Saturday, September 21, 2013

"I Don't Know How To Be A Writer"

In talking with friends and acquaintances, I've often heard the phrase, "I always wanted to be a writer, but I don't know how."

Come on!

You know how to write!  It's easy!

I came to this writing business late.  For years, I had tossed ideas around in my head, worked out plots, and imagined conversations between my characters.  I heard songs, and a line of lyric, or, sometimes, just the title, would suggest a plot to me, offering a plausible situation to place my characters into, just to see how the characters would react.

But, I was never comfortable enough with my ability to put those ideas to paper.  I mean, during the year I spent in college, I was a reporter for the campus newspaper, and had submitted a couple of stories...and, several years later, I had an opinion column in a now-defunct small town newspaper, but I didn't have enough confidence in my writing abilities or my ideas to try to tell the stories.

Finally, in 2008, I was going through a layoff at the place I used to work.  During that time, I decided that I would attempt to write one of the stories, and see what would happen.

"If You Could Read My Mind - A Nicholas Turner Novel" was born.  The novel focused on a former police detective whose wife had miscarried their child due to a fiercely rampaging malignant tumor, and that tumor had killed her as well.  The story takes place ten years after that fact, with Nicholas having drinking binges, and working as a private investigator that focused on cases involving children.  His redemption, and a combination of "second chances" while investigating the kidnapping of a little girl, and the promise given to him by someone that loved him dearly, provided the rest of the story.  I was through with it in three and a half months.  I copyrighted it, and then started looking for an agent.  I had a couple of agents that expressed interest in the novel, but, upon learning how short it was, passed on it.  A few trusted people had read it, and said it was good and that they liked it, but the rejections from established publishing left me wondering if it really was any good.

I was determined that this book would see itself published one way or another, however.  Then, I stumbled on to an unobtrusive link on Amazon, inviting authors to "independently publish with us".  So, in 2009, I published it first as an ebook for the Kindle, then took it further to CreateSpace, and published a paperback edition.  The book has been well-received, with an overall 4.7 stars out of 5, and glowing reviews from a handful of the many, many folks that have purchased it, and read it.  Now, I'm proud to say that the book is being produced as an audiobook, thanks to the good talents of Scott O'Neill.

I've never bothered to search for a "legitimate"  publisher, or agent, again.  I will be forever grateful to Amazon for breaking the chokehold that "established publishing" had on authors that weren't corporately acceptable.

That success gave me the courage to continue.  If readers thought that much of my first attempt, and were willing to pay money to read it, then, maybe, they'd be interested in a not-quite-by-the-book security company.

The point of this story is this:  to be a writer, you have to write.

Each story begins with the first sentence.  Write that first sentence.  Develop your characters in your mind, whether they're good guys or bad guys, and establish what they would do in a given circumstance.  Once you have that, and you've written that first sentence, you are on your way to becoming a writer.

And continue writing!  If you write a sentence each day, or a paragraph, or a page, it becomes easier and easier...but, you have to make the effort.  No story writes itself - it has to channel itself through you.

And don't forget to read!

Michael  (T. M.)

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