I spent a while yesterday perusing the internet and reading stuff. I ended up on Jo Rowling’s site, reading her bio and and a few other guilty tidbits of Harry Potter information. One thing I’m seeing, some common thread between myself and other writers out there is that we often have been writing FOR-EV-ER.
For me, my journey as a writer began in my mother’s spiral-bound address books and day planners. I remember these ventures very well, and most of them began before kindergarten or during. I could read by the time I was 5–when I was in kindergarten, my school arranged for a sixth grader to come tutor me, because I was already reading books. I very vividly recall an embarrassing moment when a teacher asked the class what sound the letter ‘g’ made, and I was humiliated when I answered “juh” and was scolded–‘g,’ of course, makes a ‘guh’ sound, as the teacher told me. The word I was thinking of when I made that so-called mistake was “giant.” I wasn’t supposed to argue with a teacher, so I shut up and blushed.
Anyway, it wasn’t long before reading gave way to writing. I wrote endlessly. I would copy down things I saw, phonetically sound out songs from my mother’s choral group (one in Lithuanian I can still remember to this day; I scrawled it inside her day planner), and before long, I started making up stories–also in my mother’s planners, much to her helter-skelter of dismay/joy at my chosen past time.
Like the books I read, many of my early ventures into authorship were paired with pictures. The one I remember with the greatest clarity (I think my mom still has it) was a comic about a dog and a flower. In the first frame, the dog was excited to see a pretty flower, so he went and sniffed it. The next frame showed the dog and the flower, the dog’s tongue lolling out in his sublime joy. The next appeared to show the dog walking away. Before you know it, in the next frame, the dog has lifted his leg over the flower…and in the last frame, I believe I drew a very wilted flower and only the dog’s tail in the corner as he left. I forget what I wrote specifically in the captions, but I do recall how tickled my mom was about this early foray into the artistic world.
I started my first novel at the tender age of nine. It was a fantastically overblown science fiction story (I haven’t the faintest idea where my notion came from to write that–I’ve never been into sci-fi) featuring all my best friends (names not changed) and involving a grandiose space journey to a newly discovered planet light years away from Earth. OH! Wow. Just writing that reminded me why I wrote it! I had heard somewhere that traveling at immense speeds could ostensibly alter the passage of time, and therefore the aging process. My lovely group of astronautical friends and I were to travel to this new destination, explore, etc., and return to find that the world they left behind had been irrevocably altered and all the people they loved were dead (it would be 80 or so years from when they departed our peachy keen planet). Right. So that was my first attempt at a novel. I scrawled away day and night for weeks, hand writing over 50 pages if I remember correctly. I think I stopped because I didn’t know enough about space, and I wanted my story to be realistic.
My second major attempt at novel writing was inspired by my best friend during my junior year of high school. Between Naomi’s Intergalactic Space Adventure (I just pulled that out of my ass–I changed exactly one name in that early novel: Mine. My friends were all stuck with theirs. *evil laugh*) Between these novel attempts, I wrote a rather large number of essays. I still remember a comment from my English teacher in grade eight when she read an essay I had written about a rather spectacular fall from my bicycle (I fell into a ditch and cracked my head open–a neighbor came and got me, and I was screaming because I was afraid Mom would be mad about getting my clothes covered in blood.) My teacher was impressed with my writing–she said I was a fantastic writer. She also gave me my first real literary critique, and to this day I pay extra attention to editing out superfluous “thats”. I still get a fuzzy glow thinking about that experience.
Anyway. I digress. Again. Second novel attempt: junior year of high school. It was an epic fantasy. I drew maps, wrote character profiles. Due to a lovely and understanding English teacher (Ms. Rokusek, a woman I hold in complete and total regard to this day), my best friend and I were given the opportunity to do an independent study of creative writing. We both plowed away at novels for a solid semester–for school credit! It was my first experience of actually getting paid to write something. Maybe not money, but even so I have one word for it: awesome. It was a fantastic semester, both the writing excercises and the fact that Catie and I spent a good deal of time giving very helpful advice to younger passers-by in the realm of “have safe sex!” and “don’t share needles!” We were of an altruistic state of mind.
I got about 160 pages into that monstrosity. It was…quaint. Naive. Looking back (which I did a couple days ago), the writing was horribly cliche for the most part. Very young indeed. Not that being twenty-three is old, but writing at eighteen is decidedly different. I have a sort of warm, fuzzy fondness for that story. Maybe I’ll even finish it someday. One of the characters, however, has been hijacked for a series idea I have for whenever I finish The Silver Thorn Chronicles.
Anyway. After that year, I went to college. Most of my writing took an academic turn, and I really didn’t have much I could do about it. I worked full time in addition to a full course load, and there wasn’t a lot of spare time to write for myself. I started a couple half-hearted stories, but they never took root. Before too long, though, I discovered what happens when writers don’t write.
Laurell K. Hamilton, in her Anita Blake series, describes Anita’s necromancy as neccessary. If Anita doesn’t raise the dead on purpose, she will inevitably raise it by accident. The dead seek her out. Writing is like that for me. If I don’t write, writing comes to find me. It takes over my hand and scribbles on napkins–for me it’s usually receipts–business cards, envelopes, and even on occasion my own skin. On a trip to Spain during the time I lived in Poland, I began a tradition that I still keep up. I had bought a large number of postcards in Rome and Valencia, and on the plane back to Krakow, I felt the ache in my hand. My fingers itched for a pen. I dug around in my knapsack until I found one, but I was unable to find anything to write on until my eyes fell on the stack of colorful postcards.
I started the traditional way–writing to a friend or two. Those cards, by the way, never got sent. Before I knew it, my brain was soaring. I scribbled away on the backs of the postcards, thinking about my travels, places, and people. Mostly people. At the end, I had postcards filled with thoughts. I still have them. Now I do it on purpose. I buy postcards to record my impressions of people and places in the routes I travel.
When I returned to Poland, I had that flash of inspiration that so many people speak of. A true aha moment. What was that moment? That moment was Anna MacPherson. I began writing feverishly, trying to get her story out. I got fifty pages or so into it and stopped short. I realized it wasn’t the real beginning. Before long, I had embarked on my current journey–The Silver Thorn Chronicles.
It has led me to my first completed draft of a novel in its entirety. 194 pages with half inch margins, single spaced in twelve point Times New Roman. Somewhere around 105,000 words. It needs work; they always do. By the time I send it on to agents, it’s probable that it will not resemble its current form all that much. But it’s done.
Now I’m back to Anna, the young woman who caught my mind’s attention in the first place. She’s smart, strong, fiercely loyal, and intensely protective. I am excited to tell her story as I told Sarah’s.
Writing for me is catharsis. I can say things, do things with my characters, that I just can’t swing in “real” life. I can feel free to emote to my little heart’s content. I realized during my time abroad that the craft of writing isn’t just what I do. It’s who I am. It always has been. Maybe I’ll never be famous or published, but I’m going to try. My characters deserve the effort–they want their stories told one way or another.
Thanks for reading, folks.
Emmie, over and out.