When I was about 12 years old, I wrote my first book. Well, it was a novella really (I think my memory says about 30,000 words). I was absolutely thrilled with it at the time. Looking back, I’m fairly certain my English teacher must’ve been a little traumatized and horrified that a 12 year old girl was, well, kind of writing pornographic content for an official assignment.
My dream was to be romance writer, because I loved the idea of romantic love. Someone who is always there for you, someone who never betrayed you, and someone who would save you from your own flaws…Romance novels don’t exactly set you up for realistic expectations in relationships, but I digress.
Then, I fell in love with fantast and science fiction. I plowed through the entirety of Lord of the Rings, Animorphs, Enders Game series, Harry Potter, Inuyasha, Fushigi Yugi, just pick your choice of late 90’s and early 2000’s manga really, and because of that I changed my mind. I would be a fantasy writer, or a sci fi writer instead. There would be books with romantic elements, but they’d be a bit more realistic.
But then in high school, I dove into horror and mystery. I was going to the public library and just checking out literally anything with vampires or murder in the plot. Interview with a Vampire, the Vampire Diaries (I liked it before it was cool, kids), hated Nancy Drew though, and just kind…snowballed from there.
Suddenly, I realized I kind of liked anything fictional. I didn’t like mystery as much as the others, but I wanted to read everything. In addition, I kind of wanted to write everything. You might even notice that problem with my blog. One day I’m talking about super important LGBTQIA+ issues, and then the next I’m doing a think piece about teaching students.
But I also got discouraged. A lot of my English teachers would read my work, and then they wouldn’t really be excited as I was for anything I wrote. I got the feeling that other students (a few of whom I know actually just kind of plagiarized their work, by the way) were often more encouraged and well liked by the English teachers. I guess what I’m saying is I never had anyone besides my mother and brother who believed in this dream, so it was hard to think I could have a future in it during high school.
When I got into university, I figured I would try to get myself published in something before I graduated. I knew I would have to buckle down and study hard, but I continually worked on various manuscripts throughout the four years I went there. I was a part of two small writing groups even, trying my best to keep this going. I wrote so much stuff, but none of it felt like it was “ready” or “polished” or whatever.
It didn’t help that, once again, there was no professor or anyone who thought my writing was any good. I was passable, as in I was able to make papers and submit them and get good enough grades that I could pass classes. At the same time, if I ever mentioned the other things I was trying to write, I kind of got dismissed.
My poetry wasn’t “on the level” that the other students could produce. My short stories seemed lack that “thing” they were looking for, and I don’t know, I kind of gave up showing anyone above other students what I was working on. Oddly enough, the writing groups and my own roommates kept me going on writing.
I want to be clear, my professors weren’t monsters by any stretch of the imagination. I learned a lot from them on how to write better. I was forced to read and write outside of my comfort zone often, and it really made an impact on how I viewed fiction as remnants of history, not just stories. I never realized there were whole debates and massive conferences about certain novels or works of literature because they were integral to the history of certain genres.
My professors also taught me something that no one really taught how to do well before: self-edit. Up until university, I think most of the time “editing” for middle and high school teachers mostly focused on spelling and grammar. I get it, it’s hard to teach kids how to edit more for style and tone. As a middle and high school teacher, believe me I do get it. All the same, all of my professors were merciless in the rewriting process, and I’m super thankful for all their effort. Now I write and re-write and re-write and revise all the damn time.
By the time graduation arrived, I managed to publish one poem in the school literary journal. It was about my grandfather, and I was very proud of it. I also write in the school newspaper all four years, although in my head that “didn’t really count,” and I was a page editor in my senior year. Still, I hated myself a little bit for not getting a book out there.
Then I came to Japan, and honestly blogging was something I thought would just be nice to try out. It was a good hobby to have, and I figured maybe one day I would publish a book about life in Japan or something. I still kept writing here and there, but having a full time job means of course there is less time for novel endeavors.
I kept saying “Oh I’ll definitely do it this year!” and “I’ll get it done by (insert date here)!” But it kept not happening, and not happening, and not happening.
I wish I could say something profound happened, like someone just snapped me into talking about the book or I came to this amazing realization, but that’s not how it came to be. I just read randomly online one day on a Facebook writing group that if you’re an adult, there’s never going to be a “right” time to get published. Just do it or you’ll regret it later. And then I read somewhere else that talking about your book helps you to write your book, and it helps keep you accountable to an audience.
It’s all kind of accumulated to a point now where I’m also, well, pretty goddamn sure my writing is worthy of garnering some kind of audience. I don’t need to be that next big thing. Basically, I’m thirty and I don’t feel like I have to prove myself to anyone anymore. I’m not asking permission, either, I’m self-publishing and doing it all myself. Fuck the system (insert fist pump here). I’ve never been a person who has waited around to be told where my life should be going, why should this any different?
And so here we go. I’m going to write a novel, there is no deadline. It’s happening at some point, hopefully this year. I’ll be working on it, you’ll be getting to read excerpts and things as I go. Enjoy!