I started writing Star Dog Legacy in 2012 for a university short fiction contest. The theme was “The Year 2032”, so twenty years from then. It was meant to be just futuristic enough to warrant some interesting changes, so I did with that what I could. I blended my two favorite things – German shepherds, and genetic engineering. Every major story I’ve ever written has featured a German shepherd in some way, if not as the main character.
At the time, I devoured the information in my classes, and many of the things I learned fed into my creative side. (I’ve always been a bookworm, and a nerd.) For instance, I was taking a psychology class and we revisited a topic I had always found intriguing, and that was Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I began to brainstorm using that (arguably limited) principle to adapt an artificial intelligence to a biological organism and all the steps it would take. I began outlining an entire novel based around that principle, and it made for some messy notes.
We were given about seven or eight weeks, if I remember correctly, from the time the theme was announced to when the story was due. There weren’t any real guidelines on word count minimums or maximums, but I wrote what I could in that time while balancing classes and other obligations. What I entered in that contest later became the first three chapters in my novel, and it won first place. I was shocked, but that was the moment I thought I could really do this. I quickly made outlines for expanding it into the full novel.
My notes in the beginning were messy. I used OneNote to plot everything out in sections and arrows leading to squares, columns, and tables, and I didn’t know a fraction of what I do now. I leaned heavily on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and split my chapters respectively among the steps. My notes were huge. I reworked the first three chapters to death, and I still have some of the earliest copies around. I can tell you that before I submitted it to the contest, it had a completely different title that I actually did away with since I wrote its namesake out of the story. All in all, I’m proud of the story I accomplished and how far its come.
What I’m not so proud of – It took me nearly five years to finish the darn thing. My main problem was focus. Huge distractions were in my life, and not all of them I regret. I’ve never been great at balancing time, and I promised it has showed. First, school and everything that came with it weighed me down, then a major surgery, then depression at realizing that I wouldn’t get to do the study abroad I’ve wanted since the eighth grade, my grandmother who helped raise me passed away, then I started running for a year (I still do, but not as often due to a chronic knee injury), and then I got sucked into making Toy Boxes for Disney Infinity’s community, which I don’t regret at all. (Hey! I was featured in fourth place!). A short answer you’re all familiar with: Life got in the way.
Star Dog Legacy went through two different sets of outlines before I finalized the story, and I waffled for months to years on distractions, and also self-doubt. I couldn’t find any editors and beta readers, and I couldn’t afford much else, and I had it in my mind that I needed to have those. I tried numerous sites and I peer-edited work for others in exchange for the same (most of which was never reciprocated).
If someone did say they would help me, years passed without it ever happening. I waited. I daydreamed about the scenes I wanted to write, but felt too far away. I’ll admit it- they were intense daydreams. Tears were shed; I made my characters suffer. They had to in order to become stronger. Meanwhile, I was too insecure and I let the little things stall something I loved. Eventually my fiance and my mother read it, and that was enough for me. Five years was too long, and I had to move on.
What should have been a distraction, but turned out to refocus me and give me more drive was my engagement last year to the love of my life, who is also a writer, and has given me the support to strive to finish so we could make an income and a life for ourselves. After a few months of settling into the relationship, I zeroed in on my work and quickly closed out the remaining chapters of the first book on Oct 6th, 2016 where it rested just under 100k words. I immediately started on the prequel, and then I spent NaNoWriMo 2016 working on the sequel. I finished the prequel at about 50k words just a couple weeks ago, and I’m just over halfway on Book 2 where I ended it on NaNo (52k-ish words). I hope to finish it this month.
I hope you all get to enjoy it for what it is, and that you enjoy following me on this journey as I release the next books. I promise there’s a lot of books planned and spin-off series in the Star Dog Universe. They will always be the best I can afford to make them. I can’t wait to write them.