Recently, I had an email asking for advice on becoming a published author, so I thought I’d lay out my writing history here. There are two parts: today’s post is about writing and part two is about self-publishing.
In the beginning there was hockey.
It all started around the time of the 2010 Olympic selection for Team Canada. In fact, I can remember the exact moment I got inspired. I was sitting on the couch with my friend, Daisy, and we looked up at the TV and said, “Who’s that?” That turned out to be Jonathan Toews, who has both the boyish good looks and on-ice determination that are so appealing to hockey fans. Well, to Daisy and me anyway. And then he turned out to be from Winnipeg, which is where Mr. X, the man in my life, is also from. This gave me the excuse while watching games to point him out, “Hey sweetie, that guy’s from Winnipeg too!” As long as you don’t drool while speaking, this method will effectively deflect all attention away from your hockey crush. Sadly, I do drool.
I love hockey and I love reading, and I wondered why those pastimes could not be combined. So I went in search of hockey romances. I read a few paperbacks from the library, but to be honest I found them to be fairly lame. Either the writer had no clue about hockey (they’re hockey pants, not hockey shorts!) or the stories themselves were too predictable. But then one day, I was reading a hockey blog for women, and I clicked on the profile of one of the commenters who looked slightly familiar. She followed a number of other blogs, which all seemed to be about hockey, so I clicked on one.
Whoosh, talk about falling down a rabbit hole! Suddenly I was whisked into a world where there were serial stories about hockey players. I had certain preconceptions about fanfic, and all of them were negative. But although many of the stories turned out to be lame and occasionally laughable, (it’s not possible to have intercourse for five hours, especially if you’re Dave Bolland) a number of them were pretty darn good. However, most of them were about Sidney Crosby, who doesn’t really do anything for me. I wondered why nobody was writing about the player I wanted to read about, and I figured I’d have to do it myself. At the time, before the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup, there was only one about young Captain Serious. Now there are zillions.
Creative writing was already something I enjoyed. As an oversensitive teenager, I journaled my every boring thought and emotion. Then, as an English major at university, I was used to reading and critiquing three books a week. However, after that, most of my writing was restricted to (yawn) business writing. But now I had the writing bug and some new inspiration. I got encouragement and advice from one very kind author, and I started my own serial. She told me that optimally I should post an update every day, which I did. Looking back, I think I must have been insane, but my chapters were pretty short at the beginning. And after 170 posts, I wrapped up my first story. Yup, even from the beginning, I wrote long books.
At first, nobody, except my mentor and my friend, were reading. I begged Daisy to leave comments so I’d look legit. But slowly the blog readership grew, and by the end, I was getting about 200 hits a day and a ton of enthusiastic feedback. You know your blog is popular when it gets ripped off by content scrapers. I wrote two more long serials, and two short stories. All the time my readers were so encouraging, telling me how much they liked my writing and getting emotionally involved with my stories. My big highlight was when someone told me the post made her cry. In my stories, I like to have a bit of everything: laughter, sexual tension, dramatic tension, and tears. Just the way life is.
I have to say that serial writing was the best apprenticeship that I could have had for becoming an author. I had to produce chapters to a deadline and I had to plan everything out ahead of time. 99% of the comments were positive, because c’mon, who is going to criticize something that’s free? But I could still see if readers didn’t like a post, because I would get fewer comments. And comments for blogger are like crack for Rob Ford: completely addictive. I’m always encouraging authors who are starting out to try serial writing, and now it’s even easier with Wattpad. You get to see what appeals to readers, and you get to work on a deadline, even if it’s self-imposed. But the more frequently you post, the more readers you get. In addition, while fanfic does get a bad rap, it has the advantage of having a built-in audience. I did debate whether to “come out” as a fanfic author, but I’ve since found out that a lot of hockey romance novels began as fanfic. So, why not be upfront about it?
Okay, there I was, sitting with a ton of finished books. What to do? Well, I think you know already. Tune in for my next post on how I began e-publishing.