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In the Beginning…

A lot of my writerly acquaintances/friends/family have their own ‘origin story’ that is fascinating to me. They say things like, “I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid,” or, “I’ve always told stories and made up my own worlds.”

My origin story resembles these only if you turn your head and squint. I liked to make up stories- my stuffed animals went on all kinds of improbable adventures- and I wrote a certain amount of fanfiction- mostly in my head. I have one world in particular that drifted away from the source material so much that I need to get it down on paper and publish; it’s a crime that it’s sitting there, doing nothing.

But somehow, I never connected my hobby to my eventual career. If I really had to give a reason for this incredible oversight, I’d say that I grew up in a middle class New England family, where there wasn’t a lot of money lying around. What we did have was fantastic work ethic, and a desire to be more successful than the last generation. My parents encouraged me to consider college majors and careers in terms of, “Can I make a living at this?” Writing was never considered a workable career for me, and since I can be weirdly unimaginative and obedient at the drop of a hat, I never considered it, either. It simply never occurred to me that I could be a writer, even when I had no idea what I should do with my life.

I made it to twenty-two without thinking much about writing. Then I got sick. Details aren’t important, but I ended up with a fairly rare autoimmune condition, brought on by too much stress in college, and it took a year to arrive at a diagnosis and start treatment. During that year, spring 2012 to spring 2013, I basically did nothing; I had no strength to do anything but sleep for eighteen hours a day, and read books when I was awake. Occasionally I managed to make up a little story of my own, but they were scattered and repetitive, and I couldn’t even work up the effort to write them down. It was not a good year. Thank goodness my dad gave me a place to live; I was in no condition to care for myself, or even work a day job.

Okay. That last paragraph is maudlin and boring, and has nothing to do with writing. It’s only interesting as a stepping stone. On April 11, 2013, I was sitting on the couch in my childhood home, trying to make up a story for my own amusement, only my usual characters weren’t talking to me. In one of my rare fits of rebellion, I said, possibly even out loud, “Fine. Stupid characters. If you won’t cooperate, I’ll make up some new characters.” In less than five minutes, The Garia Cycle was born. It’s a tricky little universe, and doesn’t fit into any particular genre, but it has two published books and between six and eight more waiting in the wings.

But the Garia universe was conceived for my own amusement, at first. I had no plans to actually publish it. Life was too busy at that point. Within a month, the doctors figured out what was wrong with me, I started treatment for it, and got a job. That kept me well occupied for about a year.

Until the lightbulb went on. I’ve always been a great proponent of the public library in my hometown, and can usually find something worth reading. But sometime in late 2014, I took out a few really terrible books, right in a row. They had nothing to do with each other, and I no longer recall the titles, but they were awful. Gray goo, no plotting, and endings that left me wondering if the publisher had accidentally chopped off the last chapter. And they were all traditionally published.

I looked at those awful books, thought about the infant Garia Cycle (at the time, only one book) and said, out loud, “I can do better than this.”

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So I set out to do exactly that. I had about as much success as you’d expect; I knew nothing about publishing and very little about writing. But I talked to people, and got a few hints from them. Submitting to trad publishing was a waste of time, but I didn’t know that until I’d sent out a very early draft of A Kingdom of Glass to a few different houses.

By summer 2016, I hadn’t exhausted all of my options, but I was casting around, looking for new and innovative ways to screw up my chances of getting published, and I discovered the Calliope workshop, put on by Taliesin Nexus. The program has undergone some changes since then- I think it’s now called Cinder- but it was a writer’s workshop specifically for political conservatives. On a whim, I submitted an application and, lo and behold, they accepted me. I can only guess about the quality of the works that were rejected; my writing was still very patchy and I disguised a lot of gaps with good grammar and copyediting.

But I went to the workshop and got some good tips on branding, talking to editors, networking, etc. For the writing portion of the workshop, we were split into groups by genre (supposedly). Each group had a mentor. I don’t know what our very own Sarah Hoyt did wrong in a past life, but it was bad enough to make her the mentor for my group, which was a hodgepodge of newbies whose work varied in quantity, quality, and genre. But we had fun and learned a few things. I met my fiancé as an indirect consequence of that workshop, and for that reason alone, it was worth it.

I came home from Calliope and rewrote almost my entire book. Trust me, the second draft had its issues, but rewriting was the right decision. I published A Kingdom of Glass on Amazon about six months later, which sounds incredibly slow from my current perspective but was probably pretty speedy for a new writer.

I leave you to judge if The Garia Cycle is worth anything; the first two books mostly serve as an example of how much a writer can improve with practice. I started out with no talent or skill at storytelling, and now I’ve developed a little skill. But it showed me that I could write and publish, and make a little money from doing. Other books of varying length followed. The most recent is a regency romance, The Secret of Seavale. I have a space opera that needs editing, another half-done regency romance, and five or six more lurking in my head. The next Garia book is about two-thirds complete, and the rest of the series prods me occasionally.

Why am I telling you this? Um, good question. I’m trying to give myself a kick in the butt, and accomplish some writing. But mostly, I think it’s because I’m back in the same position I was, five and a half years ago, when I couldn’t think of anything to write and made up a new universe out of sheer bullheadedness. You see, I’m visiting my family for Christmas. So I’m sitting on the living room couch- it even has the same green couch cover- looking at the same furniture, with a laptop on my knees. And my characters won’t talk to me. Yet.

A few things have changed, of course. The Christmas decorations are pretty much the same, but they weren’t there in spring 2013. I don’t technically live in this house anymore; I live in Colorado. That awful disease that was killing me, is in remission. With a little luck, I won’t see any more consequences from it for the rest of my life. And my fiancé just came down the stairs and wished me a good morning.

Even when things come full circle, they’re not quite the same as before. All in all, I’m okay with that.

17 Comments
  1. Draven #

    in my case, my friends liked to play Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica with me because i actually made up stories instead of generic play.

    December 26, 2018
  2. I’d always written, but mostly goth-teen odes to dead trees type stuff, and fanfic. And then airplanes started talking to me (do not ask. Not literally, I assure you) and I had to write down what I was doing and hearing. And then it went farther, because I could not find much I wanted to read, and I needed to vent.

    Then it got out of hand… 🙂

    December 26, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      “”But your Honor, it was the airplane that told me to kill all of those people.”

      December 26, 2018
      • TheOtherSean #

        If it was an A-10, I might be able to believe it.

        December 26, 2018
  3. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    An excess of creativity, and a shortage of common sense. Took me years to realize that I was simply exercising my worldbuilding, and ignoring plot and most of the important parts of character.

    I’m strictly a hobbyist at creative writing. I’ve spent to much effort training my creativity to produce creative writing results to just turn that outlet off. But it is not the only thing I want to do with my life, and the other stuff is looking up, even with the health issues.

    December 26, 2018
  4. It seemed a natural outgrowth of reading so much (which, I honestly do not remember learning to do, so to me, I’ve been reading all my life.) And imaginative play was always something we did. Plotting stories with friends (even if they never went anywhere) going from ‘what if’ was more fun than gossiping.

    December 26, 2018
    • This!

      December 26, 2018
    • SheSellsSeashells #

      I actually do remember learning to read; I was an only child, and was prowling around my room and being bored one day when I found (three years too early) the phonics records that my mother had stashed to give me a jump start on kindergarten. I don’t remember the actual Enlightenment hitting, but I do remember the look on my mother’s face three months later, when she discovered me sitting on the sofa and puzzling my way through my grandmother’s Reader’s Digest. 🙂

      December 27, 2018
      • According to my parents, I started reading at ‘9 months of age’ (I’d suspect it’s closer to a year) and that by the age of two, I was reading the treasured encyclopedias my father had carefully saved up for. (I came down to breakfast and asked them how I was made, using the proper scientific terminology for the cells, and organs involved. I gather that’s how they found out…)

        I have memories of my father reading books, using a highlighter and writing comments on the margins, but being three, I didn’t know why he was doing it. He explained why when he saw me doing the same to a Tell Me Why book.

        It took me a while to get my son to read books (I poked my head into his room to ask him to help me carry down stuff, and find him lounging, reading one of the Grimnoir Chronicles, and my inner chibi self is dancing in celebration) and he devours books – he made puppy eyes at me to finish The Three Secret Cities faster. (I’ll get him into enjoying reading nonfiction in time. Honey, flies…)

        December 27, 2018
  5. 23 skidoo

    December 26, 2018
  6. Mary #

    I started writing because we were going on vacation and had to return ALL our books to the library. A WEEK before we left.

    December 26, 2018
    • Oooohhhh. That’s just cruel. They are supposed to be the last thing you do before leaving town.

      December 27, 2018
  7. I wandered into Baen’s Bar, and OMG!!!! Real Writers! Who talked to us, and acted like they were regular people, not god-like superbeings who had so enriched my life. At which point I started writing down those weird worlds in my head. And with a whole lot of poking and prodding, and application of pointy boots I started _finishing_ those stories.

    Add KDP and I stopped trying to sell to traditional publishers and went Indie.

    December 26, 2018
    • mrsizer #

      I thank the pokers and prodders. Oh and “Azho”, really? That’s just mean.

      December 28, 2018
  8. I was having dinner with a romance author who I know locally, NYT best seller, many-many novels out, etc., and she said something like…

    She: I never intended on becoming a romance author. I never wanted to write books.
    Me: Oh? What happened?
    She: Well, I read this really horrible book. I had to fix it.

    When I stopped laughing she told the rest of the story.

    December 27, 2018
    • Mary #

      “I have to fix this” has started me off on some stories. Not too surprising it would kick off a career.

      December 27, 2018
  9. For me, it started in the 5th grade, probably like Shadowdancer as an outgrowth of my (recently developed) love of reading. Alas, the dream of being a ‘real’ writer is dying as I come to realized that I lack the discipline to sit at the computer and write after working all day and noticing that I lack any real talent. (Meh, I can do okay with some things, like back-story and world building, but it always falls flat when I go to put it into a real story.) So I just play around with snippets and ff, some of which is so far from the source material it could almost be considered original.

    December 27, 2018

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