It’s the day before my 47 birthday. My daughter Katie is 23 and married. If she had been mine biologically I would have been 23 years old at the time myself. I was a mess at 23. Between dysphoria, trying to be “manly” and failing, going to the University of Kansas, being engaged to Alison, and struggling to keep from being a basket case it was a miracle I made it through. 23 is a rough age.
My writing at that time was primarily poetry. Some of it was good but mostly it was overly intellectual epic poems. I did learn a great deal from doing that but honestly, someone should have taken the Walt Whitman away from me and maybe introduced me to the Beat poets, or other more modern writers. I dabbled a bit with prose writing, but my main source of writing was poetry.
That’s not to say that it was a bad thing. To this day I still love poetry. I read Neruda, Oliver, Snyder, and many others because there is a certain magic about poetry that isn’t in prose. Prose is amazing and can weave these beautiful tapestries of word and imagery that can share with you someone’s life and experiences. What does it matter that it is fiction if it is well written and draws you in? Poetry however is a different animal. Where prose can be a tapestry, poetry is a snapshot, in all it’s glorious clarity and depth. You get to drink deep of a moment, a feeling, a wish. Where prose might be a meal, poetry is a drink. Sometimes a shot, sometimes a refreshing glass.
Now I am far more into prose. I have easily written over 4 million words since 2004, a good bit of it fanfiction and transgender fiction posted online. Looking back over the things I have written it is clear that I have grown in skill, able to weave words more effectively, able to tell a deeper more fulfilling story than before. That makes sense, as I have gotten a good amount of feedback from my writing and have worked on honing my craft, pulling lessons from writers I am impressed with.
For example, I have drawn from Steve Perry how to write an action scene. His Matador series has some of the best action sequences in fiction. They move organically and catch you up in the action in a visceral manner. I have learned how to craft atmosphere from Stephen King. Despite my not liking anything he has written save The Dark Tower books, even I have to admit that King can shape atmosphere more brilliantly than most any other author. There are moments in The Stand that are terrifying, though nothing happens, all because the descriptions touch something visceral inside. Many authors helped me learn the fine art of character creation, though none more than Heinlein. He said that people don’t read books just for atmosphere or such, but for characters. If you create good characters people will want to read the story, regardless of the setting. After all, it is people to whom the elements of plot happen. From Michael Crichton I learned how to plot in such a way that a maze of madness envelops the characters but it is all logical and step by step when seen from a distance.
That is not a full list, obviously. There are more authors I could mention, especially in the Sci-fi Fantasy realm such as Lackey, Tolkien, Lewis, Asimov, Brooks, etc… No the process of learning the craft of writing is a never ending one, where you hone yourself against writers you admire, whose craft skill you wish to emulate. There are always great stories out there that you can drink deeply of and see if anything sticks.
So yes, I am 47, have one published novel to my name, far more than that online and I am hoping to have a future in this career. Will I succeed? Honestly, at this point it is readers who will determine that. Because it doesn’t matter how good you are, how profound your writing is, how deeply it touches upon the human condition if readers don’t connect to it. So, here’s hoping.
P.S. My wife said to celebrate the first six months of my novel 300 Rains being out and available on Amazon. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/300-Rains-Heather-OMalley-ebook/dp/B00UB6FUIA/ref=zg_bs_10886545011_3