The Story of “Mask of the Dragon”

Write a novel in a month. Can’t be done right? Wrong. I might have “lost” NaNoWriMo of 2015, but one day after the deadline I made it the 50k words mark. When it was finished, Mask of the Dragon was over 60k words. Not bad for a first attempt.

So where did this come from? How did it happen? Well, to start with, sometime around 2006-2007 I was thinking about imaginary friends. The ones I’ve had that just never seem to go away. What if they were more than what they seemed? Of course, this is borderline ridiculous, but the idea was interesting, so I wrote some notes. Around 2014, I tried to write it out with DAZ 3D illustrations and just stalled. So I took it down and put it aside to deal with when I’d finished the projects I had worked out. I wasn’t even sure if it was worth working on, as Mask is just another “girl and dragon” story and I have several.

I put my focus on The Windwater Pack, which is being adapted into a film. In the course of working with one of the character designers, she asked some pointed questions about the story and pointed out some major flaws in its logic. This led to her becoming a story consultant on the film and a revamped version of the script and the story. We ended up discussing my other stories, and without fail found the same flaws in each and every one. This was due to the fact most of my stories were thought up between age 3 and age 10. I’ve just been adding onto them over the years, and not looking at them critically.

Then Mask of the Dragon came up. I explained what little I had on it – the notes for Mask at that time took up one sheet of paper – and her excited reaction threw me for a loop. None of my other ideas got that reaction. She brought up National Novel Writing Month, and suggested trying it. I’d heard of NaNoWriMo before, but just never thought it worth the trouble. Even if I could do it, it wouldn’t amount to much. But why not? It’s not like I had a lot emotionally invested in Mask. If I failed, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Who was that friend? Nala15.

So, October, I started planning. For the first time that I can remember, I planned the whole story. Or at least the highlights. I fleshed out the main characters – and borrowed some from one of my “fanfics” as well as couple friends’ for the supporting cast. And when November hit, I hit the ground running. I didn’t always make the word count – didn’t help that I end my days at 3am – but I managed at least 1k a day. I posted each chapter to deviantART as I went, and I am forever grateful for those of you that commented there or on Skype/Google Hangouts. That support helped me push through.

Then my PC crashed. I had a “spare” my uncle had bought that let me get back online, but everything I’d wrote was stuck in Duncan’s hard drive. So I skipped that chapter and kept going until I got a HD adapter and got my files back. That set back cost me the deadline, I feel, but I decided it didn’t matter if I made it or not. I was going to finish this. And I did.

That wasn’t the end of Mask’s journey. Next was editing, and I found what I consider an amazing duo to help with that. The first and second edits were performed by Shembre, and I can vouch for her skills in that area – though some translation from Editor Speak might be required. Then came proof reading and formatting. And finally, on May 31 – Mask was published officially. I am still “high” from that success.

So what’s next for me? Well, July is Camp NaNoWriMo, and I’m going after Mask’s sequel, Path of the Dragon. April was bust for me since I was focused on Mask and not my fanfic, but this… this I can do. And with luck, in another six months, we’ll see the release of Path. And if that works out, November comes the third book in the series is my goal.

Believe in yourself, surround yourself with others who believe in you, and there’s nothing you cannot do.

Ashleigh D.J. Cutler (AshWolf Forever)

Ashleigh D.J. Cutler, better known online as “AshWolf Forever”, is an author and artist from Ohio in the U.S.A. She began building the Realm of Crystal Prism at the tender age of three. Since then, she has fought to bring it to life in a fashion that can be shared with the world.

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