Monday, May 2, 2011

Hello World

Well, we're about a month away from the planned release of my debut novel The Binder's Daughter. Thus, I believe it is time to begin building a bit of content on this site. I've been doing the blogging thing for a while now, and one of the tricks I've learned over the years is that whenever you start a new blog, you want to have a good smattering of posts up before you announce yourself to the world. After all, no one is enticed by a dead site. So over the next month, I'll be posting irregularly with the goal of developing a good base of "starter" posts. Eventually, I plan to be a lot more regular with my posting, to the tune of perhaps two or three posts a week (more if I have more to say). For today, I believe it's time for the obligatory "Hello World" post.

Anyone who has taken classes to learn a new Software Language can tell you that the first step is almost always the ubiquitous Hello World program. The goal of such a program is usually to simply produce something in the new language that will print out "Hello World" on the screen, the mechanisms for which are often easily learned. To me, this seems like a good place to start this venture. In a way, I feel as if I'm learning a new language: the language of a professional writer.

Now, I'm not professional yet. Writing has been an amateur hobby for me for years. Mostly confined to blogs, journals, and personal projects (poetry and stories), I am not new to the English language. I am, however, new to the concept of producing something for general consumption. As such, the goal of this post is to set my course. I call the blog On The Job Writing as a play on the phrase "on the job learning." Ofttimes, in the world of professional Engineering (and many many others), we are required to learn as we go. That is, rarely does anyone begin a job knowing exactly everything they need to know. A big part of being a good professional is the ability to learn and adapt to any job. This is the mentality I plan to bring to this writing venture.

Nearly five years ago now, I graduated from college. Faced with entering an extremely hostile working environment in the midst of a recession, I turned to the outlet that has always been there for me: writing. It was in that first free fall that I began writing a novel. I had written stories in the past, starting and inevitably stopping at various points, but this time was different. This time I decided I would finish, come what may.

In the recession, I suppose I was more fortunate than most. I landed and kept a full time job that paid the bills. It was not exciting, the pay was pretty mediocre, but I was not struggling like I knew many to be. I found myself in an interesting position. I wasn't very happy with my station in life, yet I couldn't really complain either, certain it would fall on deaf ears (rightfully so). So I wrote, just about an hour a day, every day. On my lunch break, after work, whenever I found time. And eventually something magic happened: I finished an entire novel.

Make no mistake, there is a high to finishing such a long project. Especially one in which you invest so much of yourself. Yet, I'd never really shared my writings before. Sharing is a big step. But along the way I'd gotten married. Who better to be vulnerable before than your wife? That's sort of one of the perks, right? Also, I have a great family and a solid group of close friends. So I offered to let a few of them read as well (first, my 12 year old sister and a friend from work). These are people who kind of knew that I wrote, were supportive, and were kind enough to leap with both feet into a world of my creation.

To my immense astonishment, they loved the story. Cries of "you need to get this published" came after the very first reading. I'd never really thought of it before. I mean, publishing a novel to me was something you did after retiring later when you had all this life experience and time on your hands. No way was I good enough now. No way would I be given the time of day.

In the interim I began poking around in the world of publishing. I began to frequent the blogs of agents and authors, just trying to get a feel for the industry. The story sat for a couple of a years, and, thankfully, my originally readers wouldn't let it go. They kept urging me to fix small things here and there, always with the advice "get this published." The manuscript slowly got better, and in the face of unwavering support, I started to believe a bit in my talent. (I still have a hard time even admitting that. Chasing the dream of a professional writer for me was always somewhere in the same arena as trying to be a professional athlete. You don't "learn" to do it, you either are incredibly gifted or you aren't. And there is plenty of feedback for athletes along the way. Though you certainly need to work hard to develop talent too.)

Around that time, another magical thing happened: the publishing industry began to experience a revolution at the hands of e-readers and e-books. All of a sudden, you didn't have to be a Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or James Patterson, to sell a novel. You just had to be able to find your audience. You didn't have to be an established professional or extremely lucky to get published, you simply had to put in the time and effort yourself. You really could learn through doing, and produce something that people might enjoy. In my eyes, the most important thing that the e-revolution gave to authors was the opportunity to control their own destinies. To be able to learn on the job as a writer was formerly a decision by some publisher somewhere about whether they wanted to waste money on you until you "made it." Sure, some experience lightning strikes of immediate popularity, but for most, you had to toil away as a starving artist before you could experience success. It's just how things were.

I didn't really buy into all that. Most authors and aspiring writers would agree, there's a lot not to like about the way things used to be in the publishing world. There were some good things, don't get me wrong, but authors could never be in control like they can be today. There wasn't a viable way to make money while learning.

So where did that leave me? I had this manuscript that I was being urged to release to the world, and I now had the potential to be able to do it myself. It may not have been the wide open door that I was hoping for, but it was certainly a cracked window. What's more, I didn't have to be this super-accomplished professional writer person to approach the market. I could simply be me, and if me sells, then great. If not, then at least I've attempted to share my stories.

I love to write. I love to tell stories. I would like to share them with you. It's that simple.

The goal of my initial program here then is pretty clear: to find my readers. I have an inkling that there are people out there that will enjoy my writing. I don't pin my hopes on becoming the next Kindle Millionaire or winning awards or anything like that. What I want is simply to provide you, the reader, with several hours of relatively cheap entertainment. If you smile, if you laugh, if you are touched... then I've succeeded.

This is my Hello World. If you've found your way here, and you like what I'm writing, please consider supporting me. I would love to devote more time to this hobby (and potentially turn it into my job, isn't that everyone's dream?). Until then, I plan to learn by doing. I plan to take the criticisms that I'm sure will come as small lessons. And I plan to try to write the best stories I am capable of. At the very least, by the time I retire and get to the point where I used to think I could begin... I'll have already started. And hopefully I'll have picked up a thing or two along the way.


Post a Comment