Around the age of eleven or so, I really started to love books. I was only allowed to borrow a maximum of twelve books at a time on my library card, so I would always take out exactly twelve books each time. Happy times!
By the age of thirteen, I had been reading the Choose Your Own Adventure series for a couple of years, and I decided to write one of my own. This took quite a bit of planning as the story branched off in many directions. I scribbled everything down on various pieces of paper, and gave up after completing only a small fraction of the book.
In grade 9, I wrote a short story for a school assignment, and my teacher called me in after class to have a serious talk. She asked me if I knew what plagiarism was. In retrospect, it’s flattering that she thought my story was so good it might have been copied from a real author, but at the time I was terrified. Luckily, I was wearing a necklace that I’d described in great detail in my story, and I showed the necklace to my teacher. Everything worked out – phew.
Despite my penchant for writing, I never considered a career in the field because I felt I was expected to do something that . . . made more money. My parents wanted me to be a doctor or a computer programmer. I attended the University of Waterloo to earn myself a Computer Science (CS) degree and graduated with a Bachelor of Mathematics – the Math faculty being the one offering CS degrees. I started working at a high-tech company testing software and . . . I hated it. After taking some aptitude tests, I discovered all the writing-related jobs at the top of the list. I was fortunate to make a sideways move within the same company to a documentation job, writing the manuals and online help files for the software I’d been testing.
In my spare time, I started writing various works of fiction, but never got much past the prologue and chapter one. Then, a friend of mine introduced me to NaNoWriMo, which is a challenge to write a short (50,000 word) novel in a single month. This was a pivotal moment for me, because I did it! I managed to write a novel to its completion. I’m not even sure how I managed it because I was sick with the worst cold of my entire life that month, and I had three kids under the age of six. I knew my novel was probably mediocre at best, but I self-published it anyway because I wanted a “real” copy of my book.
The next year, I wrote a book for my kids. I was having trouble finding early chapter books for them, so I wrote a book for them myself. It’s full of inside jokes and things they used to say, which they loved, but it wasn’t meant for mass consumption. I really wanted to write something that was aimed at the masses though, and I finally got the chance once my youngest daughter started grade 1, i.e., when all of my kids were in school full days.
I sent them off to school that September and sat down to write. I turned on some relaxing music, and quickly realized I can’t write anything with music playing. I bashed out the first few chapters feeling quite good about myself. I contacted a friend of a friend, whom I had actually worked with years earlier at my documentation job, and she invited me to join her writers’ group. That was another key moment for me, because I soon learned there was plenty of room for improvement in my writing. After nine months of writing, and another year’s worth of editing, revising, etc., . . . Welcome to the Darkness was released to the world. Only time will tell how the rest of my journey as a writer will continue!
This Guest Post was originally featured here on Sweet Southern Home’s blog.