Friday, August 20, 2010

How I Got Into the Writing Business

I thought it would be interesting to blog about how I became a full-time author and what I was doing until then, so here goes nothin:

I've been writing short stories since I was eighteen, showing them to my little brother and my closest friends. I also found I had a storytelling ability, as I could hold people captive with my crazy tales, whether at work or around a campfire.

Yet that was not my first ambition.

I became a metalhead when I was twelve because of KISS, and I wanted a career in heavy metal more than anything. As a teen, however, I was just learning to play because I started the guitar late, at sixteen (I actually started on bass and still play the bass guitar).

If I want to be truthful, my first ambition was sports. I was on the basketball team at Lincoln School in Monmouth, Illinois, where we won a couple of championships. I always got the Best Defensive Player award, stuffing the basketball on wannabe shooters, and even made a three-point shot from half-court (when you meet me, you'll know why I played basketball: I'm 6'3'').

But when I got to junior high, I no longer made the basketball team, and I had to do something to be special. Once puberty happened, I tried to impress the girls with heavy metal. It blew me away with its sick, over-the-top grossfest. Since I was just learning the guitar and wasn't that good yet, it didn't pan out for me to be in a band at eighteen.

When I was sixteen, they gave me an assignment in high school that changed my life. I had to read Edgar Allen Poe's "The Telltale Heart," and it was the first time I ever enjoyed an assignment. I was fascinated with the gripping, eerie tale, knowing I wanted to do that for a living. By age seventeen, I was reading Chillers magazine every month, a 'zine that not only had great short stories by up-and-coming authors, but also pictures and articles about now hard-to-find horror classics like Evilspeak, Without Warning and Mother's Day. By the time I was eighteen, I had the whole Stephen King collection.

Yet heavy metal was my true love. So I moved to the city as a young adult and worked full-time for twenty-one years, putting together bands like Heaven's Which that didn't want it bad enough to practice. I finally found a serious band named Streetlight, who not only wanted to practice, but also was supposed to open for Seventh Angel (not the Seventh Angel that's currently popular). The problem with heavy metal was, I played too Goddamned fast! By the time I realized I was meant to play death metal, I was twenty-eight, too old to start a band. All the death metal bands I listen to put out their first album when they were eighteen. Therefore, I've resigned to do it as a studio project.

I kept reading Chillers up through the early nineties (it was still excellent!) and worked on bettering the stories I'd written at eighteen, typing them up on Wordperfect at college and sending them out in the mail. Problem was, I didn't spend enough time perfecting my craft because, at the time, I was still trying to put together a band. The same thing happened from 1999-2001. I still had a jones for a musical group.

Finally, in 2006, I got the idea for a novel that demanded to be written. It started out as a seventy-page scribble draft in my notebook. Then I wrote for an hour on the library computer every morning before my full-time job, lengthening it to two-hundred pages. In 2007, I finally gave up the band dream (I'm getting ready to record my first studio album though!) and became a full-time author, getting serious enough to start getting good in the spring of 2009 (don't let anyone tell you it happens overnight!), when I started getting publications. By 2008, I'd added a bunch of parts to the novel and fleshed it out to over 80,000 words (over five hundred pages), but, since I wrote it when I didn't know what I was doing, it needed major surgery. Problem is, I still believe in the plot, which means it's time to take out the bonesaw and whip this thing into shape, an arduous task, indeed.

I'm glad to say my first novel will be critiqued and fixed and proofread ten more times by October, which is also when my birthday comes up on the calendar. I can't think of a better birthday present than finally finishing a novel. At that time, I'll start drafting query letters and sending them to agents. There's even a couple of agents that represent horror that are going to be at the writer's conference I'm going to in October, as luck would have it. I can't wait.

It's been a long road, and I suspect I have much farther to go before I'm a famous novelist.

Wish me luck!

A. R.


  1. A. R. Good luck!

    Interesting post. Good luck with the novel. :)

  2. Thank you! I can't wait to go into a pitch session with a couple agents that represent horror at this year's Muse Conference. I'm so psyched!

  3. Sounds the most incredible birthday present possible. And a conference too. Perfect.

    I wanted to be a trapeze artist, but soon (about age 5) figured out that wasn't on the cards. Since then it's been writing and dreaming in one order or the other, in between real life of course.

  4. And Nano after that! And Jeremy Shipp's writer bootcamp now! Whew! Thanks for the comment, Sheila.

  5. Can you tell us more about this bootcamp? I tried googling, but can't seem to find out the important details. How to attend and how much it costs.

  6. I'd add Jeremy Shipp on Facebook. He'll give you the details there. I believe he gives the class once every quarter, and it's not too costly.