Some of the questions I hear the most from new writers hoping to find their way into the industry is, ‘How do I get my book published?’ or ‘Where do I find a beta-reader?’ or ’How do I know if I’m any good?’ or something along those lines. Each time I read them in a thread, I kind of smile to myself because, not so very long ago, the person asking those questions was me. See, my lifelong passion was to write a book. I’ve come to write three and am starting my fourth and fifth…maybe my sixth depending on how that one goes. My first book, The Purple Morrow, will be published in the upcoming months. I also write short stories and poems, and I like to test (stretch) myself by writing in unfamiliar styles, genres and forms like flash fiction, essays and articles. But I didn’t get here overnight. I’ve been working steadily towards this goal every day for 3-4 years.
When I started on this road, however, I had a problem: I was coming off an ages long bout of writer’s block (ten years to be exact) and I had no idea where to start. But, starting slow with nothing in the tank but inspiration and determination, I found my path. The purpose of these articles–as I hope to write a series of them explaining the steps I took and the lessons I learned to get here– is the hope that my experiences, both good and bad, might help someone else find their own path. Get a troll review? Been there. Can’t figure out how to write a synopsis or a short or long pitch? Yup! Having trouble with a publisher or don’t know if you should accept a contract when one finally falls at your feet? Hey, that’s me!! Of course, what worked for me might not work for someone else, but perhaps the principals I followed and experiences I had, might. At the very least, if my objective fails, I get a bittersweet trip down memory lane out of it and, hopefully for you Reader, a good laugh at my expense.
So where does my story begin? Well, I started writing early, like a lot of writers. In the first grade to be exact. I’ve written about this in other places, but suffice it to say that I became fascinated with words and how they can be arranged to mean different things at an early age. I started with short stories and moved on to poems and plays, but my dream was to write a book. As mentioned above, I suffered through a period of The Block until one miraculous day, Poof! Breakthrough! I was sitting on a park bench watching my kids play when the story for The Eagle’s Gift played out in my head like a movie. I went home that night, wrote the first chapter and over the next few weeks, finished it with seven chapters. Lord have mercy! They were bad, but at that point, I didn’t care! The first thing I had written after ten years of writer’s block was my book!
…Okay, I did care. It was that bad. And too short. And I had no idea how to fix it. I had no writer friends, no writing groups to rely on. Nothing. Now what? Well, I went online, looked around for writing sites and tools and finally came across a particular writing website. Hallelujah! At my fingertips was a vast store of all kinds of writing and writing tools! I could read and comment on people’s work and they on mine. I mean, here was a chance for real growth, and I threw myself into it like it was a vat full of chocolate. Reading, reviewing, networking, and on and on. Inspired, I jumped back into short stories and tried my hand at horror, science fiction, drama, whatever came into my head to write, I wrote. Through all of this, I began to gain confidence in my writing and came to discover what I was good at. This is also where I learned the value of critiquing as a learning and teaching tool, and where I found my writing buddy, who turned out to be the best writing resource I ever had (have). All in all, that first year spent on that site enabled me to grow, experiment and learn a ton, as well as to lay the foundation for what was to come: learning how to write a novel.
I’ll end this article here for now. But I’d like to know, how did you get your start in (novel) writing? Who are your influences and supports? Who or what helped put you on the right track?