From Darkness into Light

From Darkness into Light
From Darkness into Light by Dall'ombra Alla Luce courtesy of WikimediaCommons

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How it all started...

I have been writing for about a decade now. I seem to have no other creative talents - no singing voice to speak of, no interest in a musical instrument, no drawing or painting ability at all, and yet, the writing bug bit hard. I have always enjoyed writing but first tried my hand at speculative fiction by deciding to write a book and jumping in with 10,000 words in the first week. I'm not saying it was a good 10,000 words, but it was a start in the right direction and I have never looked back.

If writing is a genetic trait, then my mother's family has it. My grandfather loved to write and won an award for an early tome (a huge novel on India, written in very Victorian English). He wrote for the rest of his life hoping to duplicate the success, but was never published again. My aunt wrote two or three novels (I believe she had one published and self-published another – quite scandalous one – in her early 90’s). My mother also has enjoyed writing, and at 92 is currently submitting a book of short stories about the many dogs she has had over her life. My brother has had the most success in the family. Years ago, he had a very technical book on electronics published that no one in the family could understand. After that, he had 3 travel books published, one on scuba diving and two on Colorado. Recently he has been getting about one book a year published in an Old West history series. He has also tried his hand at fiction in his preferred genre, mystery. I found a web site that lists some of his publications at Amazon, however he DID NOT write the book on communism or (thankfully) the reference book on enemas.

I enjoyed writing in college but didn’t have time to think much about it again until a couple of decades later when I had a sudden, overwhelming desire to write fiction. I guess it is 'in the blood' and so I have given in. After a lifetime of reading little but speculative fiction, I surrendered myself to spending all my free time in front of my computer in the pursuit of creating my own speculative worlds.

When I began my first novel, I semi-stalked a local historical fiction writer who was generous enough to look at my fledgling attempts, point out where I was going right and where I was going wrong, and give me the best writing advice I have received to date – to paraphrase – ‘Get thee to a workshop.’ And I did. I joined a 10-week online workshop, finding out after the fact that most of the participants were writing mystery, some of whom just didn’t get fantasy. The basics are the basics though, and I received enough good criticism there to set me on the right track. After that, I pursued writing as a craft more than a hobby, subscribing to Writer’s Digest, buying up books on dialog, characters and viewpoint, how to get published, etc and attending my first writing workshop. My favorite books about the art of writing so far have been Stephen King’s “On Writing”, Donald Maass’s “Writing the Breakout Novel”, Orson Scott Card’s “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” and, of course, the grammar bible “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. All of these books are still within easy reach of me as I write this.

My writing stalled for a few years as my work schedule took over again, but I never set it completely aside as I had done after college. My muse whispered to me at intervals and I would look at the novel and tinker with a re-write or spend a few weeks here and there on a new short story. Finally, I worked a job for a few years that gave me winters off and the time to sink my teeth into writing again. I generated some fresh short stories, finally began a thorough re-write of the novel, and have started work on a new novel. I also never forgot the good advice I received from that author and have been an ongoing member and regular participant in the Online Writing Workshop for Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror. I have, at last, gotten serious about getting published.

We’ll see what happens from here…

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