Some people have always known they wanted to write, while others came to it later in life. I’m in the first group, although art was my first and main creative love for most of my life. Still, even as I pursued art in high school (fine arts) and college (computer arts), writing was a constant. This week’s #RWchat topic is “your evolution as a writer,” so I’ll mark the different eras, like Picasso, but if he had the internet.
The Picture Book Years
Remember those blank picture books they used to give out in elementary school? They were square and white, and you could write and illustrate your own stories in them. I loved books, so this was magical for me. I think I made two during that time, one of them a Toy Story-esque tale (years before the movie came out, I should add).
Lesson learned: Making my own stories is fun!
The Barbie Years
I was obsessed with “playing Barbie” when I was a kid. It melded the best of both worlds for me–crafting meets storytelling. I learned how to use a sewing machine thanks to Barbie (and my very patient grandmother). In middle school I realized I enjoyed creative writing, and the first long form stories I wrote down were the ones I used to play with friends or cousins, mostly superheroes and soap opera-like family sagas.
Lesson learned: I can commit the stories in my head to words, giving them permanence.
The Fanfic Years
I discovered fandom on the internet when I was a teenager in the 90s. The internet was a very different place back then, and this was a major turning point for me. After joining a mailing list for a book series I loved, I started writing fanfic and publishing it through the group’s fanfic list in serialized format. This was also my first time being part of a writing community that offered feedback. (Yes, there were vampires, and no, it wasn’t Twilight.)
Lesson learned: I don’t have to be scared of sharing my writing with others. They might even like it!
The LiveJournal Years
LJ inspired more writing and some RPG accounts, but it also introduced me to NaNoWriMo. In 2004, I joined the NYC region and started attending in-person events, and through LJ, I was able to keep in touch with the writers I met.
Lesson learned: New York City is full of awesome writers!
The NaNoWriMo Years
I count National Novel Writing Month for being the reason I’m still writing today. If it weren’t for the community, accountability, and consistency of the event, I would have given up on writing in my 20s. Instead, every November, I attempted to write a novel/50,000 words. Most of them were pretty weird, but hey, I was learning.
Lesson learned: Omg writing a book is hard.
The Romance Years
2013 was the year I admitted I wanted to write romance, and the year I decided to give writing the same attention and energy I’d given to art. One night, while lying awake in bed, I calculated the number of hours I’d devoted to both. I realized I’d hit 10,000 hours for art, but not writing. I had also shaped my life around having the time and space to pursue creative projects, but I wasn’t doing it. I couldn’t even finish any of the novels I’d started every November. That year, I was determined to finish the story I started, come hell or high water. That WIP is stuck in revision limbo, but since then, I’ve written four other full-length novels, one novella, one short story, and started at least three other novels. This is not counting ones I’ve planned but haven’t written.
Lesson learned: Writing a book is hard, BUT I CAN DO IT.
The Publishing Years
This brings us to where I am now. I’ve written elsewhere about my year of querying a different book that didn’t net me an agent, and my decision to write a book that I knew would sell. The thing I really want to draw attention to is how much time passed between my decision to write and eventually be published, to actually getting published. My debut comes out next week. Twenty years ago, I thought, “Hey, I think I’d like to be a published author at some point.” Four years ago, I decided to get serious about that decision. A year and a half ago, I finally felt ready to query. It still amazes me that I didn’t give up after that book didn’t sign me an agent. And I’m so glad I didn’t. (I also did the math again, and I’ve hit 10,000 hours for writing. Score!)
Lesson learned: I can’t control the industry, but I can control myself.
All of us are on our own author timelines. Heck, every book has its own timeline. So, as much as it’s good to look back and take stock of where we were, where we are, and where we’re going, don’t get hung up on comparing your journey to anyone else’s. Your journey is your own.
Alexis Daria’s debut contemporary romance, TAKE THE LEAD, is a 2017 Golden Heart® finalist and will be released October 3rd from SMP Swerve. On Sunday evenings, Alexis co-hosts #RWchat, a weekly Twitter chat for romance writers. She also serves as PRO Liaison for the New York City chapter of RWA, and is represented by Sarah E. Younger from Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Alexis loves social media, and you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and follow her blog and newsletter.