The stories of fellow writers really inspire me to keep bashing away at the keyboard. Learning about other people’s journeys, the difficulties they’ve encountered and overcome, their unwaivering passion for writing, can help me get through days when I feel like giving up.
And this is the idea behind Real Writing Stories, to hear the real stories of writers from all backgrounds. To kick off the series, I’m delighted to share the stories of two excellent writers: J.M. Williams and Paul McDermott. In this first post the writers explore the reasons why they first decided to pick up the pen and what keeps them writing day in, day out.
J.M. Williams is a writer and historian, currently living in South Korea, but originally from the United States. As a child, he was inspired by fantasy and hero stories and Star Wars. Everyone loves Star Wars. He has been published in more than a dozen short fiction publications and is currently trying to publish his first book, “trying” being the key word. If you’d like to keep up with J.M. Williams and his adventures filled with ancient deities, wily goblins–and perhaps a future story about sentient bread–join his mailing list or follow his blog.
I started writing at a very young age—around the 4th grade if I remember right—in large part due to having teachers who advocated the arts and student creativity. After I started writing stories in school, I received a lot of positive feedback from family and friends. This encouragement followed me continuously throughout my life, which certainly is responsible for keeping the dream of writing alive all these years.
I was no child prodigy. My early writing was crap and highly plagiarized from the things I was interested at the time (I straight up stole character names off Magic the Gathering cards). I had to learn the skills and rules of professional writing on my own, which I luckily proved smart enough to do.
I don’t think I ever had the idea that writing would be a viable career option. It was always something I planned to do on the side or after retirement. I lost touch with my muses in high school and the three years after I spend in the Army. It wasn’t until I went to college, majoring in English, that the spark returned.
As in my early years, this new inspiration was spurred on by great teachers. I took two short fiction writing courses with a grad student at my university. While the classes were geared towards literary writing, the teacher strongly encouraged my pulpy, often contrary concoctions. At the same time, one of my literature lecturers placed in the “Writers of the Future” contest, which was unknown to me at the time. He told me about the contest and his writing experiences, and prodded me to send them something.
It took me a long time to finish a story, as most of my time was taken up with my coursework. The first story came back with a rejection, as did the second and third. The fourth earned an “honorable mention,” and the fifth is awaiting review. Writers of the Future is still one of my primary goals, but as I tack on additional projects as time goes by, the idea of becoming a full-time writer is becoming less of a fantasy.
I imagine it will be very hard for me to go back to those intermediate days when I dreamed little and wrote nothing. Not only do I have recurring projects now that compel me to write, my imagination has also blossomed again, as in the days of my childhood, so that I am submerged by a flood of ideas every waking moment.
If I have had to concede to something, it is the fact that I will never be able to write all the ideas I have. These ideas are what keep me going day-by-day, and I do my best to keep note of as many as I can. I already have about two dozen or more written down in note files.
I find encouragement to be much less of a motivation as it once had been. I had expected having a website and social media page would draw such encouragement in, but it has yet to come in significant density. The writing world is much more competitive (if not self-centered) than I had once imagined.
I have met many writers who, by rule, refuse to offer advice or comment on other writers’ work, claiming they should be paid for the service or that they have no time. I never reject a request for advice, regardless of how busy I am. If I can only afford to give two minutes, then that is what I will give. I don’t like to see writing as a zero-sum game.
Ultimately though, writing for me is very much a solitary affair. But it is in solitude that the muses come.
Hailing from Liverpool, UK, Paul’s wanderlust has led him from one town to another, and even from one country to another. He’s recently released the first volume of a planned mystery/romance trilogy set in Ireland, The Chapel of Her Dreams, with Whimsical Publications under the name Paul Freeman. Other works currently seeking an outlet include a couple of plays and a World War Two sub-hunt thriller … and a Rock musical intended for children.
I can’t remember a time I didn’t scribble my thoughts somewhere or other each day. I tried keeping diaries, but just recording ties, dates, names, ‘real’ events seemed boring, and I suppose I just ‘drifted’ from that by embellishing extra ‘details’ around things, creating a fictional setting, sometimes the original “real life” event which inspired my fictional re-imagining became difficult to recognise!
“There is a tide in the affairs of Men …” [Shakespeare, Julius Caesar]
My first book came about almost by accident!
I was having a quiet rant in a school staffroom one day about the poor quality of books available for children, no wonder they didn’t want to read etc, etc …
Head of English: “Well, clever clogs, if YOU can do any better …”
Red rag to a bull. Six months later, book written, published, sold out within two months. Job done.
Unfortunately the small, local (indie) publisher went bust before I could offer a sequel, which is still sitting in my files hoping for a more reliable publisher …
This gave me the push I needed to sit down and keep the wheels turning. When arthritis forced me into early retirement, I quickly got myself a ‘proper job’ writing full time. I was lucky enough to have an on-line piece noticed by an American publisher who offered to publish it. This gave me the taste of blood, and I’ve now four in print, two more confirmed within the next 6 months and about 6 more complete works ‘on file’ waiting to be submitted. Often it’s a question of finding the “right” Publisher/Agent to offer work, and the current edition of Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is the ideal place to look.
I’ve never been busier since the day I retired!
The adrenaline boost I get from booting up my laptop every morning is as strong as the ‘rush’ from that oh- so-important second cup of coffee, without which I couldn’t face the new day …
If you’d like to share your real writing story, please get in touch!