Inspired by a recent post over at storytelling nomad’s blog about authors who are evasive when answering the question “how did I start writing,” I thought I’d elaborate a bit, personally.
I’ve already mentioned my notebooks/journals. After reading the entire series of Amelia’s notebooks, I wanted to write funny records just like hers. My first couple notebooks had a lot of doodles similar to Amelia’s notebooks and perhaps slightly copycatting the Lizzie McGuire cartoon (remember that show??) My desire to keep journals was further fueled by the Princess Diaries series. All through my childhood, I was the bookiest bookworm you’ve ever met and my parents further encouraged my writing goal by sending me to book-writing-and-making summer camps at the local community college and reading camps at the local library. (These, I insist, were NOT lame. I enjoyed the experiences very much and am extremely fond of the little paperback books I made. They sit in a place of honor on my shelves).
Anywho. That’s how I started writing.
At those summer camps, I wrote a couple of short picture books which usually starred a talking animal as the main character. But my first real chapter book was a totally different experience.
I was in 11th grade and was in an AP English-Creative Writing class. My teacher was not terribly enthusiastic about teaching and was usually unprepared. That particular day he had given a little speech entitled “Every Great Book Idea Has Already Been Written So It Is Pointless to Try and Write A Book.” I’m not sure why he thought this was a good topic for a Creative Writing class, but I was angry. I went home after school, locked myself in my room, and wrote a middle-grade fantasy novel about a curmudgeony old king who’s family motto was that life wasn’t worth living because every experience had already been lived at least once before and about the two kids that go on a quest to prove the king wrong. It took me nine hours and I never went back to edit it. But if I ever get it published, I am sending a copy to my old teacher and:
- Hope that he feels the sting of my pen; or,
- Realizes the error of his thinking and realizes that awesome new books are published every day, the book in his hand being a key example.
Then I went off to college. I wanted to major in Creative Writing, but every college I visited told me that I needed to double major–or at least minor–in something else too, or I would have nothing to write about. Being that historical fiction is my favorite genre of all time, I double-majored in history.
The capstone of the history major is a class called Research and Writing and I decided to make the project do double the work for me. I picked a historical figure who’s never had a middle-grade fiction book written about her (I’m keeping it a secret so that my book is still the first. So those of you who know what I did my project on…shhh! Our little secret!) and then spent four semesters researching her. I read over 100 books, a dozen articles, watched twenty movies and television shows about her, and even listened to every single song that references her in some way.
You know those authors who say they have to know the character as well as their best friend before they can write the book? Let me just tell you, I knew the character inside and out. Writing the book was easy after all that research. (It took longer than nine hours, of course; it wasn’t that easy. A semester for the first draft and four more months for the desperately needed rewrite).
How did you get into writing? What was your experience writing your first book like? What inspired (or enraged) you?