Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So you want to be a writer?

As you all know back in August I set up a new challenge for myself. Before my 43 birthday I wanted to be a published author. It didn't matter what it was, just something I wrote had to be published. My definition added that I had to be paid for it, not just some free publication. The money is what was going to make it real.

So here we are five months into the challenge and what have I done so far? Not much. I am going to break it down for you. I have done hours and hours of online research on writing and how people go about getting things started. I wrote a fairly detailed outline of a book idea I had bouncing around in my head, which I then lost. Poof gone. Like it never existed. But I haven't gotten around to rewriting it so I am guessing that means I wasn't that in love with the idea after all. I wrote the starts to a half a dozen short stories that I was planning to weave together into a somewhat cohesive narrative then two weeks ago in a fit of frustration I deleted those. I regret that now...but exhaustion, frustration and self doubt can make you do a lot of rash things. Next time I will just put them in a "work on it later" file instead of a "YUCK!" delete mode.

I wrote one children's story that I like, but now have to decide what to do with it. I have a second children's story forming in my head that I need to get down on paper. Or up on screen as the case may be. And that's where I am with most everything else. I am still constantly "writing" stories in my head and not taking that next step to put them down on paper so others can read them as well. The narratives are going on all the time, but the line from brain to hand to keyboard is still not happening.

And the decisions, what do I want to write exactly? I just got an idea for what would be a teen series yesterday, but do I have enough there to actually turn it into a book? And is it too derivative of other work that is out there to actually stand on its own? But I have the idea...so what now?

And that's my biggest challenge right now. What now? So I have this idea (still) that I think I can be a writer. That I have ideas that would make good stories. That I have things to say that people want to read. But do I? In a way with this blog I already have an outlet for my writing. It's not the fictional stories, but it's still my writing. And I know at least one person faithfully reads them (hello, C!) but is that all I want to do? And if not then why do I want to do more?

I used to write a lot when I was younger. Poems, stories, song lyrics. I wrote all the time. And when I wasn't writing I would tell stories. I spent a lot of time on a bus when I was in my teenage years, on tour during the summer with my youth group and then later traveling to competitions when we switched to Bible Bowl. Back then there were no hand held video games to keep you amused, you either read or slept or talked. Reading in a car makes me sick so I either slept or talked. And those of you that know me know sleeping is not my strong suit but talking...now talking I can handle. And in the course of talking I would make up stories. Ghost stories were my favorite.

In fact when I was around 11 or 12 I told a particularity good one on the way up to Camp for the week that I wove El Porvenier into and ended up scaring the heck out of the entire new dorm full of girls. It was a brilliant day (or night as the case was) even though the next morning I had to fess up to my camp leader that it was all my fault that the girls were all screaming at the window of an empty cabin. To be able to tell a story to two girls in the back seat of my parent's car that ended up being retold to a dorm full of girls that ended up taking on enough weight that it actually made them see the face in the window that I described? Yeah, that was good stuff.

I also wrote a short story when I was in 8th grade that I thought for awhile was going to get me kicked out of school. And if someone were to write it in this day and age, it probably would. It was HEAVILY influenced by a book called The War Between the Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids that I had read a few years before. Now my story and that book would never fly in today's world. In both stories the kids revolt against the teachers and actually kill them. In mine, my classmates took over the school and set up a sort of commune living there together. One student got pregnant, all adults were banished, killed or locked up. It was a revenge fantasy played out on the pages of a notebook. And it was a hit among my classmates. Until Tanya let her mother read it.

I can remember her coming to school the Monday after she took the story home for the weekend, it was passed around like that, different kids took it at different times to read it, and telling me, "My mother says you have a sick mind." My reaction? "You let your MOTHER read it??" And then she let me know that her mother had confiscated my story and would be considering turning it into Mrs. Robertson (the principal and one of the first killed in my book). I moved pretty quickly from appalled that she let her mother read what was OBVIOUSLY just for us kids to terrified I was going to get kicked out of school.

Now of course I would love to have the story back. Just to have it in my possession, though I am sure it was horrible, it would be fun to read it again. And as far as Tanya was concerned? My biggest regret is that I didn't include the storyline of Tanya and Kerry being lesbians that I had originally thought about. Because then she would have NEVER let her mother read it, and I would still have my story.

I took one journalism class in high school but like everything else in high school I didn't take it seriously. When I was in college I thought about taking creative writing but when I looked at the course description and saw that the instructor would be telling me what to write I realized that it didn't sound very creative to me at all. I bought my first book on writing books when I was in my early 20s. My father-in-law heavily discouraged me from pursuing that path, though now I know he was always interested in being a writer himself and even started a book before he died. I have to believe he discouraged me because he knew it wasn't as easy to write as it is to read.

When I was in my mid 20s I wrote away to one of those "Be a Children's Book Writer" things where they supposedly judge your writing sample to see if you have talent and then hire you if you do. Well of course I had talent! Of course they wanted to hire me! Of course it would only cost me the low low price of.... Yeah, maybe not. I also wrote an outline for a story that has been bouncing around in my head ever since about an abusive man, a talk show host and a scared former wife. So through everything else there was always this thought of, "I wonder if I could."

Now I am trying to call myself a writer more often. To stop saying to Brent at the end of the day, "I didn't do anything, just wrote." Change it to, "I wrote today." I am trying to find my voice. To figure out what exactly it is that I want to write. And maybe, this is it. Maybe it's just the blog. The stories that are me. But maybe there is a story in there that will get published. If this sounds to you like I am letting myself off the hook for my challenge this year, I sort of am considering it. I am trying to decide if the published for money part is what would make me a writer or if the more than two people reading what I write is what would make me a writer or if just sitting down every day and putting words on the screen is what would make me a writer.

Or maybe I already am.


  1. You could always go the self-publish route like me :D

    And I think of you as a writer

  2. Hmmm...maybe I will write something science fiction and you can publish it under your label. :-) We will turn you into a publisher as well as an author!

  3. Hi Denise,

    It occurred to me that perhaps a speech recognition program might be fun to try...I used it extensively during my many post-operative special moments when I couldn't type...who knows, maybe the block between brain-scenarios and translation to text is simply finding the damn keyboard, booting the computer, watching it blue screen...etc., ha ha.

    There are some interesting devices out there for this for dictation, etc....

    Maybe a goofy idea, but hey, that's me...

    Best of luck - perhaps science fiction is the answer :)


  4. I actually really like that idea, Kent. I've thought about it before, just telling the story the way I used to. Hmmm...maybe something to revisit!

  5. An alternative idea - find a hunky yet talented stenographer - preferably 6'1, nice chest, good oral and written communication skills...perhaps he could follow you around and take notes...just sayin'....

  6. Well now...that's intriguing as well!