That Time I Wrote a Book

That Time I Wrote a Book

Kai Barr, Writer

By Kai Barr


Do you like books? Do you like Dungeons and Dragons? Are you gay?


Well, you’re here now so I’m going to just tell you about a book I wrote because I am currently out of quick and easy ideas for a journalism article that doesn’t take twenty sites of research and this thing needs to get out of my WIPs anyways, so…yeah! Buckle up for the ride, this is fueled by three hours of sleep and annoyance at my own procrastinating tendencies!


Way back in eighth grade, I came up with this idea about a bunch of teenagers who were all grouped together in a bunch of knight teams when all of a sudden, their world kind of gets turned upside down. A war starts threatening everything, and the main character, Spencer Hunter, kind of has to deal with a lot. He and his teammates—Willow Silver, Lark Carpenter, Thomas Noble, Micah Ward, and Naomi Fisher—all end up getting split into pairs and sent off. This would be book one of the series, The Lost Kingdom. Oh, and Spencer kind of has a crush on Willow, which is an issue. So, you know, you’d think it’s just some boring heterosexual romance, right?


Well, spoiler alert!


Before I even started writing book two, The Exiled Crown, all of them became gay! I’m pretty sure it’s because eighth grade me didn’t realize that…you know, I was kind of…not straight either. Long story there, we’re not getting into it. So, yeah, if you want to read a book with LGBTQ+ characters, please know that does actually come into play, kind of.


Now, how did I write this book while also handling school?


Well, the simple answer is that I kind of didn’t. But you’re not asking for that, you’re asking for how to write a book. Probably. Eh, I need to put some kind of thing that you can learn from this.


Basically, here’s my process of writing. I don’t plan anything. I sit down, I get out a pencil and paper, and then I write down what my ideas are. Half the time, I’m not using a notebook, I’m just using loose-leaf binder paper. Nothing special, I just prefer college paper because of the amount of lines and then a mechanical pencil because I break my lead all the time. Like, seriously, if breaking lead had the same superstition as breaking ribbons at a bridal shower I would have so many children it would be a world record. Unless you’re counting my characters as my kids, in which case…no comment.


But anyways, after sitting down to write everything out, I go down one of two paths.


Path A is when I don’t get any new ideas. Then, I get up and walk away (probably after staring at the author’s worst nightmare—a blank piece of paper—for about thirty minutes to three hours). I grab my phone, plug my earbuds in, and I walk around the house listening to music and drinking water. Trust me, it’s weird but it works.


Path B is a bit more special. When I do have an idea, I’ll scribble everything I have out. Then, when I have all those ideas jotted down, I’ll go with Plan A. Call it odd, but generally then I can make a playlist of songs. It’s well and good to have those ideas all written down, but if you have characters but no scenes or vice versa you don’t have much. You need both to spark an idea.


When I do have those steps down, then I sit down and I get those characters named. Baby name sites? Those things aren’t just for expecting mothers or trans kids trying to find that name. Those are also an author’s best friend. If you’re writing something that’s realistic fiction, you can actually look up names and places by the year. Once I have names written down, I’ll do something that’s sort of unique to me, I think.


I have these pages I call “Quick Data Pages”. They’re set up like this (using my other published book, Vanguard: The Magic Paintbrush, as an example):


SN: Magic Paintbrush/Vanguard

Series/Novel: Vanguard

Author: Jasper Hunter Howlter

Genre: Fantasy


1) Camden Murphy—Egyptian/Somalian American, black curls, brown eyes and skin

2) Fawn Nguyen—Vietnamese/Korean American; d. brown hair, brown hazel eyes and golden-tan skin;

3) Ryan Sutherland—Scottish American; brown hair, blue eyes, ivory skin;

4) Talyn Van—Native American (Cree); black hair, brown eyes, and darkish skin;

5) Sierra Keli’i Hale—Polynesian American; d. brown curls; brown eyes and tanned skin;

6) Seth Narvaez-Rivera—Puerto Rican American; d. brown hair, brown eyes and tawny skin;

7) Gerritt O’Brien—Irish-mixed American; auburn hair, green eyes, tan skin;


I’ll often continue it beyond that, including antagonists and major characters. Additionally, in the margins, I’ll include notes (I can’t show them because they’re spoilers, whoops). Often, these will be about a page or so, but if there are a lot of characters I want to have set up, these Quick Datas can go on for upwards of four sheets. I include character descriptions and additional notes, regardless of whether or not they’re spoilers (which is why I can’t show you the one for Legends, although that’s also kind of because I sort of…don’t have that one with easy access). Some notes won’t be included—for instance, although I do include the characters’ physical descriptions in the Vanguard Quick Data page, I don’t actually bring up their appearances very often unless they’re being described by someone else. There’s maybe one or two moments.


This Quick Data page also holds back some information. For instance, if you looked at this and nothing else, you might not realise that none of the Vanguard protagonists are straight. You can’t tell the relationships Talyn has with their friends—or what the characters’ pronouns are. The descriptions also change. For instance, originally Fawn was listed as having “olive” skin, even though the book description is different. Sierra and Talyn’s descriptions also mirror this—in the book, Talyn has dyed streaks in their hair that aren’t mentioned here and Sierra’s mentioned to have freckles (she’s also not tanned in the way that white people are, as she is Polynesian. If Ryan, who’s white, wasn’t fair, he’d be listed as having “tan (fair)” skin). It’s because these pages are meant for me, which means the words are specific to what I see in my head. However, since I know that not everyone sees the same thing as what I’m thinking, I get more specific with the actual book.


You also might be wondering what “SN” means. There’s a lot of abbreviations here, some of which are more obvious. SN stands for “Series Nickname”. For instance, Vanguard was simply known by the names listed there, whilst my other published series was nicknamed Knights. Other nicknamed novels I have are Watchers, Island, Paragon, Hackerz, Revolution, Valkyrie, Phoenix, Subzero, Apocalyptic, Paladins, and Anomaly. They don’t necessarily give away everything about the book, but they’re distinct enough from the others to keep them from being mixed up or simply numbered. It also gives them a distinct identity that can immediately call protagonists to mind.


Also, another thing to keep in mind. While writing something perfectly the first time is awesome, it doesn’t always happen. Heck, some of my stories never make it to the point of being typed up, let alone making it close to publishing. Some of them never get past Plan A/B. That’s okay, it happens. I sit down and I write from a flow, and it’s okay to take things at whatever pace you have. Vanguard took one month to write but a couple more to edit, whilst Legends took a lot of manuscript-losing moments and a lot of looking back and figuring out everything that was going on.


Now, onto the topic of first drafts. They’re going to be awful. It’s going to be the worst your book will ever be, and that’s the best thing in the world. No matter what you do with the book after that, it’s only going to get better. So what I do? I take my pen, and I look at the margins, and I write “dumbest version”. Big old capital letters, right across the top. It means I get to look up, see that, and destress as much as possible. Have fun with your writing.


Anyways, now that all that’s over, let’s get back to why you might have clicked on this article. Maybe. If not, eh, here’s a brief description of the characters.


So…Spencer Hunter? He’s our main protagonist, so obviously he’s going to know everything, he’s going to be perfect and well-behaved and probably some noble’s kid. Maybe he’s going to be uppity and a jerk. Nope! Half the time, this kid doesn’t know what he’s doing! He’s fifteen, he’s trying his best, and he also passes out sometimes. That comes up later, it gets explained. Anyways, he’s got a crush on Willow, which is an issue, because Spencer’s the leader of his group and Willow’s the second-in-command.


Onto Willow. She’s a princess, you’d think she’d be all pompous and probably prissy and she cares about how she looks. Well, she’s actually kind of brash and fiery, and I’m pretty sure she would probably kick a man between the legs if she thought he was being a jerk. Does she like Spencer? As a friend, oh yeah, definitely. Beyond that…we’ll see.


There’s also the other members of the group, who don’t really come up until like book two but just know, they’re fun. They’re cool. Micah cracks jokes, Thomas is reserved, Lark is shy, and Naomi is just amazing and brilliant and I’m biased but I love them and I hope you’ll like them, too.


Basically, if you like dragon fights and the medieval aesthetic, you’ll like Legends. Also Vanguard. If you like cute, gay romance combined with a bunch of kids being yeeted into another universe, then you’ll like Vanguard! Just please know that there is a bit of blood and gore, as common with these kinds of works. As long as you can watch Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and like…the Marvel movies, I guess, then you should be fine.


That’s all I’ll leave you with for now. Thanks for checking in, I hope you have a lovely weekend, and let’s face 2021 with the same vibe as we faced last year with!



Book Link (for those interested):


(For anyone interested, yes, I use a pseudonym. You don’t have to, but yeah. Mine’s there, I like it, it’s just as much my way of saying “this is me” as drawing the covers is.)