Monday, December 05, 2005

My midlife discovery: The need to write

Why do you write romance? people often ask me. How did you get started on that?

Unlike those who have been writing and dreaming of publication since they learned how to clutch a pencil, I came late to this party. I'd never written a word of fiction until five years ago, when I was 44 years old. Since then I've known quite a few awkward moments as old friends and extended family members who thought they knew me pretty well have expressed surprise (and not always the good kind) to learn I'm now writing romance fiction.

Why do I do it? How did I get started? Here's the way I explained it on my website:

Honest, I had no idea there was a romance novel in me, just waiting to be let out. At the end of the year 2000, I hadn't any inkling that a book was about to "happen" to me.

On a rainy afternoon I came across my first inspirational romance novel. That particular book was only mildly entertaining, but I was instantly captivated by the idea of a love-conquers-all story with a golden thread of faith woven through it. I began to wonder if I could write something like that. Something that could make a woman sigh and feel good about life and love...and herself. Something that might draw her heart closer to God.

I plucked two characters and a situation out of thin air, then sat down at my computer and began writing dialogue. Within half an hour I was totally absorbed, sucked into an imaginary world that never existed until I called it into being! I had never tried my hand at fiction, but this was a creative rush unlike anything I had ever experienced. I couldn't stop.

I had never dreamed of becoming a romance novelist. In the beginning, I wrote only because it stretched my imagination and kept me entertained. It wasn't until I realized I was writing stuff good enough to be published that I began thinking of trying to sell it. But I didn't show my work to friends or brag about it to my family. I just quietly did the research, figured out where and how to peddle my work, and then fired off a query letter and synopsis to a Steeple Hill editor. (Who later became my editor, bless her heart!)

Because I had never cherished the dream of writing a romance novel and seeing it in print, maybe I was a little laid-back about having sold my first completed manuscript. (I understand that's a very rare accomplishment.) But I was pleased, because an enjoyable pastime had morphed into an exciting new career opportunity. It's the dream job I never thought to dream of: I now get to spend several hours each day immersed in imaginary worlds where everything goes my way and every ending is a happy one.

Do you write? If so, why? And how (and when) did you get started?


Cindy said...

I've been writing since elementary, and it helped me to escape into "my own world" from less-than-happy circumstances.

For some strange reason, my writing dried up as soon as I joined the writing staff on a magazine! Needless to say, I'm not on it anymore (sigh). I'm trying to light the spark again by going back to fiction; it's just the "applying bottom to chair" concept that's in my way :-). Suddenly washing dishes is urgent, and I'm not a domestic person!

lindaruth said...

Except for the romance part, and the actual getting the first novel published part, our experiences are very similar. :)

I didn't really start to try to write a novel until about 5 or 6 years ago. I have had a short story published at Infuze, so that's a start. And it's supposed to be in a new magazine, but I don't count my publications until I see the actual copy (and the check is in hand).

And it's interesting that after the slow start, I find I want to write more and more, and I have more ideas that come to mind. Some don't pan out, but at least I've got ideas.


1 L Loyd said...

I thought about writing since I was 16. (I'm 46 now) But I've only been trying for four years now. I came across Holly Lisle's web site and realized that it wasn't too late for me to start. Now I see you started late too. Although I have another problem, finishing my books and stories.

booksquare said...

This is very funny to me because I cannot remember a moment in my life when I didn't write. I wrote my first book in the second grade. My mother keeps it for blackmail purposes -- this leads me to believe there are spelling errors that will eventually come back to haunt me.

I think with a pencil in my hand. When I'm wrestling with a decision, I write an essay. I can't answer a question like this without writing forever. However...

I wanted to address the romance point. Since I was very young, I've been intrigued by the concept of finding and keeping love. Human relationships fascinate me. This is funny to me because I cannot write straight romance (ie, romance that fits the accepted mold). Of course, I can't draw a straight line with a ruler, so I've accepted that my drummer has an odd beat. Maybe someday the genre will fit me; until then, I'm having a great time being the writer I am.

Nienke Hinton said...

I've been writing since I could write. Even as a child, I tried to write novels (although I never completed one - but did make it up to 100 pages or so on one inspired by Starsky & Hutch). Short stories were a constant, although I haven't done any in years (with the exception of some flash fiction). I was heavily into writing poetry during my adolescence (even got a few published).
Now, I'm burning to write my novel but I find it difficult to do the BIC concept (as Cindy mentioned above). I write for a living (editor on several trade magazines) and I think that may have a lot to do with it (also like Cindy).
Thank you for sharing your story, Brenda, it inspires me to move forward!

Brenda Coulter said...

Suddenly washing dishes is urgent, and I'm not a domestic person!

Cindy, you should be writing to escape the dishes. With respect, sweetie, you're doing it all wrong. ;-)

[Linda wrote] And it's supposed to be in a new magazine, but I don't count my publications until I see the actual copy (and the check is in hand).

Hey! Good for you! I hope everything goes well.

1 L Loyd (that's a catchy name), Holly's site is a good one. And it's never too late to start writing because this isn't something we'll have to give up when we reach a certain age. In fact, reading and writing will keep our minds sharp.

Booksquare, I'd pay money to see your first manuscript. What's your mother's phone number?

Nienke, I'm afraid I can't give you any tips for getting (and keeping) your backside in the chair. I'd rather write than do just about anything else, so I can't understand people who don't feel that way. Next, I suppose you'll tell me you're having trouble eating your chocolate! ;-)

Katie Hart said...

I always seem to comment late, don't I? I've also been writing since before I can remember, and decided I wanted to be a writer around 14. I wrote a bunch of short stories and started a few longer ones, but didn't write my first novel until I was 19.

Kristin said...

I've always loved reading and writing.

I'm terrible at communicating my ideas out loud. I like to think about my ideas and write them down on paper to work them all out before I present them to the world.

I used to write a lot when I was single and alone--with lots of free time. Getting married and having children kinda took the spark out of writing for awhile.

Now that I am older (and the kids are less demanding), I understand better what my interests and skills really are, I am returning to writing and finding that I have a lot of ideas that want to get down on paper.

Hopefully, one day soon, you will see my name on the side of a book somewhere in Barnes & Noble. :-)

Susan Kaye said...

I didn't write my first fiction story until I was nearly forty. I've written stories for online venues all this time but am nearly finished editing a novel. If all goes as planned I should be in print next year.

Still not getting too excited. As lindaruth said, until the copies and checks are tangible, they're just fantasies.

Looking forward to "A Forever Family".


Brenda Coulter said...

Don't sweat it, Katie. This blog is open 24/7. Come when you can.

Kristin, I hear you. My Number One Son was finishing high school and Number Two was getting ready to start when I began writing. I have no idea where all these young moms find the time and energy to write novels.

Sue, thanks a bunch. <3<3<3 I hope you like the new book.