I started writing my first novel when I was about ten. My best friend at the time, Matt, and I began co-writing it one summer. It was an amazing science fiction tale of a multi-ethnic crew flying a space ship around the stars and had, you know, nothing to do with that little television show by some guy named Gene.
My memory is that we got to about chapter seven and they were orbiting Jupiter or somewhere, but then school started and we moved on. I’m not sure whatever happened to our adventurers, but I always kind of wanted to finish that book.
I wrote lots in school, just like everyone else, I suppose, and received a certain amount of recognition for my work, including winning a competition, being published in a local journal and receiving an award at the Air Force Squadron Officer School.
But fiction was different. Whenever I tried to write fiction, I hated the results.
It was fun to write, but then I’d go back a few days later and re-read what I had written and I’d hate it. Somewhere along the way, I gave up.
I eventually even stopped reading fiction. I focused on histories and biographies, books on science and religion, philosophy and economics, and a wide variety of other topics. I felt like I was done wasting my time on fiction. This period of my life lasted about ten years.
Then I discoverd the thing that I’m sure everyone else already knew about fiction. When you’re dealing with facts, you can’t honestly get inside someone’s head. You can try to guess why someone did something, you can even report what they said about why they did it, but you can’t get inside their head to know why they actually did the thing they did. Often, they don’t understand it themselves. Only fiction allows you to truly deal with people’s motivations.
So I returned to reading fiction, just ‘high-minded’ literature at first, of course, like Hemingway and Steinbeck, but I soon began reading other stories and loving them.
As soon as I began reading fiction again, the desire to write returned.
The pieces finally fell together and I was able to take a writing course. The teacher shared a quote from Hemingway that changed my life. Hemingway said, “First drafts are excrement.”
That was it! That’s why I loved writing something and hated reading it later. It was excrement!
For me, this was liberating. It was license to write crap. I could enjoy the process. I could write to my heart’s content without worrying about the quality of the first draft. And write I did. And I loved it.
Then I discovered something else about myself. I loved rewriting just as much. Many writers talk about it being a chore, but I don’t feel that way. I enjoy the process. My first novel, Communion, which is due out in October, has been rewritten at least fifteen times and it has never gotten old. Each draft is better than the previous, and it’s moved way beyond Hemingway’s excrement to something I’m immensely proud of and hope my readers will enjoy.
That’s why I started writing now and how I got hopelessly addicted to it.