Writers Write.

I started (not counted school assignments) when I was in fifth grade, mostly cheap Star Trek ripoffs, heavy on “Marty Stu”, oh, one retelling of Tom Sawyer that was practically an abridgement.  I didn’t finish any of them.  Really, I was trying to write novels and just didn’t have grounding for that.

My mother suggested that I try shorts but for some reason I never went anywhere with those back then.  Then, in the summer of 1977 (between my Freshman and Sophmore years of high school) I finished my first piece that was relatively substantial.  A screenplay.  A science fiction screenplay.  Okay, it was a ripoff of Star Wars.  It was a bad ripoff of star wars.  Written entirely by hand (I didn’t have a good typewriter at the time) there was only one copy in existence which was soon lost.  I wish I knew where it was.  Because, you know, if I knew where it was I could destroy it.  So long as I don’t know, the specter of somebody finding it and threatening to release it to the world unless I perform some unspeakable act for the finder hangs over me.

It was bad.

I was back to partially done stories for a while but at this point I started looking seriously at shorts.  I read collections (had not discovered the magazines yet) from the library–the “Orbit” anthology series, the “Nebula Winners” and others.

Then, in my senior year, I started writing a new piece.  It grew and grew.  Five hundred pages (still handwritten, but I had a rather small hand back then so it was novel length) I had a completed manuscript.  It was still bad, but it had some ideas in it that I may revisit someday.

From then I went into the Air Force.  I started writing more while in, not so much while I was in training or assigned overseas, but when I returned to the US for my last two years I got serious about it.  I started writing shorts.  I started submitting them (I’d discovered magazines by this point).  I started having them rejected.

It took another five years before I had my first sale.  I sold a handful to Analog, one to the late Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, and a few non-fiction pieces.  While not much, this was enough, in fact, to get me exempted from the English language requirement at the college I attended (only person ever to do so).  But that’s the thing, when I started college I really didn’t have the time or energy (especially the energy) to write fiction much.  Then after college it was job and work.  For a while I worked on a webcomic (and I really suck as an artist).  But it was only in the last few years that I got serious about writing again.  I can’t say I write every day, but I write most days.  I have had a few professional sales (some we don’t talk about any more 😉 ) and a few pieces I’ve taken “Indie” which at least some people have enjoyed.

But that’s what writers do.  Writers write.  Selling is a secondary consideration, a nice one, but not the core.  To be a writer you must write.

One of my great fears even well after I started was that I would “run out” of ideas. I lacked the confidence that I would be able to come up with new stuff consistently. So once a story had been rejected by all the pro and semi-pro markets (this was before indie was a realistic option) I would redo, rewrite, polish and try again. And again. And again. I kept hanging onto these old stories rather than going on to something new for fear that I’d “run out” that much sooner.

Eventually, I learned that some of the worlds I’d created just dripped story ideas. There were just so many things I could do moving forward or backward in time or to different locations in the same world. And then I found, thanks to that writing book Sarah recommended, that I could sit down cold, pick some starting point (say, “I want to set this story on the Moon, in my FTI world during the colonization phase, and maybe have a teenage protagonist”) and just noodle around until I’d generated a “story idea.”

Finally, I’d reached the point where I no longer had to worry that I’d run out of story ideas, that the time would come that I’d have to say “I’m done” because I had nothing left to write.

Only took me 37 years. 😉

So, when cons have that panel on “Mistakes beginning writers make” I almost always volunteer for it because I am one.  I’ve just been one for the last 37 (or more) years.

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