• Nathaniel G. Sands

Follow Your Dreams

Writing a novel is not something to pursue half-heartedly. It takes a dream, a vision, countless hours of thought and work, and an ideal of perfection.

"Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it?"

About a year and a half ago my first novel, The Event Horizon, was published and released. Many people have since asked me how I went about writing it. Some even ask for tips, as they have dreamed of writing a book themselves. So, I will give a brief history of how I came about writing, and some ways in which I accomplished my goal of completing a novel in a year’s time.

It started as a child; I really enjoyed writing stories. Most of my stories were of me and my friends setting of to Mars, and surfing on volcanoes there. In elementary school, my friend Kevin and I set out to write a comic book about a cow and a pig with super powers. We enlisted our friends Sean and Aiden for illustrations as both of us had sloppy drawing skills. We had so much fun doing this, and I still have the roughly 20 pages of comics we accomplished.

I have hardly told anyone this, but at twelve I wrote my first novel. It was in a little diary book I had, and I did it secretly. Often, I would lie down on the bottom bunk of my bed, with sheets shoved under the mattress on top, and write this action story about a guy who went to war against a hoard of goblins. I wrote a beginning, middle and end, and a hundred and twenty pages later, I was too embarrassed to show anyone, and threw it in the garbage. A regret of mine now, as I think it would be so cool to go back and read what I had written. But I was a shy boy, and often feared judgement.

One thing to consider when writing is that unfortunately, people will judge you. In order to complete a novel and share it, one must be willing to reveal deep parts about the self and be able to hold out through criticisms. By no means was my first book perfect, and many have shared with me why that is so. From poor grammar and syntax, (although it was professionally edited) to obscure ideas and irrelevant content, sometimes I wonder if said critics simply enjoy tearing people down. There is a characteristic in people I have observed (as I’m sure you have too) that look to find imperfections in others, in order to feel better about themselves. It is sad but true, and so when building a tower, one must be prepared for those who will sit back and watch, hoping to see it fall apart.

What motivated me to write The Event Horizon. I have shared about how my father died. His passing is what originally motivated me. I realized when he was gone that I didn’t know much about him. Many people who knew him, especially his family, often will interrupt me while I’m speaking and tell me how much I remind them of him. Being half him, and as boys tend to mimic their fathers, I only wish now I knew more about him and his thoughts.

His passing in his early 50’s caused me to contemplate my own mortality. None of us know when we are going to go, and so, I wanted to leave something behind for my daughter to know me by… as a fail safe of course.

This, along with a dream I had, motivated me to start writing the story. And after a year of writing, as the story was nearing completion, I thought it was pretty good! I’m an avid reader, and I have a distaste for modern fiction. I more-so enjoy classics and wrote in somewhat of an old English style. This, along with the complicated Ideas and bouncing around of timelines, I honestly thought there was no way it would get published. But I liked it and had an urge to share it with others (even though I told Leah, and still do, that she is not to read it until she is in her 20’s). I emailed the story to about 5 publishers I happened to come across on the internet and printed out a few copies, mailing and hand delivering to local publishers. Within a month I had two contracts mailed to my home. While beginning negotiations with the publisher I chose, Austin Macauley, I began writing the sequel, which is now complete, but am sitting on – needing to edit it and re-write the ending. Instead of focusing on completing it, I am currently working on my third novel, (tentative title: Of life and dreams or The Girl of his Dreams) unrelated to the first two and a little more palatable for the modern reader, with a goal to complete it by next Christmas.

Here are a few tips for you if you are looking to write your own novel:

Keep a notebook on you. Being able to write a full-length novel while working full time is not easy. I always tried to keep my head inside my story. Often pulling out my notebook to jot down ideas. Some days I only had an hour or two to sit down at my computer to write, so having something to start with is a great time saver.

In my notebook I always kept an outline of the story. So, when an idea came to me, I could look in the back and note what chapter it would be a part of. This made it easy to transfer to the computer. And after doing so, I would put a check mark beside it, so as to not include it again somewhere else. I also kept timelines and character profiles in the back as well. Make sure to add depth to the characters, and remember people often change in life, your characters should too.

Continue to read/listen to audio books, especially if you are struggling at any point with ideas. In my notebook, I always list words I come across that I like. Keep a thesaurus handy and write down different words associated with the new words you have found. This will help with your vocabulary and your stories originality.

Prepare to lose sleep. It was probably not healthy at all, but I would often go weeks straight with 3-4 hours of sleep a night.

I encourage you to keep a dream journal. Often Ideas come from our dreams, (as did mine), but especially if you enjoy psycho-analysis as I do, it’s never to late to learn more about yourself.

To write a novel, or to accomplish any major project takes tremendous sacrifice. If you aren’t willing to dedicated yourself to this difficult project - preparing yourself for setbacks, emotional frustration, sleep deprivation, and harsh criticism, you will not complete it. But what is an accomplishment if not completed through perseverance?

Last of all, be true to yourself. What makes a great piece of art is the honesty and vulnerability of the artist. And if you enjoy it, the right people will to. If you aren’t creating something that you would enjoy, what’s the point?

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