A Writer’s Journey – Part 3: My First Novel

August 15, 2011 By: Christopher D. Eldridge Category: Writing Craft

During the summer of 8th grade I was inspired to create my first novel. I was on vacation in California, spending time with my dad, step-mom, and two of my younger sisters. We were heading up toward Round Mountain through the beautiful California wilderness, when I spotted a bird, either an eagle or hawk, and an idea popped into my head. I loved nature and adventuring, and I wondered what it would be like to spend my life traveling the world in search of things–relics, treasures, mythical beasts, etc.

For the rest of the car ride up, I began to develop a story of a young man named Valcor. He was a Seeker, the last of his kind, and his life was spent in search of legendary treasures. After receiving a message from his king, he goes on an epic quest to find the mythic Midnight Eagle, a bird the size of a dragon whose mere feathers have the ability to grant wishes. It was an adventure story at heart, full of magic, strange creatures, and innumerable myths and legends. But it was also a story about friendship, love, and betrayal.

As much as I loved fantasy back then, I didn’t read a lot of it. Most of the big fantasy writers, Tolkien, Brooks, McCaffrey, I just couldn’t get into. Full of pages and pages of description and vast lengths of time where the story didn’t seem to move forward, I quickly got bored. I was a kid raised on role-playing-games and video game fantasy. Short bursts of story filled with action and battles comprised of magic and swords. That’s the kind of story I wanted. So that’s the kind of story I wrote.

I spent the entire summer and most of 9th grade writing The Quest for the Midnight Eagle. It ended up being a little over 60,000 words. Pretty short for a novel but quite lengthy for a 9th grader. I loved the story at the time, and so did a lot of my friends, especially those a few years younger than me. We’d often sit down and I’d spend a few hours reading it to them, changing my voice accordingly for each character–man or woman. There are those in my critique group now who tell me I should read my own audio books, though I don’t do all the voices in group like I would in the privacy of my own home.

My First Map (9th Grade)

I also created the world, including a map that I hand drew. It wasn’t a very good map, but it did the trick. What was unique about my world was a giant mountain range that virtually split the world in two. The only way to travel from East to West was through Deadman’s Pass.

This is because the Thunder Oceans, the only other way to cross from one-side of the world to the other, was full of dragons, tsunami-sized waves, and hurricane-like winds. No one was thought to have ever survived the journey. I wanted the world split in two for several reasons, but mainly because I wanted the West to be a democratic continent of sovereign kings that shared equal power amongst each other, and the East to be a place of anarchy ruled by slavery and oppression. Hendor, who we meet later in the book, was greatly affected by the Slave Wars in the East.

Of course there were a lot of things I hadn’t yet learned about writing a novel, let alone the craft of writing. I didn’t quite grasp point of view. For the first hundred pages, the story was written in Valcor’s POV, however, in the last fifteen pages, the story jumps from first person to third person from one paragraph to the next. In fact, there’s a section in third person despite the fact that Valcor is in the scene. This was probably because I wanted the reader to know what the bad guys were up to, but it’s even confusing for me to read. Some other problems include a great deal of summary, a lot of showing rather than telling, stifled dialogue, and very little character development. It was clearly a story focused on plot.

It’s pretty difficult for me to read this original version now, which is why I am surprised my mom loved the story so much. I mean, sure she’s my mother, so she’s supposed to love it, right? But she enjoyed it enough to try and help me find a publisher. Thankfully, no one was remotely interested as the story was still many years and many revisions away from being close to ready. But that’s just one of the reasons why I love my mother so much. She loved my writing, even then. She believed in me, and I know she always will. I’m not sure if I would have kept with it, if it wasn’t for her constant support and belief.

Despite the many years that have passed, I’ve kept the story close at heart, and it still hasn’t left me. I’ve continued to develop the novel through countless revisions, and although the story has transformed and grown, you can still glimmers of the original in it. The title has changed (title and cover here), and what was once one book, has now been split into three–each one between two hundred and three hundred thousand words. Not to mention the series has ballooned to eleven books . . . and counting. Books two through four, which I wrote in succession each year after book one (10th-12th grade), is another tale for another day.

What I enjoy most of all when I look back, is just how much I loved writing this story. It was truly my first labor of love. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing . . . trying to get that back. With all the freedom in the world and so many things to do–hang with friends, play sports, video games, chase girls–I just wanted to sit down and write a story, for me and only me. That’s something never to lose sight of if you are trying to write a story that is publishable, marketable, and profitable. If you can create something you love, and love the process, there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t be the only one.

So to embarrass myself again by presenting some of my early writing, here’s the first chapter of my first novel written in the summer of ’93.


4 Comments to “A Writer’s Journey – Part 3: My First Novel”

  1. Dude, I KNEW it! I knew you were like me and started writing early and pretty much taught yourself. Amazing how you found a voice so young–a lot of this reads like the later, more polished story. Very cool, thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Dev. I guess we share more than our names. Although I think your early writing is more polished than mine. The stuff you wrote in grade school is comparable to most people’s work in middle or high school.

  2. I’m jealous of both of you for starting so early. 😉

    I was perfectly happy reading everyone else’s books for 40+ years.

    It’s not like after I read “Interview With The Vampire” in high school I was going to think, “Oh, I could write something better than that.” 😆

    I had to wait for Stephenie Meyer’s saga to give me the creative kick in the pants I so desperately needed.

    • Well, we all get our inspiration at different times in life. But at least starting at a later age you don’t have to go through all the growing pains and nearly so many trials and tribulations. 🙂

      It’s funny how many people Stephenie Meyer has inspired to write…and not because they thought the books were amazing. 😉


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