My Stages of Story Grief and My Completed Story Journal
"The Start of an Adventure" Completed on July 10th, 2014 - A sketch from the second-to-last page of my story journal.
Somewhere back in the middle of 2011, I decided that instead of spreading my art and writing across a multitude of sketchbooks and journals, that I’d instead keep all of my story-related content to one particular journal in order to help enable me to further organize my thoughts. Alongside this journal, I continued to maintain a private wiki and blog that concerned themselves specifically with helping me move myself along on my writing journey, and while I certainly typed up notes on my computer or iPad, the vast majority of my musing occurred within my precious little story journal.
Now, over three years later, I’m not quite where I’d hoped to be by the time I completed it, but I think I’m wiser for the journey.
I’d always assumed, I suppose, that if I simply put pen to paper I could push on and get my first book published in record time. I'd already written it once, after all. But much as that simple formula sounded quite straightforward and appealing, I realized that the book I’d been writing for somewhere over fifteen years showed its age in a number of ways that weren't easily reconcilable.
My Stages of Story Grief
Much like the stages of grief I once recall seeing so aptly displayed in this short video from Robot Chicken, I feel like I've finally come to terms with working on the main story for so long.
Denial came in two forms for me. First, the bulk of my writing was at one point destroyed in a literal computer fire, and in the aftermath, it was difficult for me to try to recapture the sense of wonder I felt in relation to the story and the characters because it felt like it simply didn't stack up against the original prose.
Secondly, I’d spent so long writing these characters and the various places and plots of the book series (which at that point was three books, because apparently trilogies were a “thing”), that I was all-but in denial about some of the parts that simply had never really worked well, and that I was willing to hand-wave off because going back and editing and rethinking them in earnest would mean revisiting thousands of pages of text. It was like having a warm fuzzy memory of a movie you enjoyed in your childhood that simply didn't hold up when you watched it a decade later.
Anger came in the form of frustration for me. I was aware enough that the books weren't where I wanted them to be, but I found myself in a place of stillness because I wasn't willing to move forward with the original prose and story, because I had enough awareness that it wasn't good enough for my tastes.
Bargaining for me came in the form of lacking a direction on how to proceed. Was it worth trying to work off the old prose and story (even though both hadn't aged as well as I’d have liked)? This period for me felt a lot like realizing the awesome cake recipe you baked wasn't turning out well, so you start tossing in more sugar, and maybe even some bright frosting. The problem is, no matter how much sugar or add or garnishments you toss on, if the cake is too salty, there’s not much you can do to make it the pristine piece of culinary perfection you longed for it to be.
Depression came in the form of self-realization that the story wasn't where I wanted it to be, and no amount of poking it was really giving it the “oomph” it needed.
The acceptance stage came last, but it opened my eyes to the possibility that possibly what was best for the story (and series) was to be willing to reshape it entirely. To think of it not as a cake recipe that went awry, and to instead imagine it as the rough shape of a sculpture from my youth. There were aspects that worked, and those that didn't, and to use those pieces that worked and be willing to look at them in new ways. Or (as was often the case), to be willing to look at a piece that didn't work and be willing to look at it with a critical and honest eye and toss it away outright for the good of the story.
The Story Journal
It was a difficult change of view at first, but over the last few years it’s been a healthy one, and I feel better for it. Being willing to tear down accepted truths of my world and its characters has allowed me to dig deeper, and hopefully worth towards building something much more satisfying the next go around (which will be draft 4.0.1, I believe). In the meantime, though, today marks a sort of celebration of completing my first story-centric journal.
My journal is packed with loads of text and planning alongside a healthy dose of sketches and rhetorical questions meant to inspire me further, and I thought it would be fun to share a few of its seventy-eight pages with you. As tends to be the nature of my sketches, they are usually only a few inches large (many are barely larger than a postage stamp). The total dimensions of the toned sketchbook is 7 x 10 inches.
Page 1/78 - The first page of the journal shows an iconic interpretation of a scene from the first book. I imagined it was how artisans and historians from the world might envision a scene from their history.
Page 2/78 - After finding a scene diagram in a book, I copied it over to my journal to try to keep me on-track.
Page 9/78 -
Page 29/78 -
Page 33/78 - Many of my journal pages include assorted sketches alongside notes or questions to myself.
Page 38/78 -
Page 71/78 - I pushed to finish off my story journal over the last few days, but as many of the pages deal with my upcoming short story, I opted to not post them here since it would be bound to spoil things. So instead: have one of the characters: Oberon.
Page 1/76 - I don't claim to be fantastic at horses, but the evolution from how I used to draw them
To cap off my story journal, I decided to draw the two main characters from my upcoming short story. It was a quick sketch, but it probably captured the female protagonist's spirit better than any other image I've done of her. It was a bit surreal to finish sketching her and go "wow.... that's HER at that age..."
The second-to-last page of my story journal.
The final page of my story journal, which includes some goals I've set for myself.
The Road Ahead
While I’m still a ways off on my rewrite of the first book, I’m still hoping to get some short stories out there to share with you in the coming months. Thanks for joining me on the journey, and for your continued support. :)
If you're curious to see other sketches from my story journal, you can see quite a number of them in
, and elsewhere in