Monday, August 15, 2016

An Author Confesses



One of the problems with being a published author is that people start asking you how you managed it. There are certain general expectations, like taking writing and/or literature courses, and some specific ones, like having a past career related to what you write. (Being a former teacher or journalist is acceptable across all genres.)

Well, here's the truth about me...

I hated English class. The only good thing about high school English studying the requisite Shakespearean play. The only English course I took that that didn’t involve Shakespeare, was Science Fiction. The only reason I took it was because it had a writing component.That was the only writing course I ever took.

I’m not dissing writing courses. Had I the time and the money, I probably would have taken them. Unfortunately, student debts put the kibosh on that. When I had time, I had no money. When I had money, I had no time.  And then there were those periods when I had neither time nor money.

Everything I learned about writing I learned by reading, listening and doing.

Long before the blog, authors were using their introductions and author’s after words to share their process. Some even wrote books on the topic. Even if they didn’t, everything you need to know about authors can be divined by reading their books. 

Although I had road blocks to taking formal courses, I took every opportunity I could to listen to authors I respected talking about their craft. This might be at a conference or author appearance or while sitting around drinking coffee with friends (who happen to be authors and one even teaches writing). I only hope listening to me has been as beneficial to them.

Actually writing stuff is key, of course. Almost anything will do for a start. I started writing fan fiction before I knew what it was. In my early teens, I'd write myself into adventures with the crew of the USS Enterprise. My sister would read these stories aloud, exactly as written, which really brings home your mistakes.

At university I'd write mash-ups, bringing two or more fictional worlds together. The most elaborate was the epic tale I co-wrote with my roomie that brought together all our favourite TV action heroes with our own creations and, of course, the crew of the Enterprise. I still have most of those stories, all handwritten, many with class notes written in the margins. Some of the storytelling was good and most was entertaining. A lot was embarrassing. But all of it was good practice.

Ever since I realized that I wasn't going to be an overnight success as a novelist (after the first few publisher rejections for my first original stories) I knew I'd have to get a day job. I planned to become a teacher, but I picked the worst time to graduate for that. Instead, I learned layout and copy writing as part of various jobs I took during and just after university. I taught myself web design back when it was brand new and learned graphic design by necessity. When I was between jobs, I started to work freelance. Not an illustrious career, but a useful one.

Meanwhile, I kept reading, listening and above all, writing.



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