Derek began writing stories at the age of five. His first story was called “The Night Before Christmas” in which Santa Claus fell down the chimney and died in a fire, sort of like a rip-off of “The Santa Claus” sans Tim Allen.
Now he’s written something he’s more proud of, a novel called Word Salad. Read about it here: https://derekberry.wordpress.com/about-the-book-word-salad/
In the fifth grade, I wrote a twelve-part story about a kid who tracks down magical amulets and saves the world and whatnot. This was the first time I wrote anything especially gory. Unnecessarily gory. I think the villain (Mr. Paradox) was stabbed through his Achilles tendon and shot in the face. Other character met similarly grisly ends: pushed off cliffs, burned alive, eaten by flesh-eating bugs.
This first foray into the nitty gritty may foreshadow some of my gory/strange story choices nowadays.
At that age, writing helped me express myself; I was not the social animal I am today. I wasn’t even any sort of animal, per se. I could not speak very well for the first eleven years of my life, so I wrote. I read. Maybe having spent eleven years nearly silent, I feel like I should make up for it now. But writing, cliche enough, became an escape for me. I never questioned that deep down, I wanted to tell stories. Before wanting to become a writer, I thought I’d love to be a film director until I learned that they were usually not responsible with WRITING the story. I wanted to make up stories for people to enjoy.
In the fifth grade, I decided I wanted to write professionally. How hard could it be? At eleven, I could simply type up a book and send it to a big publisher. They’d fall in love and give lots and lots of money so I could continue to write books for the rest of my life in the safety of a lake house. Well, it’s been six years since that dream was first inspired, and sadly, no lake house. No published works.
Of course when Random House did not mail me back, I did not lose faith. Instead, I started writing something new. What you’ll notice about my writing life is that I’ve never stopped writing. I don’t expect to not publish Word Salad, but if it fails to garner any sort of attention, I shan’t stop writing. That’s just not what I do. Even in the sixth grade, I understood that. So, at twelve, I began to write what I like to think as “my first real novel.”
It was horrible. I was twelve. But I’m still damn proud out it, because I wrote it. Like I said, I was TWELVE. I finished the first and even penned a sequel, planning out a whole series before tiring out of the story. But still, this novel I wrote was even longer than the one I’m pushing right now. And it’s not THAT bad, even, especially considering a sixth grader wrote it. It took about a year and a half to write and was called Aurelia.
The basic premise was that there is an eighth continent floating around in the sky where magical stuff happens, the place where our myths come from. Because an evil sorcerer vanquished years ago threatens to return (his name was Zinnebarr, which mind you, is an awesome name), the Aurelians seek the help of “the chosen one.” The said chosen one was Declin Furthermore who is kidnapped by a giant rainbow-colored bird named Tropez and taken to the capitol. There, Declin learns it is his duty and destiny to find Zinnebarr’s spirit and destroy his source of power, The Shadow Orb.
Well, it’s not exactly original, but I think writing something like this was a great step in the right direction. No one takes you seriously at twelve, so I did get kindly replies from agents. “I can’t help you publish this, but keep on writing” became the ultimate sentiment. What I’m most proud of is what issues I tackled. I continued to rewrite and rewrite the story I’d written until I was about 14. And the story, therefore, became more imaginative, more complicated. The fictional continent was mostly vacant grasslands for some reason with only about 17 real cities, but each city was important. The rest of the continent, I remember, was covered by either desert or a really creepy forest. One of the cities was the industrial center of the otherwise pollution-free land, so a magical dome was placed over it to keep in all the nasty smog. Things like that, I’m proud of.
I may blog another day about the ingenuity of Aurelia, of which I still have a copy of in my room, but unfortunately, no digital copies. I might try to find a copy of it on a flashdrive somewhere and share its juvenile awesomeness gratis to the world.
Well, that’s the end of part 1 of this awesome story. Tune in tomorrow or Monday for Part 2 of The Writing History of Derek Berry.