Monday, September 5, 2016


This blog has mostly focused on walking through the novel-writing process--or at least, my novel-writing process (such as it is). But this week, I haven't really been doing anything new. I'm deep in the rewriting slog for Project 2016, chugging towards getting it out on submission. My goal is to have it out the door by the end of this month or early next month--before NaNoWriMo starts, in other words. I don't think you could pay me to start submitting a novel in November/December. (Man, I have lots of thoughts about NaNoWriMo...but that's a post for another day.)

So I won't be discussing the writing process this week, since I've talked about rewriting already. Instead, I want to talk about something that I've mentioned in passing in a previous post.

I read and was read to a lot as a kid. I liked stories--which is not in any way unique. But it was several years before I made what may seem like an obvious observation.

People actually write these stories.

I mean, duh. But as a kid, I really didn't know that. Even as an adult, I sometimes forget that there's a person behind what I read and watch.

One of my favorite movies, Sunset Boulevard, centers on a man who writes movies. (It doesn't end well for him--and that's not so much a spoiler, since you know from the beginning of the movie that things don't end up going his way.) The writer character, Joe Gillis, sums up the way that writing sometimes gets viewed pretty well.

Joe Gillis:
Audiences don't know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along.

This was more or less what I thought for a while. But when I was about nine or ten years old, I started reading the Harry Potter series. 

I was one of the kids that grew up with the series. I was about nine when I read the first book, and eighteen when the last book came out.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was loaned to me by a neighbor, who told me a little bit about the author. Specifically, she told me that the author used her initials as her author name because of concerns that people wouldn't read a book about a boy that was written by a woman.

At nine, I was not quite able to wrap my head around the sexism that implied, but I was able to latch on to the fact that a person  wrote this book that I enjoyed so much--and that that person was like me.

Rowling was the first author that I started to do research on. I wanted to know about her life and how she came to write this story. 

This is what got me started writing. Rowling, I had read, started writing little stories when she was a child.

When I was a kid, I had a different lifelong dream every week.  But this caught me. I started writing stories as soon as I read it. Not good stories--in fact, I'm pretty sure I never finished most of them--but I wrote. I even won a little contest in elementary school.

It was the first time that I realized someone could create a story and get it out there for other people to read.

My attention to my writing waned as I soldiered towards middle school. I was into everything as a kid, so the notion of picking my lane wasn't an appealing one. This spark would dim for a while.

By the time I was in eighth grade, I had almost stopped writing. I'd scribble little stories with friends, but nothing serious. The drive wasn't there.

 We read a book that year that reminded me that real people create the stories I love. The Outsiders by SE Hinton was one of the books in the unit that year. Apart from loving the book itself, I was fascinated by the author.

Hinton was a teenager--fifteen years old, at the start of the process--when she wrote The Outsiders based on the relationships between teenagers from different social classes in Oklahoma.

While I reread Harry Potter pretty frequently and have read all of Rolwing's other books (including the mysteries written under her Robert Galbraith pen name) and have only read Hinton's The Outsiders and only read it a couple of times, Hinton lit a more lasting fire in me.

Rowling made me want to write. Hinton made me need to write--and need to start writing immediately.

I made my first attempt at writing a novel that year.

It took me almost twenty years after discovering that authors were a thing and almost fifteen years after that first attempt to write a novel and get it out in the world. My getting started as an author may have been meandering and have come with several starts and stops, but I know exactly what it traces back to.

When did you figure out that there were people behind your favorite stories? What authors made you want to write? 

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