I started trying to create fiction in college in the 1960s. Reynolds Price was guest lecturer during one of my creative writing classes. I didn't have much to show him, but he called the few paragraphs I gave him, "lovely." But then he was a lovely Southern gentleman.
I did that young man in Europe thing. Florence. Short stories. Very short. Some not bad.
Best thing for me was I went to work for a newspaper whose publisher/editor wrote a wonderful column. I got into doing columns and editorials along with reporting and editing. Doing the column helped me find my writing voice.
Ideas came. Longer pieces were tried. Nothing really worked. Everything seemed forced. In my 40s things finally started to click. I was up by 5 a.m. and my eight-year-old son was up, too, practicing the piano (Koji Attwood, google him). I'd write for two hours and go to work at the paper. Then you start to try and get published and query letters to agents, some interest, no cigar. I had an address for Walker Percy. I sent him a letter and the first two chapters of "The 41st Sermon." "Reads fine. Send rest" he responded. I thought I might finally get a break. I waited and waited. Three months later I read his obit in the paper.
Keep writing. New idea worth pursuing. Opening scene worth getting on paper. See where it might go. Characters get born and you wonder what will happen to them. Keep exploring.
Writing conferences, small literary magazines, writers groups. None of it turned out right or helpful for me.
Internet arrives. Easier to email queries. Web based magazines appear. Some accept my work. Got paid $150 for one story. Found a couple of agents, amateurs it turned out. And work and life and all that brought a long period in my life where I shoved the fiction aside with a "I tried. I couldn't have written any better than I have."
Got laid off near 60. Freelance writing helped, not financially, but the ego. Interesting consulting work developed. Re-approached the whole effort of finding an agent. Nada.
Could be self-delusional. Maybe my stuff is junk. Time to test myself with comedy. If you could make a reader laugh, you've succeeded. Had an opening scene idea and the damn thing almost wrote itself in three months. Never had anything come that fast. I have a novella that took me 30 years.
Finally snared an agent. "Reminds me of Hiaasen." Nice. Work got before editors at good houses. Close, but no cigar. Recession hits, Kindle happens, publishing business turned upside down.
Never wanted to self-publish. Seemed like admitting defeat. Then the agent says a couple of editors urged self-publishing. Now they can use author-paid test marketing.
So here I am. And now semi-retired so I have more time to pursue all this and plenty of completed works beside the agented one to promote. It actually feels pretty good that my stuff can find a home outside my file cabinet. Now it's up to me to go out and find an audience for them. What a brave new world that is.
I wonder how young writers do it now. I spent a lot of time with my writing and my ideas. Rereading, rethinking, rewriting. The internet is a huge distraction. Especially when you're involved in self-promotion. To create, I need a lot of stare-off-into-space time. But now I bounce around websites and follow tweets and Facebook messages and blogs. Overload.
Thanks for giving me your eye time.