People often ask authors how they finish a book, the drudgery of day to day life serving as a constant reminder to them that they have no extra time for anything. Maybe they have started a book and not finished it. Maybe they just quit, or maybe they did not like the product. Maybe they spelled Yale with a 6. Regardless, they want to know. It is a challenge, isn’t it? How do people find the time and the words? What made you think your story was important? (That’s your cynical friend who creates nothing but critiques everything.)
I don’t know about most of it, but the one aspect of writing I feel like I have an exceptional grasp on is never quitting. It’s the element I am certain separates me from these inquiring minds at parties. It’s the single factor I could fall back on when hit with doubt. If you build a history of never quitting on projects – never getting bored and losing what made the idea great to you in the first place – then you will always continue, and thus can count on the fact something will be produced. When you know something will come, then there is no course but to put in the effort to impress. Otherwise there’s no surer path to a premature end. Alas, I have a secret:
I draw strength from Warcraft III.
Probably not what anyone was expecting – yet true. Warcraft III. Yes, a cartoony video game of my youth that I loved to bits, but also something more. It was the title of my first real story.
See, back in Grade 9 and 10 Warcraft III, as producers Blizzard would have it, did not exist. Warcraft II existed and love it to bits. So much so that I set out to write a sequel. Every day after school I would come home and head upstairs to write two pages single-spaced before dinner. I did this for most of Grade 9 and then through the summer and into Grade 10. When I finished, I wrote another one, and when I finished that one I wrote a third one. The combined result was an 111,000 word text document on an old Mac of which I was resolutely proud.
Now, here’s the thing. It may have been woven together with some creativity, but I borrowed half my characters from the video game. I used their map. I used their world. I made spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors galore. I wrote sentences that a grown reader would be incapable of digesting. The end product was rubbish in the real world, and in retrospect, even as far back as university, it was not a story worthy of attention.
Except mine. It inspired me because I finished it.
All 111,000 words. Now, years later, I can barely tell you any details of all this work (I remember a demon arriving mid-air in the middle of a four-nation boat battle, and Deathwing providing a final surprise attack before the final curtain – that’s it), but I can tell you the word count because the knowledge that I finished what I set out to do a year ago – which was like five years adult time – was all that mattered.
If I could finish a quasi-readable story that overtly stole half of its ideas when I was a pubescent teenager with plenty of understandable diversions, what excuse could I have as an aspiring author seven years ago? What, was the fantasy world I constructed from the favourite elements of my reading list not good enough for Azeroth? Were my Imbalance characters of less dimension than computer game NPCs and their cousins from the era of ‘I-can’t-use-commas-properly’? Finishing something of notable size through beginning, journey, and climax was no longer a hurdle. Starting such a project again was a decision made with the confidence that one day I would finish again, and unwavering knowledge that you can is the greatest of motivators.