The ORIGINS Blogfest, co-hosted by Katie Mills (Creepy Query Girl), DL Hammons, Alex J Cavenaugh and Matthew MacNish (Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment), invited bloggers to post their own story about how they became a blogger or writer. In part, the instructions read, “On Monday, February 13th, you should post your own origin story. Tell us all where your writing dreams began. It could be anything from when you began telling stories as a child to…”
They had me at “telling stories as a child…”
I’ve always been a storyteller. Many of them whoppers with carefully plotted
webs of lies threads tied so as to avoid house arrest detection. I became a master at sneaking around rules that separated me from what I wanted to do.
But, when, exactly, did I choose to corral meandering thoughts, and put them on paper? What was I
drinking thinking when I chose to take on a craft that could not be completed in a day?
FLASH BACK to FLASH FICTION
Other than requisite school papers and snark crafted Hallmark-worthy cards, I wrote only FLASH CARD fiction during my early days. Usually notes intended to extricate myself from The Wrath of Mom.
One lives in sister Willie’s brain as a so-not-fair childhood scar.
Dad, a long-haul truck-driver, was on the road. Mom, a salesclerk at a department store, worked the late shift that day.
In a word: Freedom!
Yebbit, I was grounded. Yebbit, when was I not grounded? Yebbit, did it really matter?
TEAM A (Five Girls) managed themselves during those free-to-be-me afternoons.
Mom, that suspicious little spit of a woman, called during her break and asked to speak to me. I got a frantic call from sister Willie.
- ME: “What did you tell her?”
- WILLIE: “That you were in the bathroom.”
- ME: “Good. Stay on the phone for ten minutes until her break is over. She can’t call back.”
- WILLIE: “What if she does?”
- ME: “Pretend you’re me. She’ll never know the difference.”
Mothers always know the difference.
- WILLIE: “Hi, Mom. This is Gloria. What’s up?”
- MOM: “Willie, I know it’s you. Where is your sister?”
- WILLIE: “Um. In the bathroom?”
- MOM: “Tell her to get home now! And to stay ‘put’ until I get there.”
Busted. Big time. I needed a plan. A way to diffuse the Wrath of Mom. So, I wrote and taped note-cards on the front door and around the house.
- Please deposit all weapons before you enter. (front door)
- Check my report card! I’m not in here, by the way. (bedroom door)
- Look! All A’s! I got your brain, dear Mother of Mine. (next to my report card on the refrigerator door)
- Nope! All done in here. (bathroom door)
- Congratulations! You found me. No rush. I know you’re sick and tired of my shenanigans. (door to the basement, where I strategically toiled ironing clothes from the basket that weren’t even my own)
The so-not-fair moral to this FLASH CARD strategy: LYING TO YOUR MOTHER (Poor Willie) is more egregious than breaking out of grounded-for-two-weeks jail.
In college–out of my home-grown element–the counter-culture became my safe haven. That, plus mind-numbing freedom did not a model student make.
I moved (on Dad’s dime) from rural Pennsylvania to California — in the seventies. He sent me to live with my aunt and uncle; to remove me from those communist hippies with long hair, and a potential life of ruin. Poor Dad. He had no clue.
That ill-conceived life experiment ended soon after my move. I needed a J-O-B, job.
Enter a career in financial services that spanned decades. It offered tons of travel and learning and promotion opportunities. But, deep inside (where it counts), I knew I wanted to do something for me.
Something that would push my own grey-blob-of-a-dream along instead of pushing the needs of the behemoth corporate world.
FLASH OF STARDOM
I seized an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, and into an entrepreneurial venture. With the help of a mentor, a business plan I wrote became a viable company, and went public on the Denver penny stock market.
What toe-tingling blue-sky dreams. I set myself up for a splat from heights no rational person would have taken their dreams.
Some bad choices were mine. Others were spawned by a devil behind the facade of mentor. Well played, former mentor!
While I licked my wounds and struggled to look forward versus back, the keyboard became my weapon of choice.
Dagnabbit! If the S.E.C. didn’t have enough to put him under investigation, then I would do it on my own. In a book.
Something amazing happened–a wonderful, cathartic experience.
The sheer pleasure of writing took hold.
Characters became real in my imagination; they were three dimensional, they birthed dialog on their own, they moved inexorably toward the day they would exact the revenge I couldn’t.
Bad guy busted! Jailed! All assets lost! Justice prevailed!
Characters and the plot poured seamlessly from brain to keyboard.
The best comparison I make is when I learned Spanish. One day I realized I no longer translated English-to-Spanish. I thought in Spanish.
At the computer, I transcribed thoughts, movements, emotions of my characters. I no longer thought in Gloria mode. When I hit “the zone,” had the characters voice in my head, they did the work.
Something bigger than money and fame made me a writer for life.
The characters gave me a platform to create a world where bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, and justice prevails.
I put a little piece of my soul, my hopes, my flaws, my dreams in each main character birthed to play a role in that novel and the ones that followed.
JUMPING FLASH BACK IN YOUR SEAT
It was time to plunk my patoot back in a seat in the classrom.
That first novel and a misdiagnosed YA Light fantasy that followed were both well-received by Beta readers. The first fifty of both generated requests for fulls.
I had something. But, it wasn’t enough.
I dusted off my ego, set those books aside (after edits ad boredeum), and admitted I could write, but I could not write a good, compelling novel.
I did not understand the craft of novel writing well enough to sustain interest. I knew nothing about MRUs, Inciting Incidents, Turning Points, Acts, Scene/Sequels, show versus tell, Dark Moments.
There’s victory (!) in that knowledge. I stepped up from Unconscious Ignorance to Conscious Ignorance. I knew that I didn’t know
squat the elements essential to creating a page-turner.
Enter craft masters — most notably Margie Lawson, with Donald Maass not far behind. Enter involvement in an online community of writers willing (eager!) to help.
I didn’t dream of being a writer when I was young. My nose preferred to stay buried between the covers of books others had written. Now, I can’t imagine not writing. I am a writer.
And, I’ve got a plethora of rejection slips to prove it. Here’s to getting The Call before that rejection folder expands further. For me, for you, for everyone who has a talent (of any kind) that will make a difference in someone’s life. Even if that difference is to escape into the shoes of a character in a story.
WRITE ON! My Middle Grade owns my heart at the moment, but the Contemporary Romance file remains open and active. And, that first novel? It’s next up for rewrite.
How about you? If you didn’t join the hop, check the #WANA112 TWITTER thread. I’ll post some of my “finds” over there. Tell me all about what prompted your entry into the world of writing (or reading). Leave a comment. I’m needy that way.
Thanks for listening.