Somebody once asked me, “What prompted you to start writing?” I answered them (with a nervous laugh), “It was because of a boating accident. I got caught in a hurricane and had to put a boat on the beach to save it.” That’s the truth. That’s when I sold my first non-fiction feature article, recounting the story of that awful experience, to the
Southern California boating magazine, SANTANA.
I never get tired of telling this story. In September of 1997 I was caught by Hurricane Nora on the outside of the
Someone actually liked my writing and was willing to pay for it! Oh sure, I had some minor journalism experience writing over the years — classes in high school, a hotrod column for the school paper and writing news articles here and there — but, this was the big time. At 57, I was starting something new! I quickly learned that people enjoyed my writing because each article started with an “event” or “scene,” a hook if you will, that immediately brought them into the story I was trying to tell. Today it is called “creative non-fiction;” back then I was flying by the seat of my pants and enjoying it. I continued to write feature articles for SANTANA for approximately ten years until the magazine was purchased by DOCKSIDE and Kitty retired.
In 2003, I wanted to explore other forms of writing, specifically fiction, and figured if I could write short stories that sold, maybe I had some talent in that arena as well. I discovered the Yahoo group Short Mystery Fiction Society and started lurking to find out which markets to submit to. When I sold my first story, I was hooked. Not because of the sale, I think it was $10.00, but because I could make up stories that people wanted to read. And, I was getting almost instant feedback on what they liked and didn’t like. I’d submit to an editor and within a short period of time they would tell me if it was good or not. The economy of word use that I was forced into when I wrote short stories helped me hone my craft. I learned a lot about “showing and not telling” and, most importantly, how to develop good characters. Four areas of character development that stick with me today are:
· Appearance. Give your reader a visual understanding of the character.
· Action. Show the reader what kind of person your character is, by describing actions rather than simply listing adjectives.
· Speech. Develop the character as a person -- don't merely have your character announce important plot details.
· Thought. Bring the reader into your character's mind, to show them your character's unexpressed memories, fears, and hopes.
All of this prepared me to be the writer I am today. I hope I never experience another hurricane like the one that started me writing, but I am glad it happened and helped me discover how to become a writer. Shore Loser was the first novel to be published by Oak Tree Press. I’m proud to say Oak Tree Press will be publishing my second novel, Sea-Duction, in early 2013 and I am working on two more Jake Mortensen nautical mysteries. At 72, this writer’s life is very enjoyable, thank you very much!!
What single event started your writing career? Leave a comment and let us know.