A Road of Misconceptions

The first thing I remember writing is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. I don't remember what it was about, but I know I drew pictures and stapled my thumb (twice) trying to put it together.

Major Misconception: At this time, I think my only misconception was that I was a fantastic writer, which when you're a kid is a pretty good misconception to have.

High School
I wrote a lot of humor, I recall. Spanish skits about butlers who watered the carpet and put the cat in the washer. Douglas Adams-style tales about gods who were heads of lettuce.

I wrote novels too, though I never finished any. A near future story about an elite team of soldiers who secretly protected the world from alien invasion. Another story in which a group of people woke from cryogenic hibernation to an empty Earth.

This period of writing stopped when I started a fantasy novel about a simple gnome-like creature who got swept up into adventure, where he met elves and dwarves and wizards on his way to saving the world. Around the time he reached a Rivendell knock-off, I realized I was rewriting The Fellowship of the Ring. I got depressed and didn't write anything again for years.

Misconception: To write, you had to be original. Being original meant not getting ideas from other stories.

Post-College, c. 2000 - 2007
Sometime after college, I realized that every song or story is like something else. There's nothing new in the world, and all that. This freed me to write whatever I wanted and worry about originality later. I started a few stories, but every time it got hard, I'd get lazy and forget all about it.

Maybe a year or two later, I realized if I ever really wanted to write I had to just do it. I wrote a short story, to prove to myself I could finish something, then started Travelers. Whatever happened, whatever I felt about the novel, I determined to finish it.

Misconception: Any decent story could be published. I'm actually glad I believed this. I'm not sure if I would've kept my resolve knowing how hard it really is.

Querying Travelers
When I finished Travelers, I didn't know if it was good enough to be published but figured I'd try. I'm glad I did. I learned a lot from the process, and even more from reading agent/author blogs around the web.

Misconception: A lot of misconceptions were shattered around this time, but the biggest one was that the query letter was just a formality. I thought agents just wanted an idea what the book was about, then they'd read the book and decide if they liked it.

With the exception of the Lost Years in college, I have no regrets about the road I've taken. I mean, sure, it'd be great if I knew everything before I started, saving myself time, embarassment, and trouble. But I don't think life works that way. I look forward to more shattered misconceptions in the future.


Anonymous said...

Ha ha, one of my friends also wrote Fellowship of the Ring in high school - and for a creative writing class, no less! (In fact, I think she might have written the whole trilogy . . .)

While it's very true that most basic plots have been done before, I'm glad that you included the aforementioned story along with your "nothing new under the sun" reminder. It bothers me when people use the "there are no new plots" idea to justify writing a story that's a complete rip-off. Yes, it's fine to write an archetypal journey story or hero's tale. What you don't want to do is write Harry Potter. Unless, of course, you are J.K. Rowling, in which case, rock on with your awesome self. :P

Adam Heine said...

Yeah, Anica. What I learned, basically, is that it's okay to steal ideas from stories. But you need to mix those ideas together, add a dash of something new, until the whole becomes something uniquely yours (even if it isn't completely original).

Here, check this out, it's Orson Scott Card describing in detail how J.K. Rowling "ripped off" Ender's Game (mockingly, of course).

SM Blooding said...

I know that my first stories were not original. David Eddings was my favorite author at the time I created my fantasy world, Matar. The major bad god, Kro'at, was Torak in David Edding's book. I can't remember who Torak was now. I'd have to re-read the series--which I need to do again sometime anyways now that it's finally out of a box--but...I look at that and I'm just amazed. I rearranged the letters, tweaked him just a smidge and thought that was good? *hangs head in embarassment*