So, way back in 2000, I was talking a certain amount of talk about the idea of writing novels, and had a number of little snippets of stories. Fits and starts. I also had the starts of worldbuilding-- more broad brushstrokes stuff than real details. A world with a handful of nations that could mostly be described with a couple of sentences. But I certainly didn't have anything concrete that I could consider real writing work, or even anything that was properly on its way to being real something acceptably novel-like.
And then came the strange offer.
Through a friend-of-a-friend, I was brought into a project involving a fledgling gaming company. They were gearing up to release a new RPG system, and a series of rulebooks to go along with it. The game was supposed to be a sort of universal-system, usable in any fantasy setting, but they wanted there to be a "house setting" that they could present, and the worldbuilding I had done was the setting they wanted. And they wanted some tie-in novels to support the setting.
I really was not ready for this.
For one, I needed to get the worldbuilding to a level that was sufficiently organized and comprehensible to someone who wasn't me. For another, I needed to have something that could at least be a start to these tie-in novels that they wanted.
Except, of course, part of the problem was they weren't really sure what they wanted. I'm not in any way going to say that I was writing great stuff that they ought to have run with... but they were never able to articulate what it was they were looking for. I never even quite got a straight answer of whether they really wanted novels or something else.
What I did know is that they had 100 ISBNs. I'm not sure if anything ever came about. The project didn't so much fall apart as peter out. I don't even know what happened to the people behind it. Communication just stopped after a certain point, and nothing more came of it.
As part of the process of this, I ended up with the beginning of something, a beginning that was for all intents a travelogue-in-discussion. Really. While things happened, what happened was more or less a thing excuse for the main characters to be able to discuss each nation in the world in broad brushstrokes. While it was very rough, a lot of what was in this bit were the beginning seeds of what would eventually become the (deservedly trunked) Crown of Druthal. But that was a long way off.
The only other thing I had done of substance was about six chapters of a thing I was calling A Convergence of Angels on the I-35, which was more or less a sort-of-urban-fantasy-by-way-of-Tom-Robbins.
IF I HAD SELF-PUBLISHED AT THIS POINT: The big question behind that would have been what, exactly? Now, it wasn't so much an option in the way it is now... but if it had been, I might have convinced myself that the travelogueish start was the first entry in something to be serialized. But really it was an amateurish mess with snippets of amusing dialogue. It would have, deservedly, gone nowhere.
BUT DID I LEARN ANYTHING BY NOW?: I might argue that I was starting to get an idea of dialogue, and differentiating characters with that. I was starting to get an idea of what the scope of writing a novel might entail, much like a guy who ran a little track in high school would start to understand there was more to running a marathon than "keep running until it's 26 miles".