Beginning Writing

How I Began

8:23 PM

I  decided I was going to be a writer before I even knew how to spell. I loved the books my mum read to me, and I knew that somebody had to write them, create imaginary worlds, and earn fame, fortune, and maybe a place in the history books. It was a no-brainer. Of course I would be an author someday.

My younger sister Rebekah and I "wrote books" before we actually learned to write, stapling stacks of blank pages together and drawing a series of pictures to tell the story. We re-hashed fairy tales (like Thumbelina), drew stories about our favorite literary characters (like Laura and Mary in the "Little House" series), and invented tales of our own. I think there were a lot of beautiful maidens being kidnapped, befriending animals, and marrying handsome princes in the end. ;)

As I grew older, learned how to write, and began to read extensively for myself, my stories increased in length and ambitious proportions... although I finished very few. Young women of the 19th-century rebelled against the status quo, made friends (or foes) among various indian tribes, and attended many a fancy ball dressed in a gown of perfection.

When I was about 12 years old, I completed my first "full length" work of fiction, a rags-to-riches medieval epic, heavily influenced by the work of Howard Pyle. I remember the writing process quite well, staying up "late" to work while listening to the "Anne of Green Gables" soundtrack.  Of course, I was disappointed that the finished work didn't quite live up to my expectations, but I was satisfied and thrilled by the writing process. I planned a load of sequels, but they never came to fruition.

Then came a period of about four years where I didn't complete anything. Story ideas crammed my head to the bursting point, but none of them made it more than a few chapters. When I was sixteen, I decided to retell a classic novel to "make it better," since I thought I had a much nicer version in my own head. It took me three and a half years to finish the adaptation, often with gritted teeth and month-long (or longer) breaks. By the time it was complete, I was thoroughly tired of the story. Not only did I feel like I was in a very different place as a writer, but I was just dying to move on to something new. Regardless, I'm so glad I put in the work and finished the project, even though I felt that I had "outgrown" it. The story is an entertaining (and often amusing) read, and my mum and sister Rebekah actually had a hard time putting it down. Mission accomplished. ;)

It was the now the fall of 2008, and I was eager to start work on another book. The story came to me unexpectedly, and it became a very personal project, following a young 20-something woman, who was a bit like myself, through the year of 1931-32. This first draft took just two years to complete and, over the course of it, I grew in consistency and discipline as a writer. While my previous novel had seemed like one big lesson in what-not-to-do, I felt as if this one had brought me to more maturity. The finished story was not perfect, and I don't think it would currently be very marketable (it's much more Lucy Maud Montgomery than Stephanie Meyer or Suzanne Collins), but it was something I needed to get out of my system, and I enjoyed it.

In 2010, I made my first, very small foray into the world of publishing. About five years earlier, I had a written a short story/children's book about a turn-of-the-century mouse who owned a hat shop, and had always kicked around the idea of trying to get it published. I did some research on the industry, re-wrote the story a couple of times with the help of some writer friends, and submitted query letters to a grand total of six agents. I received four rejections and never heard from the other two.

I was not crushed. I'd read enough about the industry to be completely cynical about my chances of success, and honestly, I didn't really believe in the project enough to take the time to fight for it. Maybe some day I'll dig it up again. I still think it could be a charming picture book, with big watercolor illustrations, but my writer's heart is much more attached to the creation of a good novel.

In June of 2011 I started my latest manuscript, a middle-grade novel set in the late 1940s, and I just finished it in May (see, I'm getting faster each time! ;). It's something I am a little bit proud of, and I truly believe in the characters and the story. My goal is to have it edited up and ready to be submitted to agents by the end of the year. I hope you'll be hearing a lot more about it.

So.... this is where I'm at. Working towards (maybe, we'll see, cross my fingers) publication, and wanting a place to share bits and pieces of the journey. (At the beginning of May, I took an official break from my fashion and style blog of four years, but since then I've missed airing my thoughts and opinions in public. ;) And writing is such a fascinating thing to me; both my own journey, style, and process, and all the things I continue to learn from books on the subject, and from the other authors around me. I believe it is worth being shared.

I would also like get to know some other writers out there; those who have been published and write for a living, as well as people who do it for their own fun, and those who are just starting out... with high hopes. Please, take some time (since you've been patient enough to read this lengthy post) to share a bit about yourself (even if you are just a reader, not a writer!) and "how you began." I can't wait to meet you.

Until then... iWrite. :)

-Amanda Beth Flynn