This Writing Journey

Midnight’s Dawning

I jump around a bit in this blog because it’s interesting to contrast my attitudes of today with that naïve, optimistic, hopeful writer from over thirty years ago. Writing about him, I miss him, and the idealism he nurtured. But it wasn’t all hopefulness. Sometimes, reality snuck in to temper the enthusiasm.

As with The Lord of the Rings, I also have a mountain at the heart of my story. Coincidence? Hmmm …

As occurred after I finished my novel.

I started wondering why a publisher would take a chance on an unknown, untried author who’d only written book one of a proposed four-book series. A big part of this concern was genuine self-doubt. An equally big part was just how clueless I was about what to do next.

I decided to write a standalone fantasy epic, imaginatively entitled “Midnight’s Dawning”. The logic was that if I could get that published, then I’d develop some street cred, which could help with convincing a publisher to take a chance on me and a possible series. Well, it made sense in my head.

The structure for “Midnight’s Dawning” was inspired by Stephen King’s IT, which is 292,000 words, rotates between an ensemble of characters, alternates between past and present timelines, and has interludes interspersed that are historical snapshots into the IT creature.

I had the ensemble cast, but only the one main timeline, and used a prologue (as many fantasy books do) and four interludes to explore pivotal historical periods.

The Lord of the Rings was another inspiration. Somewhere along the line, I read an interview with JRR Tolkien where he’d said that if the story was real life, the good guys would’ve just used the Ring. I grew enamored with that concept – an object of power that the good guys use, only to become as terrible as the evil they’re trying to overthrow.

When I was at my parents a month or so ago and discovered most of my exercise books, I found that I’d begun to handwrite this novel at some point, and got through a good chunk of it. Flicking through it stirred only the vaguest memories. I think I was handwriting it as I was typing the other one – I think. I can’t imagine ever working exclusively by hand.

Ultimately, I did write “Midnight’s Dawning” on PC – it came out to 264,000 words (and it didn’t occur to me that a publisher who wouldn’t take a chance on a four-book series would on such a big book). And then I revised it, had people read it, and then … Well, it sat there, as I moved into other things, which I’ll cover next week.

Over the years, I’ve always wanted to come back to “Midnight’s Dawning”. It’s completed, so there’s a lot to work with. I did even revisit it a handful of times.

In 2006, I grafted it across from my MultiMate Word Processor into Microsoft Word and reformatted it. I had hoped to subsequently revise it, but didn’t get around to it then as I went back to school as a mature-age student.

I briefly gave it a shot in 2011 while rehabbing my broken leg, but only got about twenty pages in before work commitments pushed it from my life. (Breaking a leg didn’t stop me from all the editing I had to do.)

Then in 2019, I thought about it a bit more seriously, thinking I could break it up into three books. I applied for a grant, and progressed about fifty pages into it, although I was rewriting large chunks. I thought it’d be clean-up but, naturally, thirty-year-old writing is thirty-year-old writing – a mess. When I didn’t get the grant, I abandoned the project due to time commitments.

Last Christmas, while in my apathetic malaise, I decided to attack it again during my work break. I wanted to go back to something that had once excited me so unconditionally, and I was now also fully cognizant of what I’d be facing. This was not going to be a revision. A lot of this was going to be rewriting it anew.

After examining the original text, I broke it into four books of about 64,000 words each. Given the first fifty page were done (or so I thought), I calculated if I could rewrite 2,000 words a day, I could finish it before I went back to work.

As loose as creativity seems, it’s also worth introducing some cold pragmatism. Some don’t like that; they think the act of creation shouldn’t exist within any parameters. But parameters offer shape, and shape’s important. If you know what you’re aiming for, it defines what you need to do.

It turned out I had to rewrite large chunks of the first fifty pages – they weren’t bad, but horribly underdeveloped – and often I had to duck back into early sections to foreshadow things, or clean-up the narrative build, or just write in a whole lotta new shit.

Here’s the strange thing: despite the pace I set myself, despite the pressure to finish it before returning to work, I enjoyed rewriting this book – enjoyed thinking about it when I wasn’t at the computer, enjoyed sitting down to write it (whereas with other projects, I might procrastinate a while before I get started), and enjoyed this whole process like I was a kid and everything was pristine again.

New aspects of the story also revealed themselves to me – maturer aspects, as well as a novel concept to be the foundation of the story which was very typically fantasy (swords, magic, objects of power, scantily clad women and men), and provided … well, this is something I don’t want to talk about too much.

Not yet, because I think it’s cool.

The day before I was set to go back to work, I finished that redraft. It came in at 73,462 words. I accomplished that in a month. Comparatively, I adapted a screenplay (albeit that was about 105,000 words), and that took a whole year.

Since then, I’ve performed the first revision, fleshing it out further so that “Midnight’s Dawning” (that title really had to go) now sits at 87,673 words. Unfortunately (and regretfully), I’ve had to put it aside as other stuff has demanded my time and attention.

But it was nice to remember what it was to love to write.