Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How did you start writing?

I can recall the time when I realized I loved to write. Reading was already something I relished, and from a very early age I was an avid bookworm. I used to LOVE the sound of hardbacks and I loved the smell of the paper. I know this sounds weird, but I remember in the first grade, I checked out the Ramona series from the library, and I remember loving how the thick, hard-backed books thumped when I tapped them, and I remember laying the open book over my face and taking deep breaths of that papery scent. Yeah, I know. I was a weird kid.

I was voracious reader too—I gobbled up the Ramona books, and then attacked most of the Beverly Cleary books, then pretty much anything else that sounded nice when I tapped the cover, and then moved onto the Xanth series by Piers Anthony and continued reading those all the way through to middle and high-school. I wasn’t a huge Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys fan—but when lacking anything else to read, I partook grudgingly.
I discovered Jean Auel’s books at a young age (I know… I was perplexed by those questionable scenes, I confess, but I did LOVE the narratives on Ayla’s medicine training, and her collecting and use of natural plants and such). I loved the Neverending Story… and adored how each chapter was in a distinguishing colour based on if you were in the present or in the fantasy world, and the first chapter starts with a word starting in A, and then each subsequent chapter follows the alphabet. I was dismayed to discover that the movie only depicts half the book!

I read books that were required reading for older kids & such; Where the Red Fern Grows; To Kill a Mockingbird, JRR Tolkein of course, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; Of Mice and Men, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984 and Animal Farm, Wuthering Heights, Watership Down, Pretty much everything Brontë and all things Austen, Moby Dick and whatever else I could get my paws on. I remember a couple of times in middle school, skipping classes and hiding out in the back corner of the library, reading entire books in one day.

I started writing stories in earnest in the fifth grade. Before that it was mostly scribblings and poems and such. What prompted the storyteller in me for sure was my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Wendy Pamay. I think pretty every one of us can say that there was that *one* teacher or professor who had a profound effect on you during your formative years… Wendy Pamay and Mr. Paul Francis were my inspiration when I was young. I wasn’t necessarily a great student; I had a rough childhood and it reflected on my participation and attendance pretty badly. Ms. Pamay was the one who taught me that writing could be that escape, that place where I could express myself without reserve. She was a wonderful teacher… I credit her with so many of my present day skills and interests. She treasured creativity and reading—and found really amazing ways to teach us things—she was genius. That is why she is part of the dedication of my first published book.

It took a long time for me to develop my voice. Much through my teens and early twenties, what I wrote was very much influenced by what I was reading. I finished my first book at 23; and it was horrible. I was horrified to discover a television show that appeared after completing that book that depicted a character almost identical to mine, so I scrapped the project. I wrote another science-fiction book that was also equally as terrible. But every word, every paragraph helped me develop my style and find who I was as an author. I think I also took a while to figure out how to put myself in my writing instead of just writing to tell a story or emulate a style I liked at the time. It made my characters more authentic and likeable, I think.

I write when it comes to me. I have, no joke, at least 200 false-start stories, some only a couple of paragraphs, some as many as seventy or eighty pages; all of which skidded to a creative halt somewhere along the line. Finishing a book is hard, and a rare event for me. I’m not disciplined enough to make myself write or to create outlines, I’m afraid. I prefer organic processes; it makes stories less predictable.

Tinna’s Promise is a strange book… I know it is. But what I do know is that it is reviewing wonderfully… and that I have a viable voice as a writer. It took years to develop it, but it’s there. I’m hoping Tinna’s Might will have that same draw that keeps the reader engaged as the first book has. We’re still editing. I’ve had to do A LOT of moving stuff around and revisions; I tried too hard to fill readers in on the background from the first book; it’s a lot of work. I’m hoping to have it polished and tied up by end of year, but I’m not sure… we shall see!


  1. I see there is no trolling allowed here. Awesome. :)

    I grew up hating to read, none of the stories the teachers assigned were as cool as the ones swirling in my own mind. So I would say that my interest began when I decided to write what I would would want to read. That began in high school and has never stopped.

    I have a black cloud over my head. If you look close enough, you can see it. I now have a few words or phrases to put with that cloud since I happened upon your blog here and it all seems to be clearing.

    Horrible/ terrible stories... I have written plenty of them. False-start stories. I thought I was out of my league because I have yet to finish a single project. I'm excited about the prospect of reaching 200 unfinished works. And no outlines is the way to go. I have to see my characters live the story and I write as fast as I can to keep up with them. Sometimes they do or say things that surprise me and take the story places I never would have dreamed of in an outline. ick.

    Thank you for being an inspiration.

    Tinna sounds like the kind of heroine I would love to spend my day with. *runs to the bookstore* Good luck with Timma's Might.

  2. :) I love that! Thanks for commenting. :D

  3. I know what you mean about the smell of books! I remember certain new hardcover picture books in my elementary school library had this scent that I associated with spices like cinnamon for some reason. And some thicker old books had a kind of comforting scent, and the worn pages were velvet soft on the edges when I thumbed through them like a flip book.

    Maybe I never gave creative writing enough of a chance, but I never thought I was very good at storytelling or writing. It was always my brother who was praised by teachers for having imaginative stories and a fun, unique voice in his writing. Well, it's a rare talent, and you seem to have it. Talent and dedication (it seems the dedication is just as important). Best of luck in getting Tinna's Might ironed out :)