Almost two years ago, I was inspired by all the kids riding bikes in Stranger Things to write a post about a thing that happened when I was the same age as those kids (12 in 1983), and I was riding my bike with my friends.
While I worked on that blog post, other memories from the same time began to percolate up through the thick dried crust that the decades had built up over them, and I started to get this idea … what if I took all these things that happened from like 1982 through 1984, and I used them and the kids who were there as inspiration for a short story? It seemed like a decent idea, so I got to work on it. As I approached ten thousand words, I discovered that there was a lot more story left to tell, so I decided to let it keep on going until it became a novella. When it got there, I still wasn’t done, so I kept going until it was an actual novel.
I ended up calling it All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, because I’m terrible at making up my own titles, and if you look at all of my books, you’ll notice that they are almost always titled after lyrics. It’s a semi-autobiographical work of fiction, about coming of age in the summer of 1983, told by the writer who is revisiting his childhood. Writing it has been one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences of my entire creative life, even though I got so depressed after the election in 2016, I took almost nine months off from writing it (and doing much of anything creative).
I picked it back up earlier this year, and I began working on it, intensely, every day. It gave me a sense of purpose, creative satisfaction, and the hope that, maybe before too long, I could honestly call myself a novelist. Some days were easier than others, but even on the most challenging day, I never felt like giving up. I never even felt the absolute conviction, which I always feel at some point in a manuscript, that it was the worst thing ever and I was a damn fool for thinking I could write the story. The day I typed THE END for the first time was pretty special, even though I knew it was really just the beginning of the real work, which was the rewrite.
As a lot of you know, we had to vacate our house because of black mold this summer. While we were away, I worked on the rewrites, and as a result I spent much of my summer in my narrator’s version of the summer of 1983, which was pretty awesome. In no small way, working on this story got me through what could have been a not super awesome time.
About three weeks ago, I finished a revision and realized that it was as good as I could make it on my own, and it was time to turn it in to my editor. He took his Red Pen of Doom to it, and sent it back about two weeks ago. It’s been sitting on my computer desktop, looking at me every day while I carefully avoided it, because I was afraid that his notes were going to say some version of, “I know you worked hard on this for a long time, but it’s all crap and here’s why.” Well, I opened it today and got to work on it. I am relieved to report that his notes do not say that. They mostly say some version of, “you don’t need this, and you are getting in the adult narrator’s way, while he tries to stay out of his own way and tell his story. Here’s how you can make this stronger…”
I don’t know how other writers and editors work, but we do this thing where I give him the manuscript, he opens itin LibreOffice, suggests changes and puts in notes that explain why he suggested them, and then he sends it back to me. I go through it, change by change, and accept the changes, respond to the notes, add new stuff as needed, and then send it back. Typically, we’ll do this three or four times before we’re finished.
This time, because he warned me he’d made some deep cuts, I just accepted all the changes at once, then started reading the changed manuscript, to find out if I really missed anything, or felt like something I wanted to fight for had been cut out. Well, it turns out that I didn’t miss anything, and his cuts made the narrative much stronger. I figured we’d end up cutting ten percent, and we only ended up cutting about six percent. That tells me that I did a better job with the draft I turned in than I thought. That note about getting out of the way is a really good one; I see lots of places where I was self-conscious and unsure, so I made the narrator explain himself in places where I should have just let him tell his story. There is literally a single paragraph that I want to fight for, but even as I have thought about fighting for it, I secretly (well, secretly until now) believe that it doesn’t have to be there and nobody will miss it once it’s gone, if we end up cutting it.
While I worked today, I was surprised to notice that I had been missing the characters I created and lived with for so long. I got to again experience that sense of meaningful satisfaction that I had been enjoying every day while I worked on the first draft and its revisions (even on the days when I felt like the words just didn’t want to flow together). I got to get excited and terrified about this novel being really close to finished, and that much closer to being read by real people in the real world.
There’s still some tough work to do. I still need to rewrite the ending (the very fair note on the current ending is “it just … sort of … ends, and you’ve earned a better ending than this one. Go find it.”) and I’m genuinely unsure how to pull that off, but it’s one of those things that I know will be super obvious, right after I metaphorically drag myself over broken glass to find it. But this is the work I want to do. This is what I want and need to be doing with my life, and it feels reasonably good to both know that, and be able to do it.
Have a good weekend, everyone. I hope you get to spend it with awesome people who make you happy.
135 thoughts on “captured here in my quotation marks”
Just wanted to say, Wil, that I enjoyed your twitter posts and will miss reading them. As a healthcare professional, I wanted to thank you for your candor and courage to speak up about depression and anxiety. As someone who is always trying to take care of others, either patients or my own family, I have trouble seeing when I need help or knowing when things aren’t “right.” Many of your statements made me think a bit about that. I do some woodworking with tech (CNC Router, laser, 3D printer) and post a bit about it on YouTube from time to time to help me cope a bit, but time seems always dedicated to others rather than me. I’d like to thank you for making me at least think about doing more to take care of myself while I take care of others. And I’d also like to thank you for just being a good and kind human being. You certainly seem to be someone who has a kind, thoughtful heart.
Can’t wait to read it!!
Wil (if I may say so as a stranger),
I‘d really like to know, how you work when you are working on a book. Especially when it comes to „All we ever wanted was everything“. Do you want/need/prefer complete silence while you are sitting in front of your screen, while you are thinking about certain scenes? Do you close the door for this purpose? Do you avoid every possible distraction? Does distraction matter to you at all or rather not? Are you listening to music while you are writing or perhaps just during phases in which you seek for inspiration (plot-wise) or when it comes to writing at all? Is it the same, when you are writing a blog entry?
PS: Have you been thinking about an audio version of „All we ever wanted was everything“? If not, please do. Please! 🙂
Read this morning that Alex Jones was banned from Twitter. Hope that brings you a bit of joy and a little bit of a feeling of justice. Keep up your good works.
so happy to have found your blog. I also left twitter and other social media around the same time. While I am not a well known person, I found, again and again, that minor comments were being blown up as Dreadful Things, and it was not helpful to managing my own depression and anxiety.
in short, your actions were a good influence.
I’d post a picture of my dog to make this more relavant, but it appears I cant. but trust me, hes cute
Wil, I just wanted to pop in here after reading your post about the kindness of strangers, and add my voice to say I really appreciate the things you do. TableTop has been some of the most enjoyable Youtube videos I’ve seen, giving me plenty of ideas for games I want to pick up and play, and I’m really sorry that I couldn’t help contribute when it was still being funded. Even with the occasional hiccup, it was good times.
I hope you stay strong, and I can’t wait to read the book when it comes out.
This sounds like it’s going to be an incredible read and I’m genuinely excited to order it when it’s available. I am happy that you are doing what you love, you absolutely deserve that.
Also, quick question. Will you be doing anything soon about helping people with D&D? I’ve been getting into it lately, but it’s a little difficult for me to grasp.
I have never written you before, but I want you to know I am a huge fan of Tabletop and have enjoyed seeing you in The Big Bang Theory. I actually got Sheriff of Nottingham after watching that episode and it is one of my family’s favorites. I do miss new episodes of Tabletop. I am more of a Star Wars person and never got super into Star Trek (please don’t revoke my nerd card, lol). After realizing you were in Star Trek I actually went on Netflix and watched a few episodes, but life kind of got in the way and I never got a chance to get much more into it. All that being said, you seem like a nice guy and you are honest in how you feel on the internet. That’s actually sort of refreshing since so many people are fake on the internet. I am a Christian, and while I won’t even try to guess what you believe in, I have seen enough that I can tell we may not agree on everything, but that’s ok. I don’t know how we have gotten to this point in American where no one can have an opinion anymore without being blacklisted. People who claim to believe the same thing as me are just as guilty. I was not ok at all with how the Church in America basically worshiped a presidential candidate instead of doing what Jesus taught in the Bible, that is to love other people. I want you to know that regardless of what you believe, I have said a prayer for you recently, especially in regards to your depression and anxiety. I have dealt with that in my life too. Probably more of a mild case for me, but it is amazing to see people with a voice like you have speak honestly about such things. I wish you the best.
I totally understand that feeling of raw joy when creating something that I want to create. For me it’s my photography that brings me raw joy without my suicidal depression tainting it. To me, it’s more than just pushing a button. The entire process requires me to be focused in the current moment. The “what ifs”, “I should’ve-s”, and “I suck at this-es” fade away. Keep strong and keep creating. You are a good person and …
“Fuck the naysayers, they don’t mean a thing…” – 311
I just heard about the mob coming for you online and I wanted to take a minute to send you a message. I’ve enjoyed your work and a lot of your blog posts on depression and anxiety. I find that we have been on different political ends I’m a more socially libertarian financially and domestically conservative kind of guy I just wanted to say keep your head up. Don’t let this moment in time be a catalyst for darkness in your life, as it will pass. Don’t let anyone else’s narrative become yours, you know who you are and what’s in your heart. Do enjoy time with you family and the time disconnected from this electronic world.
Based on how much I’ve enjoyed your other writing, both fictional and non, I imagine I will also enjoy this newest edition. After following Anne through her process of publishing Piggy and Pug, and following many other authors on social media I know that it can take years to get a physical book out in stores. I’m excited that you are at the point you’re at, but also selfish bummed that it’s not in my hands already. I can’t wait to hype the book to my friends and family once it gets here.
I’m 61 years old and have suffered from chronic depression for most of my life and I wish I could tell you it gets better, mostly it’s just always there hanging around, I’ve found talking to mine helps, on those days when it’s bad and you’re telling yourself you’re a rational intelligent human being and that there is no logical reason for the way you are feeling, the sun is shining, you have people who love you, so what is my problem,you know the drill.
So I talk to it like it’s in the room, it seems to help me by separating it from myself, it seems to lessen its impact.
I’m not sure why I’m telling you this, I know how crappy I can feel and I hate to think of anybody else having to feel the same way.
That and because my wife used to go on those Seatrek Cruises and having met you she said you were a very nice, polite young man.
So just try and hang in there and may you have many more good days than bad.
Good call on closing down your twitter account. I decided not to join, a decision I have never regretted. There was something unsettling about instant delivery of thought bubbles to the masses.
I’ve followed your blog for a long time, dipping in and out over the last 15 years. I have really enjoyed seeing your growth, I love the way you write, your honestly and your compassion. I have laughed out loud and I have cried when reading your work. Thank you.
I have been excited to listen/read to this story since you first mentioned that you were working on a new short story. Then I got to listen to a bit from it while on JoCo, and I got even more excited for it. I am so happy for you that it has been a rewarding and meaningful experience for you, and I know that fans of your writing will absolutely love it. I can. not. wait.
Thank you for continuing to post about your writing. I deactivated my Twitter and Tumblr accounts over a year ago but I’ve been working on a novel (?) for a year now and I keep hearing your voice in my head encouraging me to keep going, knowing that the feeling of “this is all terrible!” is just a feeling I need to push through, and this morning I went looking for your twitter so I could reach out and get a little positive feedback and I found this post, which was just what I needed! Thanks for everything you write and thanks for taking care of yourself.
I had noticed your absence on social media and only just realised from reading your posts how badly it had gotten for you. I find it deeply sad that someone who’s spend so much time and energy putting good things out into the world has finally been forced to turn his back on it.
That’s not a criticism mind you. Can’t blame you for a second.
Glad you’re still doing great works away from the public eye though. All the best Will.
Just wanted to say Hi and tell you I think you are an awesome guy. Sorry you have had to deal with Twitter trolls and others like that. You do deserve better than that.
I hope to see some more Tabletop adventures one day. I’m a big board game fan too. If you haven’t played it yet Roll Player with its expansion Monsters and Minions is a ton of fun.
I don’t know if you frequent Gen Con or not, but I go every year. Tons of fun. If you ever go, I will come by and say hi.
God bless you, Anne, and your family.
Any idea on when the book might come out. This one sounds like it is worth the wait!
I expect it to be released within three to six months.
Will, dont sweat the petty stuff (from trolls) and dont pet the sweaty stuff. (the trolls ). LOL
Having read your other posts re Twitter/Mastodon, and though I am not a touchy feely person by nature, I felt compelled to write and send my best wishes to you and hope you are doing ok.
It has been my observation since the coming of the internet (yes I am old) that it has given a voice to many people who don’t actually deserve one, or at least one so loud. Were you to meet said people in the street they wouldn’t dare say such things.
Anyway, keep doing what you enjoy and be happy….
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