My Origin Story As A Writer

I’ve come to realise that despite how changeable people are, many people I’m close to and have known since childhood have ended up pursuing similar interests to what they were known for all the way back then. It’s rather interesting actually, and I could provide examples using my various cousins, but I’ll leave that for some personal thoughts later.

Take myself for example. Writing for me started a very, very long time ago.

Perhaps the first signs of me having a creative (and rather twisted) side emerged when I was in pre-school and well under ten years old. On a school night I had decided to start drawing. Why? Who knows. I drew a tiny stickman with a gigantic monster sucking out his brain. Yes, I was always rather demented. I called the stickman “Movetody”, and thus my first actual creation was born. And it’s where my online alias “Tody” came from.

From there, Movetody developed into a comic I used to draw on scrap paper. It followed the story of a soldier, Max, who gets his brain removed by his arch nemesis Raven. Rather than destroy him, it actually made him damn near invincible – like a superhero. Except there was just one problem. He was retarded. His sole mission in life was to eat “The Golden Cookie” which was, well, the sun.

I’m not kidding. Ask my brother or any of my school friends. They’ll tell you Movetody was the real deal. And after that, drawing and comics became a passion to me. I used to sit in school right up until grade six drawing and creating new comics or even messing with friends by making comics about them. It loosely continued even into high school.

These are some of the characters I drew in my childhood. A few, like X-Citeman, were created by my friends.
Some of the characters I drew in my childhood. A few, like X-Citeman, were by my friends.

However, the turning point for me came when I was eleven years old. That was when I discovered I wanted to be a writer. I just didn’t know it back then. At the time I wanted to make games. Gaming was my passion. See what I mean? Today writing and gaming are my two biggest passions. They stuck with me my whole life. I write for a South African gaming website, EGMR, and play games regularly. I’m sidetracking, sorry. Where was I? Oh right.

I had woken up one morning and had decided to draw a black knight. I’d always liked knights. Evil ones rather than the heroic depictions. Either way, little did I know that was the day my first book character was born for a fantasy story. A knight who wore The Dark Armour from ancient legends. Forgive me I was only eleven.

I took to a program I used to use back in those days called “RPG Maker”, which was an awesome tool to make role-playing games in a relatively simple manner. It wasn’t complex, but it was oh so fun. I started developing my first real narrative about this character with his black knight armour. I made a huge portion of the game. I wrote all the dialogue. I was so enchanted by this game that I was creating; my ideas coming to life in front of me.

Then everything changed.

I hit a snag in the story and wasn’t sure how to progress, and my skills were very limited so I couldn’t make a particular part of the game the way I wanted to. Bear in mind, it was all for fun at the time. But my brother, who is almost two years older than me, discovered his desire to write a book. I actually have to ask him where that came from. Mental note made. Naturally, as a little nooblet I was inspired by this and tried it myself. And my mind was blown.

Even more characters from my comic world.
Even more characters from my comic world.

Sitting at my desk as an eleven year old with nothing but time and a massive capacity to dream, staring at a blank page that I could put anything down onto, was quite simply rapture. BioShock reference for the gamers out there. It was extraordinary. It became my passion in mere days. I think it took me less than a month to write one hundred A4 pages. Of course all of it was complete crap. I was eleven after all. That was nine years ago.

After that milestone I hit another snag and resorted back to playing games and being a little kid. But a few years later, between grades seven and nine, I recall watching Constantine on TV. Once again I was inspired to return to writing, and started a new novel called The Eternal Eye. I barely got into this one though. Maybe a chapter before I realised that it was too much like Constantine, and I buried it. I went on to work on a new novel, set in medieval times about assassins. This was before Assassin’s Creed, mind you, so I wasn’t taking inspiration again. Again, it sizzled out.

I went back to look at the hundred pages I had written when I was eleven, and I pressed delete on all of it. My writing faded off the map then until high school, when being in the top English class at my school allowed us to be very chilled and get plenty of freedom to write as we saw fit in our essay topics. I began using these as a channel to express my story ideas. And that set me on my path, in grade ten, to work on a new novel. It was first called Conflux, and then changed to Elysium. I promise I’ll get to what all of these were about at some point.

I planned out the entire story. This was when my love of writing became common knowledge among my friends, and they all teased me in good faith about it and saw it as fitting of me.

I should mention that two years prior, in grade eight, I had taken to writing a comedy series targeted at gamers on a South African gaming forum called Twilight. It had a pretty close community so finding out people’s quirks was rather easy. It was called “DeMoNiK – The True Story” based on one of the administrators there, and people really, really loved this from me. I went on to write two full ‘seasons’ before it went on hiatus. I returned in grade ten, the time of Elysium, to conclude the story with season three, and it was simply awesome to see the same readers return for more of what they loved. Making people laugh made me feel really great, and on top of that, the little comedy series became my first ever completed story.

Part of the front cover of DeMoNiK - The True Story.
Part of the front cover of DeMoNiK – The True Story. I didn’t make that awesome image though.

As was becoming the norm for me, Elysium too died out as I grew as a writer and realised I wasn’t ready. But my confidence was growing as I received encouragement, praise and great marks from my English teachers, and even did some bizarre things like write a Batman story in my final exam, and write about KFC cancelling the Double Crunch burger and what it meant to let go in another paper. Full marks. There was just no denying it. I was a writer.

Except I moved away from novels. In February 2009, around grade 11, I discovered a new passion. Taking my love for games and writing about them. I joined the South African gaming site eGamer (newly rebranded as EGMR), at its birth, created by one of the admins of that same Twilight gaming community. That was when I became a games reviewer and opinion writer.

I could go on about how much I learned from that. But I will save that for its own blog post at a later stage. Whether it was learning to research, construct opinions, work on deadline, work within a group and so much more, eGamer changed my life. It literally did and continues to do so, as we’ve become established and I’m lucky to work with an awesome bunch of people, including my best friend. It’s a massive part of who I am today.

However, I wasn’t about to give up writing. My motivation was rekindled as I was inspired by the TV series’ Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries and Lost to begin work on Darklight, a novel that I wrote like a fiend and again passed the hundred page milestone. My significant other was a massive part of that and inspired me and encouraged me daily, bringing out the very best in me then (and now!). I had developed the entire story as well. It became big. It was my first story that became like an “epic”, in that it got so huge I actually split it into two books. I was so sure that it would be the novel I completed.

An image that had inspired Darklight.
An image that had inspired Darklight.

Overly excited with my progress, I submitted the first three chapters of the book to Penguin Books South Africa. I was just sixteen at the time I think. Nevertheless, I was confident and over the moon. It would be three months until I heard from them, but that was alright.

Unfortunately, three months later I received a nice little rejection email. And it broke me. I mean, it was obvious in hindsight that I was facing rejection. I was sixteen! My writing wasn’t great. And the market in South Africa is tiny. I was told that most of what sells here is crime and chick literature. But I was young and naive at the time and I took it really hard.

But I needed that failure. I once read a brilliant quote that said “sucking at something is the first step to being kind of decent at it.” That was so true. I wouldn’t want to go back and tell my sixteen year old self that, because that disappointment grew me as a person and as a writer.

In grade twelve, Matric, I began my crime thriller, The Sorrow

In case you’re thinking it, it wasn’t really about what Penguin had said that made me start a crime thriller, but rather because at the time nearly everything I was reading and watching on TV had to do with crime, and I had replayed one of my all time favourite games Max Payne.

Before you think this was the turning point, it wasn’t. I wrote an abysmal two chapters before grade twelve mock exams, finals, a farewell to high school and varsity came in to the picture. I decided to take writing less seriously (big mistake) and focus on eGamer and my studies. I figured I was young. I had plenty of time. But that’s a foolish thought. Now is the best time.

And I woke up to that just last year, in 2013. Thanks to a sudden, uncontrollable hunger in me to write again, and out-of-this-world amazing support from my significant other, I returned to The Sorrow and planned the entire story over my second year of varsity. I sat in countless lectures on my mobile phone with Evernote and planned and wrote away. In September 2013 I started to write the book officially. I knew that the end of the year would be the busiest time you could imagine with a few members of my family getting married, exams, summer school, my own brother’s wedding on Christmas day and me having to move houses after the first week of January 2014.

The original Max Payne was my biggest inspiration for The Sorrow.
The original Max Payne was my biggest inspiration for The Sorrow.

What did I do? I said screw it. My dream would begin now. Despite all of that, I set myself the target that by January I would complete The Sorrow. I wrote endlessly. I wrote through entire nights. I am a nocturnal creature, but this was ridiculous even by my standards. I was unbelievably motivated, more than I’d ever been, and perhaps part of that was because my brother had completed his own novel. I wrote like a monster and by the wedding I was just chapters away from the end. I couldn’t rest. My mind had become an engine. I just wrote.

And on January 6 this year literally a day before I was meant to move houses, I wrote the final words of The Sorrow

The feeling was euphoric. I was sitting in front of nine years of dreaming. And now? A month later and I am days away from completing the final stages of editing.

Perhaps this would best be described as premature since I haven’t yet published my novel. But the sense of accomplishment again was life-changing. I’m proud of reaching that milestone. Funnily enough I thought completing my first novel would have allowed my mind to relax, but I actually got three times worse as my brain became like a jet engine running on meth. Restless nights, lots more writing and even beginning work on my next two novels were probably the telling clues that I was tapping into the darker territories of being a stimulation junkie.

More on those other stories later. I know this was a really long read, but it boils down to something simple. The first is is that things seem impossible until you actually do them. It’s simply about dedication and never giving up. It’s not easy, it was never meant to be easy and it never will be easy. But it’s doable. Whatever your dream is. Yes, I have the book and I’m looking at publication now and it may never be a success. But so what? I have the book. I have the accomplishment. And I’ll do better with the next one.

To bring this to a close, I suppose by means of introductions this was as descriptive as it gets.

In the near future I will definitely be talking more about my novels. But don’t worry. There won’t be so many words next time. Scout’s honour.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I chose “Write By Night” as the name of my blog, well, I guess we have a lot to talk about in the coming days and weeks, don’t we?

2 thoughts on “My Origin Story As A Writer

Speak Your Mind

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s