How I Started Writing

This is part of a reply I wrote to a new member of the Compuserve Books and Writers Community. I was a Forum newbie only two years ago - time flies when you're having fun :-)

I've been writing since I was in the first grade. My first stories were about a kid named Aldo and another kid who was friends with a cow who went to the moon. Later on, I wrote short stories that had stickers in place of some strategic words, and a story about a birth in the family, told from the point of view of the kettle on the stove.

I tried writing my first novel when I was in the fourth grade, about a new girl at school. My sister still remembers it and asks whether I've kept it. Kind of like J.R.R. Tolkien's memory of reading a story to one's parents and having them criticise a miniscule aspect of it (his mother had told him he couldn't say "green great dragon" but had to say "great green dragon"), my mother, when she read my story, asked why I was using the acronym TP, and told me that one should try to explain anything that the reader might find confusing (in this case, TP was toilet paper, and the kids were TPing the new girl's house).

So for all intents and purposes I've been writing my whole life and have learned how to do it by: reading; writing; reading some more; and letting others read my writing. I've taken a few creative writing courses here and there, but found they did nothing for my self-esteem and hardly anything for my writing. That being said, I think the type of course one takes is important; learning and sharing on the Compuserve Forum is stimulating and rewarding, whereas the courses I took were geared towards either grades or people who treated writing like an average hobby and weren't serious about it. I'm not sure how to describe the latter without insulting anyone... It was a course I took at the local community centre. It was a group of women - no men - in their fifties (I was about 15 at the time), who kept writing sappy emotional stories for every assignment. I, of course, had very little style at the time, and everything I wrote sounded juvenile by comparison to their long-winded dialogues and purple prose.

Still, any experience can teach you something about writing, though there's no substitute for reading a lot. A few people have a natural gift that doesn't require constant exposure to other books; they can whip up their own tale in no time, with voice and character development intact. The rest of us need to keep reading, to discover new styles, learn about different methods, pick up vocabulary, etc.

Right now, I'm editing my seventh novel, The Face of A Lion. I started it last March or so, and finished it around December - yay!

BUT, and this is thanks to the Forum, this is the first time I'm Going All The Way. All of my other novels, wtih the exception of one, are barely worth salvaging, and this is the first book that I'm taking through the editing ringer, in the hope that I will soon be querying for agents with it...

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