Writing: what’s it about, who did I look up to when I started, and, most importantly, why am I doing it? This is all very easy to explain. See, it all started . . . What? You think you’re getting the wisdom of the pharaohs here? Not a chance, pal.
Hang on, you’re probably going to get something a lot crazier.
I “got into” writing more than a few times. The first time was high school. I know it was around 10th Grade–1972, to keep the dates straight–when I started writing my first story. I had a lot of grand ideas, but the one that remains with me is and idea I came up with was about a co-ed pom-pom squad (yeah, before they became dance teams), that was allowed to protect themselves with high powered weapons from bullying. As you can see, I was well ahead of my time, as I was either predicting the future of anime, or Colorado in 2012.
The story never went anywhere for many reasons. One, I couldn’t type, so I had to write longhand. Two, I can’t spell due to mild dyslexia. Three, anyone who found out I was trying to “write” went out of my way to tell me I was nuts–and in my school none of the girls wanted to hang with a geeky looking guy, no matter how sensitive he might have appeared.
So, strike one in the game of calling myself a writer.
Now, a lot of my push to want to write came from reading. When I was a kid a read a lot; by the time I was coming up with the idea that I wanted to tell tales, I owned about 350 books, and had read another 500 or so from the local library. Most of what I read was science fiction, and so a lot of my mind was geared in that direction. My biggest geek crush at that time was Arthur C. Clarke, who, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, was the first adult writer whose novels I read. By 1973 I had read all his work, many times over. I love his ideas, and loved his style.
Clarke wasn’t the only writer I enjoyed. There was Asimov, Heinlein, Spinrad, Le Guin, Dick, Simak, Niven, McCaffrey, Bester . . . I bought and read them all. But one of the things that triggered my writing at that point was discovering two anthology collections: Dangerous Visions, and Again, Dangerous Visions.
That was when I discovered Harlan Ellison. And I knew what it really meant to be a writer.
His stuff was imaginative; it was gritty; it was real and fantasy. There was also a lot of swearing and sex, but hey: happens, right? What his work did was open my mind and truly blow me away. That’s what I wanted to be; that’s what I was going to be.
Just as soon as I could write . . .
I kept reading, but writing stayed on the back burner. Stayed there until about 1987, or so. Now, let me preface this part by saying I can be pretty hypercritical of entertainment–usually of the TV and movie variety. So when I was ranting to my wife and stepson and son about something we had seen on TV, and how piss poor it was, and so forth and so on . . . I was just being me. As always, I turned what I thought was a cultured eye towards something I’d see . . . and I do remember, at that moment in time, calling Stephen Spielberg a fucking hack.
And my then wife said something like, “Why don’t you try to write something that’s better?”
Boom! Back into writing I got.
I signed up for one of those adult education classes: creative writing. I went at night. I wrote. I turned into my stories. I freaked my instructor out– Um, let me explain this one:
For our first assignment, she wanted us to put together something “short”. Quick story, couple of characters, nothing fancy. Everyone did just that. They wrote their stories, edited them, and turned them in. All around 500 to 750 words, maybe 4 pages max depending on spacing.
My story was 6,300 words.
She took the story, and at the next session was really at a lost for words. So were 3 or 4 other people in the class. Afterwards I was ask if I wanted to join her writer’s group, and I accepted.
I began getting a feeling for being around others who wrote. I also, for the first time, encountered that rare breed of writer who hasn’t published, but you better not criticize their work, ’cause you have no idea what you’re talking about! Yeah, had more than a few confrontations with a guy who was writing a science fiction novel that was, to put it bluntly, deadly boring and full of logic holes. After a couple of weeks of hearing him going on about his story–really a novel–I started pointing out some things I thought he needed to address. He told me I was wrong. I told him I didn’t think so. He told me I didn’t understand science fiction. I rattled off the titles of about 20 novels I owned, then asked him he wanted me to stop, ’cause I could kept going for another 30 minutes if he liked. He left the room, never came back.
I started writing again. I tried a couple of short stories in the horror genre, and my then-wife liked them. But I found myself getting constrained by the format, and suddenly decided I wanted to write a novel. I took the three characters I created in my short story, added a forth, and started writing my great science fiction novel.
After a few months and about one hundred and fifty thousand words later, I was lost. I really was. I tried writing other stories–stuff that took place in an role playing game universe I knew inside out, stories that, these days, would be called “fan fiction”.
This went on for many years. And then I stopped. Why? There were a number of reasons. One, my writer’s group finally broke up. Two, my wife told me I was wasting my time, and that the only good thing I’d ever written was the first horror story I’d completed after I’d finished my writing class. Three, I got divorced, and depression pretty much killed me.
Strike two, and the count is looking grim.
Tried editing my novel in the late 90′s, with little success. Tried editing it again in the middle 2000′s, but still: there wasn’t any feeling to work on it there. However . . . I did discover various forms of fanfic on the Internet, and it made me thinks, “Whoa, this stuff is crap! I can do better than this.” So I started writing fetish fiction part time. It wasn’t paying any bills, but it saw me writing, even if I didn’t publish any of this stuff under my name.
It also got me back into working on my novel again, and this time I even added close to one hundred thousand words. It still wasn’t finished, but I didn’t feel totally lost. I did, however, feel–bored. There was little feedback; no one to come around and say, “Hey, you’re doin’ great!” And, to be honest, I wasn’t happy with the sort of fiction I was writing. I mean, I was creating erotica for the lowest common denominators, and it felt very limiting.
It wasn’t quiet strike three, but it was close to it.
And then I was laid off from work, and looking for another job became my work. And it was like that through what was left of 2008, and all of 2009, and all of 2010–
It was in the last quarter of 2010 that I wanted to do something once more. That “something” was writing. I enrolled in an online writing course. I got acquainted with the instructor. I became acquainted with some of the people in the class. It was fun to be writing again, to sorta semi be creating. See, I wasn’t doing a lot of writing, but I was picking up tips here and there, and that was helping me. I’d been away from The Great Writing Game for so long that I thought anything relating to the gig was gonna help me.
Problem was, when it was all over, I still wasn’t writing. I mean, I was talking about it, and taking some more classes, but I wasn’t writing.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t spending time talking about it. Oh, yeah, there were a few people from this online writer’s class that I kept in contact with, and we talked writing, and we discussed what we were going to do, and even a few showed their latest scribbling. But I wasn’t doing . . . anything.
So just about time for strike three to blow across the plate, which probably would have happened, because I was online, chatting about writing, but not actually doing any, and I was about to go do something else when this message popped up on Facebook– Let me see if I can remember what is said . . . oh, yeah:
“Ray–RAY! I need you to come play with me, Ray! Will you? Will you come Play with Me? Please? I so want you to come Play With ME! RAYYYYYYY!!!”
That was Annie, coming on a bit like Fluttershy after being fed large quantities of meth.
Annie got me into an online role play. I started writing there. We talked about writing. We got kicked out of that role play and started another. We talked more about writing.
Then something else came up; I received an email in June about doing a ghost story for a website–something they could publish for Halloween. I thought, “Why not?” and got the idea of doing the story about a ghost from another country–one that doesn’t have Americans in it, so no guns that won’t work, and no nubile blonds getting naked and showering when they’re about to die.
I wrote that story. I met Trusty Editortm, who helped me make changes where needed. I wrote. I finished the story. I self-published it when the website said, “24,000 words? Are you nuts?” That story is Kuntilanak, and it’s sold all of 6 copies. But it sold, and it’s mine.
Then came NaNoWriMo, and Her Demonic Majesty, a full novel, and a little something that I sold to an erotica press that will be published in May, and Echoes, and Couples Dance . . . and finally . . .
I finished my first novel. Transporting. 300,000 words. It’s done, finished, and will be edited.
What about strike three, you may ask. It’ll never happen. I’m writing now. I may not always feel like it, but I am. I don’t get all sorts of support, but I don’t need it, ’cause one or two people are about all you need.
I will say this:
You want to write, the person who is going to hurt you the most is you. You will do the most to stomp on your imagination; you will do the most to kill your dream.
You gotta make yourself understand, this isn’t always going to be fun to do. It’s a job, and like any other job, it can get to you. And it’s a job that, most of the time, you have to face alone.
But the end result . . . yeah, you make magic. Or shoot someone in the knee–either can happen.
You got that pitch coming your way. You gonna take strike three?
Or you gonna knock that sucker out of the park?