Hey, folks! It’s Kat.
I thought I would share my story of how I came to be writer for those who might be interested. Feel free to skip. 😉 It’s not toooooo long, and hopefully not too dull.
Okay, so rewind half my life to when I was 9 years old. My family had just moved (first time I personally had ever moved) and things were kind of crazy mixed up, but we were making new friends and life was good. Then one family of said new friends hosted a story writing contest. Nothing big, just in their circle. It had a five hundred word limit and they would judge. I had never written a single thing in my life before. Not one. (How on earth did I exist??) I’m not counting the barely-even-stories that involved prankster
fairies “elves” that was half-dream (watching it happen in my head but not involving myself in the stories) and half-predecessor-to-my-early-so-called-stories. They really don’t count, and if you heard/saw them, you’d agree, which I’m glad you can’t. 😉
The story was supposed to relate somehow to a certain picture. It was up to each individual writer how they incorporated it. Struck with ingenious inspiration, I pumped out my first story. Ever. On paper.
It was called “The Adventures of Ellie and Jane”. It was 11 sentences long. 3 of them ended with exclamation points. It had practically no plot and was almost incomprehensible. It was cheesy, tacky, crummy, pitiful… and a seed.
In a matter of weeks, I’d started the next story (complete with highlights for emphasis). It was one of those that never could seem to find an end, working around and around in predicable circles. Oh, the first version ended soon enough. It was less than a page. But each time I stopped it, I got an idea of a different way to tell it, and it changed and grew, spiraling around in the same old plot pattern as ever. I called it first “Prairie Meadow”, then “My Story”, then “The Bend in the Road”, then simply, “A Book”, then “The Carnelian Ring”, and finally down to what it is today, “The Emerald Ring”.
Of course, each story had it’s cover pictures. And of course, with each version, they had to be different.
And with each progressive version something changed. At stage a la “Carnelian Ring”, I dropped it for more than 7 years. When I picked it up again later, it was to completely remodel and revamp it into a comedic children’s story. But before I reached that time, my writing love and joy had first to nearly die.
I don’t normally think of myself as a quitter, but I really and truly gave up here. I was maybe 11 and had been writing for no more than 2 years. Exasperated with my slow hunt-and-peck typing, I dropped the writing thing. My fingers were miles behind my mind, and I was losing interest in whatever I was immediately typing; my brain was way ahead working on the climax while my story was just meeting the lead. So I stopped. Just that. Bam.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the end. One day, stewing over my abandoned plot and where I had planned to take it, I started experimenting with some dialogue. Which ran on into narrative. And I kept going. And so began a habit that was to continue through the years. I wrote my stories in my head. No need for computers or keyboards or quick typing.
Now fast forward dozens of “head stories” and several years to 2012. In a conversation with a friend (incidentally, one of the members of the family who had hosted that writing contest that had triggered my passion), she mentioned this thing called “NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month). When I asked her what that was, she explained that it was a free program type thing that helps people write a novel (essentially). The goal is to try and write 50,000 words in 30 days or less in the month of November. I was intrigued but it was the next month and my schedule was already jammed.
The very next week, I was browsing the shelves at the library. I don’t normally like to do this Russian roulette style of book choosing, but this day I was. I happened to pick up a couple of writing books. Flipping through one, I read that the author was the man who had founded NaNoWriMo. A little shiver of coincidence, and I moved on. On my way exiting the library, a poster caught my eye. It was a poster for NaNoWriMo.
I am not superstitious.
But I was experiencing the feeling of being driven towards, as they say, “some inevitable fate”, of being led by a skilled Master who was shaping me while I was trying to skitter off His potter’s wheel. The pointers were only too clear: move forward.
After a fourth encounter (in a different book months later), I was already giving in. I had been planning from the first to try this NaNoWriMo gig, but now I was going to finish. I was going to “run in such a way as to get the prize”. I was actually scheduled to have my wisdom teeth removed on the 21st, so I knew I had to be done by then or not at all. And I did. I finished the novel at 57,000 words on the 19th of November.
And. It. Was. Awful.
I felt like quitting. How could I ever hope to write anything even close to good? What was I thinking? I could never swing this writer thing, and while so short ago I had been tossing around how to use what I was so firmly convinced was a gift specifically given me for the benefit of others, I was now wondering how I could have been so delusional.
Once again, I was saved by a “mere chance”. I happened to run across a paragraph in a book that told me this:
“…I gave up the dream of becoming a writer because I had been told that writing could not be taught [the Big Lie]. Writers are born, people said. You either have what it takes or you don’t, and if you don’t you’ll never get it.
My first writing efforts didn’t have it. I thought I was doomed…
Let’s replace the Big Lie with the Truth. The Truth is that the craft can be taught and that you, with diligence and practice and patience, can improve your writing [emphasis mine].” – James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure
(Can I just say [insert cheesy B-rated TV show jingle here] More Than I’ve Been??)
I did leave my very first novel, Secrets of the Lost Kingdom, behind. But my writing dream breathed with new life. I started to write. A lot. A bunch of short stories, but I was practicing everything I was reading, and I was absorbing writing knowledge through my skin. As I watched my writing shape into something halfway readable, I knew I was on to something. And it was incredible.
So here I am. I’m still learning (by a long shot! 🙂 ) But I’ve made progress. I’ve completed a second NaNoWriMo, this time maxing out at a record 75,500 words. I saw the learning and hard work of a year pour out into a story that left Secrets of the Lost Kingdom so far in the dust as to be comical. But I know the day will come when even 2014’s novel, Mastermind, will look, um, crumby. And I know there will be times when I feel like giving up. But writing is my passion, and it is my “voice crying out in the wilderness”. I know I would be a hypocrite were I to hold it in, hide it, or abandon it.
So I’m here to write. And share. And learn. And be a part of something bigger than my little world. I don’t know where it will go, but I can’t not try.
It’s a roller coaster. It’s an adventure. It’s scary and awesome and cool and incredible. I’m glad we’re on this ride together. Let’s see where it takes us!