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 https://www.writing.com/main/profile/blog/blimprider -- 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,
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