From Reader to Writer

She stood across from me at the booksigning with the warmest smile. As I handed her my signed coaster (because STONE KISSED is an ebook, yo), she said, “I just love what you do. I’ve been reading romance forever, but I could never write a book.”

Someone actually asked for my autograph. Do I laugh? Do I cry?

She was gone before I could leap across the table, grab her arm and shout, “Yes, Ms. Warmsmile! Yes, you can!” And perhaps that’s for the best (I do have boundary issues…)

We were all readers before we were writers. We teach toddlers to recognize letters before we expect them to draw them with their hands. We devoured our favorite books before we scribbled our first awkward adolescent fan-fic copies into black and white composition books. Every writer starts as (and remains) a reader. Even Stephen King reports that four hours of his workday is writing and the other four reading.

So how do you know if you’re ready to put fingers to keyboard?

  1. If you’re asking yourself, “Am I ready to put fingers to keyboard?”
  2. If you’re telling stories in your head–especially in the shower, driving the car, folding laundry. If your imagination is traveling into stories, then the stories want to come out.
  3. If the books you read inspire you… “I could do this!”
  4.  If the books you read frustrate you… “How does this crap get published? I could do better than this.”
  5. If the books you read scare you…”If I never attempt this awesomeness, I will regret it.”

I believe the urge to create is in our DNA. Everyone is a storyteller, and some are story-writers (others are story-singers or story dancers or or or…)

If you have the itch to write at the base of your brain, here’s one way to scratch it: National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands of nut-jobs…I mean, creative pioneers like you and me commit to spewing out 50,000 words. Most of those words are manure. Some of them are diamonds. But we don’t dig for the diamonds during NaNoWriMo—oh, no. Editing is verboten, only creating is allowed.
You learn how long you can sit still and type. You learn what “carpal tunnel” means. You learn that writing is magic and that you’re a magician (yes–even you.) You learn that you–yes, YOU, Ms. Warmsmile–can too do this.

Author Renee Vincent, telling me to unhand the readers.

So flip to the website. Come back now and again over the next few weeks. And on November 1, begin with “It was a dark and stormy night….

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20 Responses

  1. So true, Keri! It’s funny how I wanted to be a writer of *some kind* my whole life, but didn’t think I could write the type of books I read, and thought I was better suited to nonfiction. And then I picked up a free romance at the library and realized the stories in my head were love stories and there was a place for them (well, there *will be* someday).

    That was a little over 2 1/2 years ago and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

    Love the photo of you laughing!

  2. Wonderful post, Keri. And I remember the moment that I wanted to try to write a book very well. I’d just finished reading Julia Quinn’s To Sir Phillip, With Love. I remember thinking, “If I were going to write a book, then I’d want to write one just like that one.” And then I kinda did that dog head thing. You know “Huuuuuh?” where you tilt your head? Okay, maybe it’s only my dog. But at that moment, I believed I could do it. I started writing a Regency the next day….and it was so exciting 🙂

  3. Came here from your blog – I’m still looking for the unflattering photos. The ones I see are better than my flattering ones. I’ve always had stories in my head, but I think it was a bad book that made me think “I can do better” that got me to finally start writing them down. Twelve years later, I’m still not sure if I succeeded at that “better” part. LOL

  4. First, I am a little worried about those buttons in picture #2. (snicker)

    Second – OF COURSE they want your autograph. One day when you’ve replace Nora as the top romance author they can say…I met her when she was just beginning. 🙂

    I won’t tell you what book tipped me over the edge into writing. It was THAT BAD. But on the other hand, there are those authors who make me studied their works…they are THAT good…Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Kristan Higgins, Victoria Dahl. I dream to write like these gals. I fear I lack their talent!

    I’ll publicly admit…writing is so much harder than I ever dreamed it would be. It tough to accurately get those beautiful scenes from my head onto the page. I know you gals know exactly what I’m talking about! I think it’s like playing golf…when you get it right, even once, it makes you want to try again. 🙂

    Keri – when is your next book coming out?

    • Cynthia,
      …that is a very good question 🙂 I admit I’m behind where I want to be–in writing and in every other aspect of my life.

      I think it’s interesting that we find the bad books as inspiring as the good ones!

  5. awww! look how lovely you and Renee are. I miss Ohio *cries in the corner*

    ….

    *wipes away slobber and snot and composes herself*

    If my life ever falls apart, I’m totally coming to be a squatter in someone’s house up there.

    My writing started with my husband saying it would be a good idea (you should see how he blushes when I tell people that!). So i did. I just started writing like that. All the “wtf was this author thinking?!?!” came after I started writing and learned more about storytelling and characters.

    And yes Stevens—When IS that next book coming??

  6. *crickets*

    I got that same, “You can do this” from Dr. Stevens. Amazing what a little-bitty-teeny-weeny support can make (though I get more than just the rare “atta-boy” from him.)

  7. Great post, Keri! As a child, I never said, “When I grow up, I want to be a writer.” I guess it evolved over the years. Your questions hit so close to home, it’s scary! LOL

    And I LOVE NaNoWriMo!! I’ll be right there trudging along with all the other creative nut-jobs. Wait, that’s not what you called us. Um…I mean pioneers! Yeah, that’s right. 🙂

    • Melissa, not sure if I’m going in this year or not. Book three wants itself drafted, but book two doesn’t want itself edited. And it needs editing so that Cynthia and Keri Ford will leave me alone, so…

  8. Love the post, Keri! It gave me warm fuzzies! Even better is the feeling you get when someone reads your story and asks: “What happens next?”

  9. I love this post, Keri!

    A couple of other ifs:

    1. If you you narrate your life…you might be a storyteller.

    2. If you tell a coworker “The toaster oven just beeped. I mean, dinged,” and your boss says, “Boy, you can tell you’re a writer!”…you might be a storyteller.

    3. If your significant other says you read too much because of the things you say…you might be a storyteller.

    I never had That Moment. I didn’t always know I wanted to be a writer, though, either. I’ve devoured fiction since I was 4, wrote my first book when I was 6, and spent my childhood and pre-teen years “making movies” with my best friend (planning scenes, then acting them out). In high school and college, I was told writing was my strength, and I won awards. But I HATED it. LOL

    My mother was a writer, and even tried her hand at romance, so that helped. At some point in college, sometime in my junior or senior year, I did start drafting my first romance, but the computer lab assistant erased my disk when I accidentally left it in the computer lab, so it went on hold until I was married and we bought our first computer. After that, nothing stopped me!

    I heartily recommend NaNoWriMo, too. This will be the first year in six that I haven’t done it, but I’ll be way too burned out by deadlines and promotion. I’m trying not to be crazy enough to commit to it anyway. Once I do, I’m done! LOL

  10. Love those photos!

  11. Great advice Keri! You always bring such humor and light to every subject :o)

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