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Sep
27
2016

A Circuitous Path to Word Smithery -- by @C_N_Martin

Somewhere in my parent’s house there’s a photo album. Most likely there are several. But this one in particular is one of those fancy padded types with a soft cloth cover; white with a floral pattern, pink frilly trim and one of those plastic windows in the front that seems to have lost its transparency over time. In that album there’s a photo printed from honest to goodness thirty-five millimeter Kodak film, and faded to a pre-Instagram, natural sepia. That photo is of a little boy. His lips are pursed in a tight begrudging smile signaling to all that he’d rather not have the camera pointed in his direction. He’s holding one sad red balloon by its string in the muggy warmth of a Washington summer.

While certainly no angel, that little boy in the hideous brown and yellow striped shirt represented a clean slate of human potential. The act of simply meandering through life had not yet tainted him. Thirty years later that boy was a pre-middle aged man, eight years into an entry level job in a California State IT shop, wondering how he was going to afford his looming and inevitable mid-life crisis. He thought he’d do some writing, maybe a short story or two, maybe a novel. A decade late to the blog party he started putting digital ink to virtual paper, which is where you’re likely reading this, if anyone out there in the ether actually reads this shit.

You could ask a hundred writers when they knew they wanted to write, and I’d guess that most of them would say that they loved reading and writing since they were wee little tykes learning their ABCs. Perhaps they’d tell you about a book they fell in love with in junior high, or high school, and they knew then. The only books I read during my teens were of the comic variety, in the 90’s, when every female character had perfectly drawn, and clearly fake tits.  Oh, and they wore thongs into battle. Because what self-respecting female hero doesn’t wear a thong when fighting ninjas, ya know?

Around the same time I had my nose pressed into Jean Grey’s 2-D cleavage, I discovered anime and holy shit. Dragon Ball Z, Ninja Scroll, Akira, and tentacle porn; if you’re a guy who grew up in the 90’s there is a very good chance that you’ve seen all four of those, and you probably watched them while smoking shitty brown weed and drinking Mad Dog 20/20. And you probably did that while ignoring your sister’s complaints about the girl that you’re kinda seeing that you met at the Mr. Video. Or maybe that last part is just me. Oh, and Mario Kart. I’ll fuck you up at Mario Kart.

What does that have to do with writing? Not a damn thing. It barely has anything to do with reading but for the fact that I’m conveying this story with the alphabet. But that’s kinda the point.

The first time I had any idea that I might be decent at it was in May of 1998, about a month before graduation. My English teacher asked us to write some nonsense about what our time at school meant and yada yada. I was feeling sappy and nostalgic at the time so I apparently took it seriously.

I wrote about that little boy with the balloon changing schools after the third grade because his parents bought a house in a nicer neighborhood. I read to them in front of the class about how that same kid moved from Washington State to Arizona just a year later for the fifth grade, and spent the sixth grade at Pasadena Elementary in Sacramento. Sacagawea middle school in Spokane was fun for a year. The six foot snow drifts were pretty, but my shoes didn’t do a great job of keeping my feet dry.  Eighth grade and part of my freshman year of high school we were back in Seattle, before coming back to Sacramento. I talked to them about the drives from one state to another where I’d sleep on the floor of the car, contorted over the hump behind the front seats so my sister could sleep on the back seat. I told them how my sister would make friends easily wherever we went, and how she would cry when we’d leave a year after that. I told them how I didn’t do those things, and how coming to know them slowly was something I appreciated. Everyone cried.

Fifteen years, five college enrollments, dropouts, and an inauspicious stint in our nation’s armed services later, and I started banging away at a keyboard and flinging my half-ass empurpled prose at a few writer-friends I met through a Seahawks fan site. Go ‘Hawks. I got some decent feedback and kept plugging away. Now I’m doing the thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions about popping out one novel, becoming a best-selling author and living the rest of my life on easy street. Writing is hard work. It’s harder than working hard at a hard job. It’s thankless, merciless, and you have to be a little bit crazy to take a serious stab at it. Nobody likes rejection. Nobody is going to pay you if you suck. You have to take your lumps. And even if you don’t suck, well, not everybody gets to be an astronaut. That’s the harsh reality. But I’m doing the thing anyway. Because fuck it, why not? I’m at two rejections and counting. How about you? How and when did you decide you had to write?

https://iwritedumbshit.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/a-circuitous-path-to-wordsmithery/

Posted by @C_N_Martin 27 Sep 2016 at 01:30
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Responses to this blog

Mikerizzo6 27 Sep 2016 at 07:10  
Nice story. My start was even later than you. I was always a good writer but had no interest in it or history. One day while in the downtown public library I overheard an employee tell another patron there were no books on BUffalo's mayors. So I decided to write one. I even lined up a local publisher. Visions of wealth streamed through my thoughts. When it was done, almost 500 pages later, no one wanted to publish it. It sat for 15 years. The one day I decided I wanted to print a copy for myself and discovered self-publishing. I self-published and had a local distributor, selling out of a few hundred copies.

In 2001 I bought an 1895 house in Buffalo and was interested in who lived there before me. The history bug bit. I wrote a social history about the house and its occupants over the years. I did a few home histories for friends. Then decided to write another book. I wrote several more, self-published and distributed locally. They did well enough to get me signings and talks around town and develop a small following.

I've written seven books total, and one re-release. The last four have been published by a national regional publisher. They've done okay, but none have done as well as the ones I self-published.

Now I'm working on a novel based on some life experiences, mixed with some history. This is harder and easier. I don't have to do as much research, but creating dialogue and interweaving a story that is interesting is much more complex than writing history.
Sac 27 Sep 2016 at 08:32  
That sounds like a helluva ride, Mike. Yeah, creating dialogue can definitely tricky, especially if you want to make sure they don't all sound like the narrator. Characters have their own thoughts and feelings and attitudes toward situations and sometimes they get away from where you're trying to point them. At least they should if they're real, three dimensional characters.

That's awesome that you've had so much success with such a late start and in the self publishing field. Congrats!
Scareme 27 Sep 2016 at 11:33  
This blog post is one of the finest pieces of writing I have ever read; and I've read a ton. You're a natural, for sure. I don't mean this to be a critique. I just wanted you to know I truly enjoyed it.
Sac 27 Sep 2016 at 11:50  
Wow, that's maybe the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you so much.
Tecullom 27 Sep 2016 at 12:18  
Loved this post and your style. Your attitude towards writing pretty much sums up mine too. While I am the typical loved-to-read-as-a -kid stereotypical wannabe, I do really just enjoy it and want to keep learning and getting better at sharing the worlds in my head. I look forward to reading more of your stuff!
Sac 27 Sep 2016 at 15:37  

Fcsc 28 Sep 2016 at 05:05  
Hi, I don't usually read these forum comments, but for some odd reason, I clicked on this and your uncomplicated prose unfolded yada yada-like. Never seen yada yada before, but it made an impression- favourable too, just like your work.

You expressed some simple visions clearly and enjoyablely, so I wanted to more than read them. I wanted to say thank you for sharing and I'll try to fit yada yada into a sentence I write in the the future!

And I want to publish, but publishers have so far ignored my brilliant writing, so to share rejection will be to halve the pain.

I hope you don't have to use too many fingers before the jackpot!

Regards, Richard
Https://Bakerbalham.wordpress.com
Mikerizzo6 28 Sep 2016 at 08:55  
Thanks. I'm working on it. I'm sure there will be a lot of re-writing of the dialogue, but I'm liking where it's going so far. Good luck to you.
Mikerizzo6 28 Sep 2016 at 08:57  
One last thing, e-books are not a bad thing. It's always an option and many people make money doing that. The big publishers don't always see good writers until they've proven themselves elsewhere.
Sac 28 Sep 2016 at 09:45  
Quote by: Fcsc
Hi, I don't usually read these forum comments, but for some odd reason, I clicked on this and your uncomplicated prose unfolded yada yada-like. Never seen yada yada before, but it made an impression- favourable too, just like your work.

You expressed some simple visions clearly and enjoyablely, so I wanted to more than read them. I wanted to say thank you for sharing and I'll try to fit yada yada into a sentence I write in the the future!

And I want to publish, but publishers have so far ignored my brilliant writing, so to share rejection will be to halve the pain.

I hope you don't have to use too many fingers before the jackpot!

Regards, Richard
Https://Bakerbalham.wordpress.com



Thanks, Richard!

For the life of me I can't find the "follow Richard's blog" button on your Wordpress page. And I want to follow so maybe point it out to me?

Pools 7 Oct 2016 at 13:05  
This is very good writing. Wow. You have a commanding voice that says, Pay attention. You had me gripped from start to end.
Sac 7 Oct 2016 at 13:10  
You guys are making me blush over here. Seriously.
Juleward 13 Oct 2016 at 07:41  
You really know how to grab a reader's attention from the first word and keep it going the whole time. I find it absolutely fascinating that I'm forty years older than you and female, but I completely dug every word you wrote.
Yeah, it'll be hard work, but you are a writer that will be noticed. Just write your own definition of succes.
Jule
Sac 13 Oct 2016 at 08:17  
Quote by: Juleward
You really know how to grab a reader's attention from the first word and keep it going the whole time. I find it absolutely fascinating that I'm forty years older than you and female, but I completely dug every word you wrote.
Yeah, it'll be hard work, but you are a writer that will be noticed. Just write your own definition of succes.
Jule



Thanks for the kind words. I see you're brand new here, welcome. Forty years older than me? After reading your bio I have to tip my hat to you. Moving out to the west coast to become a writer takes stones, to do it at nearly eighty years old I imagine takes real conviction.

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