by Anne Bradshaw, BJ Rowley, James Dashner, Janet Kay Jensen, Josi S. Kilpack, Julie Wright, Linda Paulson Adams, Linda Shelley Whiting, Lisa J. Peck, Marsha Ward, Rachel Ann Nunes, Shirley Bahlmann, Tamra Norton, and Tristi Pinkston
The year was 1996.
The location was an eight-foot square cubicle on the third floor of an average office building in Utah Valley. The time was a mid-afternoon, mid-summer Friday. We were closing in on the end of another long day and another long week of answering phones, fixing problems, and providing customer support to our many clients scattered across the country.
With only an hour to go, during an unusual and unexpected slow time, one of my associates informed the rest of us that he’d just read a brand new book by Clive Cussler. I don’t remember the title, but I do remember how anxious he was to give us all the rundown on the incredible storyline.
As he talked, it suddenly occurred to me that it had been nigh on three years since the last time I’d read a novel—ever since I’d been transferred to the Customer Support team and stopped traveling for business.
During the six years prior to my transfer, I was out and about almost every other week, installing computer and network equipment from San Diego to Boston, Seattle to San Juan, and everywhere in-between. It was my custom to buy a book (or two) at the airport bookstores, to devour on the flights to and from my destinations, and sprawled out on the beds of countless hotel rooms in the evenings. I followed many, many best-selling authors religiously during all those years, reading everything they put out.
So, sitting there in my lonely little cubicle, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe I’d managed to go three whole years without reading. I liked reading. Let me rephrase that—I loved reading. Three years was a long, long time. Surely there were dozens of best-selling books out there that I’d lost track of since then.
Suddenly I had an incredible yearning for a paperback. My fingers itched to turn some pages. I longed to immerse myself in another fast-paced, action-packed adventure.
After work that day, I went straight to the nearest supermarket and bought half a dozen books—one from each of my favorite authors—and spent that entire weekend (and every night the next week) camped out on the living room couch doing nothing but reading.
After a three-year-long fast, I basically pigged out.
It was great!
A few days later, while driving down I-15 and reliving one of the week’s stories, I experience an epiphany. The thought suddenly came to me, “You know, I think I could write a story as well as any of those guys.” (Keep in mind, we’re talking about the likes of Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, and Robin Cook here.)
A bit pretentious, I know. But the more I thought about it, the more convinced I was. I just knew I could do it.
The real question was—what would I write about?
I wasn’t a retired doctor or lawyer or cop or super-spy. I hadn’t lived a jet-setter life. I had no credentials to speak of. I was just an ordinary guy from Utah—a farmer’s-son-turned-carpenter-turned-computer-geek.
Who would want to read anything I had to offer?
But the idea stuck with me for several days, swirling around and around. Without even giving it much thought, I found myself composing scenes in my head about the every-day events that transpired around me. I rehashed some of the stories I’d just read, playing “what if” games with various scenarios, trying my hand (or at least my mind) at creating plots and characters. It was great fun. I grew more convinced by the day that I could create an interesting, readable story, if I put my mind to it.
Still—what on earth would I ever write about?
Then one day I found myself looking over my son’s shoulder, leaning on the bookshelf, watching him play a computer game. I happened to glance at the row of books at my elbow and realized there was a Chris Heimerdinger Tennis Shoes book sitting there that I had yet to read.
And it hit me!—like a ton of bricks, out of nowhere.
“Write for the LDS Market.”
It practically took my breath away.
Within two days, a complete storyline formed in my head, and characters took life. It begged to be written . . . and I just knew it begged to be read.
One evening I walked into the kitchen to find my five starving teenagers busily stuffing their faces, so I took a deep breath and announced, “Guess what. I’m going to write a book.”
Forks stopped in midair and mouths in mid-chew as five basically blank faces turned to stare at me. They were about as impressed as mud. One of my sons summed it all up.
Dinner resumed as though I’d never been there.
Oh, ye of little faith, I thought. I’ll write a book; you just wait and see.
And “write a book” I did.
Just about as fast as I could type, the story spilled from my mind, the events materialized on my screen, and the characters in my head took on lives of their own—often surprising me with the things they said and did.
I distinctly remember one evening glancing at the clock and discovering that it was almost two in the morning. I groaned to myself, realizing that I had to get up and work in the morning. Reluctantly, I saved my work and went to bed. Then I spent the whole next day itching and anxious to get back to the story . . . just to find out what would happen next! It was an incredible experience.
I finished my rough draft in two and a half months and promptly submitted it to the closest LDS publisher I could find. Incredibly, within another two months, they called me back and accepted my submission.
They actually liked my story! Unbelievable!
I was on cloud nine!
But over the course of the next few months, I was humbled in a hurry as I learned that there’s an awful lot more to writing and publishing a good book than just putting words on paper. My editor gave me a big long list of things that needed fixing. I had made several Point of View mistakes that had to be rewritten. I used adverbs like they were going out of style. I had included a lot of unnecessary “fluff” that had to be weeded out. (They made me cut 10,000 words—can you imagine?) It was quite an exercise.
By the next summer, after months of editing, rewriting, editing, and more rewriting (and all the other stuff that’s involved with publishing), my first book was released.
I was a Published Author!
Okay, I know my experience is a little unique and somewhat unusual, but the point I want to make is that if it can happen to me, with all my weirdness, it can certainly happen to you.
Maybe you’ve had writer’s blood running through your veins since you learned to walk, or maybe you’re a mid-life, “writer come lately” like me. Maybe you’ve been slaving away at rough drafts and story ideas for years, or maybe you’ve just had your own epiphany and realized that “you can write a story as well as any of those guys.” Maybe you’re a world traveler. Maybe you have an exciting career as a firefighter or a life-flight helicopter nurse or a criminal defense attorney. Or maybe you live a relatively dull and boring life, punching the clock and commuting the freeway, day after day after day.
Whatever your circumstances, whatever the reason, you obviously have a desire to write and an “itch to create” nagging away at you, driving you to distraction. There’s a story (or ten) inside of you that yearns to be born.
Now is the time to make it happen. Now is the time to turn all that raw creative energy into a finished, polished, professionally produced manuscript of your very own.
You can do it.
And we can help.
Inside the covers of this book, you are about to experience the education of a lifetime as many of my favorite author-friends spill their guts and empty their minds. They’ll help you step over the rough spots and show you how to turn that “idea” and “rough draft” into a truly “finished, polished, professionally produced manuscript.” Here’s your opportunity to sidestep some of the stumbling blocks that many of us have had to trip over as we plodded along our own trails to publication—as varied as they are.
Learn from our mistakes, absorb from our experiences, and come out a winner.
Sit back, kick off your shoes, and enjoy—as LDS Storymakers reveal their WRITING SECRETS.