Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I want to talk about beginnings today.
Not beginnings of stories, but rather our beginnings as storytellers. How we went from picking up a pen and scribbling down a first draft of a first story to seeking publication.
I can't really give you an interesting story of how I started writing. I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer. (I actually have an "author's page" from a book I wrote in second grade and in it I said that I had been writing for three years. Ha!) But there are milestones that I've found along the way that I know were vital for me becoming the writer I am.
I was about 10 or 11 when I wrote my first fanfiction. Thinking back it was probably about novella length, maybe a short novel. I'd spent months writing it out long hand, transferring it over to the computer, and then finally uploading it to a fanfiction site. After a few months (I checked the site religiously) I got my first review. I can't even remember what it was, something inane like "Awesome" or "this is really good." But it filled me with a surge of excitement and I knew from that moment I was going to be a writer, and someday I would be published.
It had a lot to do with feedback, I'm not going to lie. I loved sharing my work. From when I was 10-11 up until I was about 16-17, I wrote fanfiction. I loved it. It was a great way to practice my craft and receive some feedback. I wrote original things on the side, but it was hard for me to find communities to share it with. I couldn't find a writing class, my friends didn't want to read it, so I mostly stuck to fanfiction.
Over the years my fanfiction grew more elaborate. I wrote novel-length fanfics with the characters being the constant from whatever I happened to be ripping off. I made up my own world, my own characters, until I realized that I wasn't satisfied with fanfiction anymore, and I started writing my own stuff.
My first finished novel was a piece. I wish I still had it, truthfully. There were a lot of themes in it that I still work with today. Around the time that I was writing this epic first draft, I picked up the Pendragon series by DJ MacHale. It was in 2006 that I first picked up his books (So I was 14). I had never been a big reader even though I was a writer, mostly because I was SO picky. But I fell in love with these books (They are fabulous, you should definitely check them out if you're into MG)
Well, I emailed DJ MacHale and told him how I'd picked up his books and how I was attracted to the third book (It had a picture of Bobby Pendragon in a bi-plane from the thirties. I was in LOVE) By the time I got to the third book, I was hooked. So I did what every naive kid does, I asked him how I should get published.
He said two things that have stuck with me to this very day: "Wow, you are a great storyteller" (which made me SQUEE like you couldn't believe) and "Get yourself a literary agent."
I think I'd be in a very different place today if he hadn't told me that.
After my first epic, terrible book was finished, I looked for a literary agent. (Unedited first novel by a fourteen years old. Shudder, literary world, shudder.) I quickly realized I was in over my head and didn't query that first book. I decided to wait and try to write some more before I pursued publication.
So I went back to fanfiction until I was sixteen and came up with the idea of a series called The Underground (Why yes, this blog was named after that series, how perceptive of you!) It was a five book series about two parallel worlds and the struggle of slavery, war, and the different stories of people caught between. I loved that series. I don't know if I would be able to start from scratch and rewrite it, but I should really consider trying.
After I wrote the first three books I went back and started pitching it to literary agents. (Weakly edited book by a sixteen year old. Shudder, literary world.) It flopped, horribly, but it was around that time when I discovered Absolute Write, which helped me ENOURMOUSLY in EVERY CONCIEVABLE WAY POSSIBLE.
After that, really, it just became, write a book, polish, query, learn, start again.
Rinse and repeat.
Until finally a query of mine was noticed by Michael Carr, who read my manuscript and decided he wanted to work with me. The dream that started nine years ago is starting to look like reality. My journey's a LONG way from being over. As writers, our career is never over. We're going to be working away at this for a long time, reaching new milestones, learning, working, growing. But every story has a beginning and I think it's important that we realize that.
So, peeps and peepettes, I want to hear your beginnings. I want to know how you got into writing, how you started down the wacky road to publication. If your story is too long for the comment section, blog about it and share the link with me. I want to hear your story.