ancient history and secrets of people and places in a long-forgotten world. Answers to particularly unsettled bits of the story would explode in my head like the solution to a math problem, and I’d hastily scribble it all down.
From purges and rewrites, to giving up in frustration, to revelation and inspiration (and don’t forget that during all this I also finished high school, two ministry schools, and EMT training, worked full time in ministry and part time as a house-cleaner, babysitter, caretaker, and EMT), I hope the fifteen-year-long rollercoaster now makes a little more sense.