How does one become a writer? That's a question I've been asked from time to time and it's not always an easy one to answer. For starters, if you write I suppose that classifies you as a "writer." Maybe the question should be; "What was the route I took to become a writer?"
I think I've blogged about this before, but I remember the first story I wanted to write down and share. It was when I was in fourth or fifth grade and I stayed home sick for the day. For some reason, I couldn't sleep because I kept thinking about this story of the city of Atlantis. There were werewolves in the story too. Yes, even before that hunky kid from the New Moon trailer that causes all the girls to scream out in the theater. Puhlease! If I took off my shirt, you'd scream too! Not for the same reasons, but there'd be screaming and it would more than likely sound the same. From that moment on, I've considered myself a story teller. Some of my stories are stupid, well most of them, like my blog, won't increase your intelligence, but still there's something about getting a positive reaction out of an audience from something I've shared. I can't explain it.
I cannot remember a day in my life that I wasn't thinking in narrative form. There's daydreaming, which every healthy kid should do and then there's taking your imagination to the next level. If I hear a catchy saying, or see a weird shaped tree, or come across some unique landscape, I almost always imagine the story behind it. My grades were so-so in school, because I couldn't focus on what was being taught. There were far too many quirky kids in High School to go unnoticed. I have at least a half dozen stories I started writing from between the ages of 12 and 18. The summer before I got married, I started one about a haunted apartment complex and I still have the hand-written scribbled story I wrote in eighth grade about a serial killer that freaked my older sister out. There was the one about the psychotic boy that talked to his motorcycle. Yeah, I had a weird stint of writing fueled by my obsession with Stephen King novels.
Then after a year and a half of marriage, I was introduced to Harry Potter and like so many authors out there in the world, I realized I wanted to write for kids. Why? Because kids books are stocked full of the most amazing stories in existence. Sure, they're lighter and fun, but that doesn't mean their absent of any complex story lines. J.K. Rowling to me is the most brilliant writer of all time.
Oh, Frank, that's because you've never read anything of great importance.
I've read most of the classics and I continue to read the books that matter according to society. I recently finished the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. It was amazing! Well-written, inspiring, thought-provoking, horrifying, all of that. But give me some kid with a wand and throw in some of the most amazing, developed characters I have ever read and I'll show you a masterpiece.
Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. Well, it was because of my discovery of this popular series that lead me to my next direction. I toned down the horror and dove into my first completed novel. At the time it was called The Gothian Box and I still love that story despite it being the worst writing I've ever done. I have stacks upon stacks of rejections. The world rejected me and my story and my family and my moles (I have a few real big moles and some scars where the others were removed. Man, I've got some good tales about moles and not the little vermin that I have actually yet to see in real life...)
Ranting raving lunatic! I hate that voice inside my head. He's so belittling.
Still, I kept to the plan. The Gothian Box was going to be my meal ticket. There would be movies, action figures, maybe even a theme park. Who knew? Meanwhile, in the tiny (and I mean tiny) recesses of my brain, someone was begging to come out. Hashbrown.
Hashbrown was actually a name I made up as a joke while driving around with some friends when Heidi was pregnant with Jackson. We couldn't decide on a name and after some terrible suggestions, I stated that I wanted to name him Hashbrown and we would change his last name to Winters because it was winter and that made sense at the time. We all laughed and a light bulb turned on in my head (30 watter, very dim) What a name! I thought. Where could I go with that? So I started writing Hashbrown for fun, while I pitched the Gothian Box with dreams of wealth and fame. In writing groups and with family I would heavily tout my fantasy novel and everyone would smile and say, "wow, what a great story!" And then, in passing, I would mention Hashbrown's wacky adventures and everyone would lean forward and blow snot with laughter. But that story wasn't finished. Far from it to be honest. And even if I did finish it, it was still so trivial and would hardly be as long as my brainchild. My sister told me, that this Hashbrown story was my ticket to getting published. I got offended that she wasn't talking about The Gothian Box which was 100,000 words set in a far-off world with amazing creatures and so on and so on. But she was right. To be a writer that's committed to the craft, you've got to keep writing and improving. Sometimes it's necessary to say goodbye to characters you love. It's kinda like real life in a weird sense.
After my last rejection of the Gothian Box (a convent of nuns in Burbank that publish stuff for free on rice paper) I decided to take the next step and move on. If anything, I had learned how to finish a story, which any aspiring writer will tell you, is the most difficult step. Stories aren't stories if they don't end unless you've written one like the 1980's movie... Never ending Sto-o-ry, ah-u-ah, ah-u-ah, ah-u-ah! Never ending Sto-o-ry! You know the one with the luck dragon and that cool warrior boy named Atrayu or something that I could've sworn was a girl for most of the movie. Oh and there was that giant turtle in the mountain that couldn't stop sneezing! Wow! Memories. Heck, if you can write something like that I'll buy it in a heartbeat. That's pure poetry.
I dove head first into my next project and I almost treated Hashbrown as a real person. I would refer to him, not as a story, but as an actual kid when in conversation. "Oh that Hashbrown, he's done some pretty crazy stuff!" When Hashbrown finally got accepted, I still remember gabbing on the phone with my brother, so excited that I was shouting and I heard him say, "I always knew Hashbrown was the one! I knew he would make it!"
So there you go. That's the course I took and I'm hoping there's a few more bends in the road to come. And the daydreaming? Yeah, that never stops. Just ask Heidi. She'll tell you about my 2 in the morning launches from the bed toward the laptop so I could crack out a page or two of notes from some story that won't let me sleep. I'll write forever. I just know it. Even if I don't get rich doing it (though, come on, that would rock) I'd venture to say that I'll be making up stories until I die and then I'll probably haunt somebody afterwords, because that would be too fun to pass up.