I started writing when I was twelve. (Pro tip for aspiring young writers: never mention that in your query letter.) By the time I joined the army a decade later, I had amassed quite a body of work.
When I look back on the musings of my thirteen year old self I sort of rip my hair out with despair. The stuff I wrote when I was fifteen merely makes me shake my head in chagrin. My first novel, which I completed at the tender young age of seventeen, shows what might charitably be called progress. With my twenty year old stuff, I can start to spot the diamonds in the rough, diamonds that might have been picked up, polished off, and kept for today. At twenty-two I was just about maybe on the verge of being ready to publish.
Then, as I mentioned earlier, I was commissioned as an officer in the army. (You may be wondering where I’m going with all this. Well, now, calm down there, speedy. I’m unraveling a yarn here.)
You might wonder why I refused to publish any of my work while I was serving in the armed forces. If you’ve ever perused the nonfiction section of your local, independently-owned bookstore (and I highly recommend you do!) you’ve probably noticed tons of books by Jack Gutmuncher, LTC (R) and his ilk. What you’ll notice about all of those books is the little (R) at the end of all those names. That’s short for “retired.” Because, believe it or not, the army has a pretty strict policy about officers not making the army look bad. And voicing one’s own opinions – good, bad, or indifferent, but especially PUBLICLY – is bad juju. So I put off publishing for ANOTHER five years. (Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.)
Finally, at the ripe old age of twenty-seven, I was free and clear of Uncle Sam, my work actually ran the gamut from middling to scintillating, and I realized that I had been putting off publishing so long that I had no idea how to actually do it. I was but a raw babe in the woods, and I did what all raw babes do, I looked to someone who had walked the path before me for guidance.
As it turned out, my high school valedictorian had recently been published. So I asked him what to do to be published. He answered me in three words:
“Start a blog.”
I discovered the blogging community. There were published authors trying to help amateurs like me. There were literary agents trying to make sure their slush piles weren’t so full of junk. There were old school publishers and brand new epublishers, and everything in between, all looking for the best work they could find. And it seemed like everybody wanted to make sure I got good enough to get published and knew exactly how to do it.
There’s someone specific I should mention, too, and that’s Louise Wise. I told her this but she’ll probably be too modest to mention it herself. Her website is the largest single traffic driver to my modest little blog. That’s the kind of support the blogging community offers.
I try to do my bit too, now. You’ll find plenty of my work on my blog, free to peruse, but you’ll also find advice on how to query, my thoughts (mostly neurotic) about writing and publishing, and a new segment called “YOU DECIDE!!!™” where I invite the readers to weigh in on the most important grammatical debates of the day. That’s called “Paying It Forward” according to that 2000 Haley Joel Osment movie whose name escapes me.
You want to hear the end of my yarn? I’d love to tell it to you. Stop on by and we’ll find out together if my journey has a happy ending.