Wednesday, November 6, 2019

My Writing Journey

          Back on the 3rd of November, I posted The Lost Writer, which outlined my probable writingless future.  Yesterday, the 5th, I shared this with my Writing-dot-com group, and upon reflection it seems, especially in the last couple of paragraphs, to represent a conclusion to the first essay, so I am repeating it here, more or less verbatim, for what it's worth.  Those of you who wish to continue reading this sort of chatty blog post should bookmark -- I don't plan on continuing this sort of thing here in the future.

         Okay, the apocalypse is behind me. Time to begin the post-apocalyptic journey. And speaking of journeys, member Octavius approached me with a simple question: Can you tell me about your writing journey? A simple question to ask, at least. I shall now attempt to answer it...

         My great-grandmother, a Victorian lady of aristocratic background, had me reading and writing in at least a rudimentary fashion by the age of three. She used to sit and read the comics page to me as I followed along beside her. I was way too young to get the jokes, and to this day I don't laugh when I read comedy. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it, but I digress. I was skipped past kindergarten based on the fact that I could read, and entered school as a first-grader. The teachers immediately started making us write the most mind-numbingly boring things: Spelling lists, adding suffixes and prefixes, handwriting practice and so forth. It didn't take long before I hated writing like most of you hate cobras. And then I reached fifth grade. That was in 1958, school starting a month before I turned 10.

         I landed in the class of Mrs. Warner at Sunset View Elementary School on the ocean side of Point Loma in San Diego, and it was kismet. She had a couple of writing exercises designed to instill a love of the Craft, and the one that hooked me was this. A couple of times a month she would tell us all to write a story. She had some square foot-size pictures she would line along the trough in front of the blackboard to help with inspiration, and after we had all written for an hour, she would send us out for recess. While we were out playing Red Rover, Dodge Ball, and a half-dozen other games that have since been banned because kids were having too much fun, she would stay in class and read our stories. When we came back in, she would read a few that she considered the best without saying who wrote them. Mine were almost always picked, and the kids always voted them among the best of the selection, despite that fact that I was far from popular. But again, I digress.

         What I was writing at the age of ten was no different than any other ten-year old. In those lurid tales, my neighborhood friends and I would shoulder our military-grade weapons and trudge off to the brush-covered canyon at the end of the street to take on anything from Japanese invaders (WWII had just ended, and most of the men in our families were veterans) to movie monsters or live dinosaurs. The total crap that comes from the mind of a ten-year old. But the listeners were ten-year olds as well. They ate it up, and I never looked back.

         I experimented with various forms including plays and poetry throughout school, then joined the navy after eleventh grade. One of the perks enjoyed by sailors was a new movie every night, and when something caught my eye, I'd try to write a story about it. Again, my shipmates enjoyed them, and nothing came along to discourage me. Circumstances, primarily my great-grandmother's failing health, forced me to return home after I got out, and I'd do yard work, walk dogs, and the like for my neighbors for pocket money, and one day a neighbor offered me an antique typewriter in lieu of cash for a job. I jumped on it like a Rottweiler on a pork chop.

         Star Trek was going into syndication — I had been deployed through all of its first run, and it was new to me — and it caught my imagination in a big way. My epic Sci-Fi adventure was called Tribes of the Southern Sky, and chronicled the adventures of the crew of the Chippewa, one of scores of frigates named for American Indian tribes, hence the name, trying to maintain order in the Southern Drift, an imaginary swirl of stars thrust below the galactic plane. My main character was Brian Lee Corby, a Combat Technician, which was sort of a Professional redshirt whose job was keeping the landing parties safe. Unlike Star Trek's redshirts, this guy was a living weapon honed to a razor's edge who could clean out a SEAL bar or a den of pirates with equal aplomb. He joined the ranks of dozens of projects that never went anywhere.

         You must realize that all this time, I was writing with no idea that there was a Craft. I would just sit down and start writing. Not surprisingly, most all of my stories went nowhere, as I didn't know what I was doing, and on top of that, I had no idea that I could work on more than one project at a time, so when a new one came along, the one went on the scrap heap, and I was back to square one. I finally finished Temple of Exile, a modern-day fantasy story that was a rambling monster of 140,000 words that might have been good at half that size. I submitted it to an agent who, in a watershed moment, offered me some pointers rather than a simple rejection slip. One of those pointers was to learn what I was doing, and so I began the second phase of my journey through a series of how-to-write-books books, culminating in my discovery of The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing.

         Evan Marshall is a New York agent and author of some repute, and he lays out a disciplined, by-the-numbers formula for turning one's rambling, disorganized ideas into a tightly scripted novel that holds a reader in the grip of a well-woven yarn, be it suspense, sci-fi, or romance... or any other genre you care to name. A lot of people feel constrained by it, but it was exactly what I needed, and under its guidance came The Stone Seekers, "Broken English, "Beyond the Rails, and a number of other stories that aren't available publicly right now. It was a life-changing discovery of the first order.

         Which brings us to the now. Two days ago I said I was through writing, and I may be. I certainly don't feel the prod of compulsion like I used to, and I fully intend to take at least November off. But the thing is that now, should it tickle at my creative centers again, I can do it or not, with no expectations from friends and followers, nor even my handful of fans. Should something materialize, it will be a nice surprise, like an unexpected present. Meanwhile, I can sit here pontificating like some kind of cosmic guru whenever the mood strikes me, and I can play on my X-box or anything else free of guilt, because there are no expectations or deadlines hanging over my head. This is the perfect life for a retiree. Of course, there's the matter of Kyanite Publishing, and their decision on whether they want my work, but I'll burn that bridge when I come to it, which is expected to be around the end of this month. I'd like to be a traditionally published author; that would check all the boxes on what I wanted from my writing journey, but if they select someone else to join their stable, that's all right, too. And isn't that a wonderful position to find one's self in?

         So, that's my writing journey, short-form. If there's anything else anyone would like to know, my personal experiences, how I approached different aspects of the Craft, what I think about characters or settings, just anything at all, drop me a line, and I'll get to it. Meanwhile, read well, and write better!

Semper audax esse,
*Ghost* Jack


  1. Hoping there will be some interesting news at the end of the month. Everything seems to be taking longer lately.

    On the good side, I have become quite adept at getting to my doctor's appointments riding my Airwheel S8, and probably being the coolest senior in this retirement community (until they're tired of me - or everyone has seen me floating around on air). It's been great fun.

    1. As am I! It seems like I have been waiting for years. Of course, that's how it is when you're waiting for something good. Wonder why that is...

      Let them be tired of you. That doesn't diminish your cool factor a jot! Keep on keepin' on.


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