14. How & why did you become a writer
“Why” is a lot easier to answer: I became a writer because I write, which is to say that there’s a pretty high percentage that I’d be writing stories right now even if I had never sold that first professional piece (or, god forbid, never sold another one again.)
Hopefully, that’s the reason you’re a writer too. Because if you’re in it for the fame, the glory, or the wads of cash you imagine you’ll be getting, you’re going to be wildly disappointed. I mean WILDLY.
Writing is a job. It’s a really hard job to get, and it’s an even harder job to keep. If you love doing it for its own sake, well, at least no one can take that from you, you know? Just the other day, I was hanging out with some writer friends at a coffee shop where we’d all gathered to work together, and we were all engrossed in our writing. Every once and a while one of us would pop up and excitedly share some clever or funny line she’d written, and I thought, “damn, but this is the life.” I’m a writer because I love writing. The act of writing can make me really happy. I amuse the piss out of myself. In the book I’m working on now, I’ve written so many scenes where I think, “Wow, that is _so_ just for me.” That might not seem the best attitude when you’re trying to sell commercially, but I think, actually, it’s quite healthy. Because at the end of the day, you’re writing for yourself. If you can’t take pleasure in your own words, what the hell is it for, anyway?
“How” I became a writer has two parts. I started writing in middle school when I was also, not surprisingly, devouring books by the shelf-full. I got particularly into one series by and author (Katherine Kurtz's DERYNI boosk) who was publishing at the usual timetable of a book a year. I just couldn’t wait. I started making up what I was going to happen to my favorite character in-between books. This is what’s called “fanfic,” but I grew up before the age of the Internet so no one ever saw what I wrote but me and the zillions of notebooks I filled.
I did this also with Anne McCaffery's DRAGONRIDER series. So I did a lot of what you could call practice writing. I used someone else's well developed characters and world, and practiced dialogue and scene setting and plotting (although at first most of my stories were very soap opera-like). This writing was pretty dreadful. BUT it was a good start at learning the craft of writing.
I did this sort of practice on-and-off throughout my life until sometime after college, when it occurred to me that a person could take a class in writing science fiction and fantasy. (By this point, I should note, I'd mostly begun trying out original characters/stories.) I've chronicled what happened after that on the FAQ page of my alter ego's website.