Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On Writing (pt. 1)

Cindy asked me about my writing routine, but I thought I'd first talk about how I got to my current predicament regarding my writing.

As I mentioned once before, I've been fascinated with reading ever since I learned to read. In class, it was all I wanted to do. Forget math, forget history or science . . . I just wanted to read! I think I was attracted to the passiveness of the process. You simply sit back and immerse yourself in another world. No writing down answers to questions, no notes, no complex arithmetic. . . . just you and the words on the page. Simple.

It was natural for me, then, than I translated reading really great stories to wanting to write them myself. It's been my ambition ever since 1st grade to be a writer of entertaining fiction, although my life choices haven't always reflected this passion.

I scribbled the odd story here and there as a child, but it was in high school that I really got serious, dabbling in sci-fi and fantasy shorts. I wrote about 10 or 11 stories by the time graduation came around, then continued writing in college. My tales of alien races and mystical ninjas weren't always received well by the snobbish and too-serious instructors of the various writing workshops I attended while enrolled, and this probably did a lot to damper my enthusiasm.

I wrote 16 short stories during college--all of them trash. By the time I graduated, reality hit hard and I fell out of writing for a while. A full-time job took up all my time and energy, and every story I attempted in the 8 years since college always fell apart halfway through. After some time, I simply gave up on my dream.

But then a life-changing event three years ago turned things around for me. I don't feel like talking about it right now because, honestly, it's a long story. But suffice to say that I learned a toughness and determination about me that I had suspected was always there, but never really tested out. After this event (and getting married later that year) I started to take stock of my life. I mean real intense, navel-gazing stuff here. It became clear that I needed to stop the BS and follow what had always been my dream. To write!

But how? I had no formal training, and it had been years since I wrote anything creatively. Well, I thought, there was no better school than practice. I figured if I chained myself to a schedule and simply wrote something--anything--every day of every week, that I would get better simply through sheer determination. I've never been one who's short on ideas for stories, so the real struggle was the mechanical process of writing a good narrative. Outlining, world-building, plotting; these sorts of things.

And I'm still learning today. I suspect I'll keep on learning until the day my fingers die and break off.

But in the course of two years, I've gotten marginally better at it. I'm only just now starting to gain confidence in my finished work, polishing and tweaking here, yet still forcing myself to write new stuff along the way. I've written 21 whole short stories in this time; a few good ones, but most of them bad learning experiments. Although, I guess if I learned something, it can't be all that bad, huh?

I've sold one story, and got rejected on another. The sold short will see publication in the beginning of 2009. The rejected story--one I was extremely proud of, too!--was a casualty of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest this past summer. Unfortunately for me, these were the only two places I've sent anything to. I know that in order to be published, I need to do a lot better than that. And I am trying to change this, slow going as it may be. This year I've been carefully taking it one step at a time as I examine my weaknesses and shortcomings and try to figure out how to take my writing to the next level.

In part 2 of this entry, I'll discuss just what my process is for writing what I write, and of the daily regimen I keep. It promises to be boring, so be forewarned! This will probably only interest other struggling writers. :-)

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