Good morning, y'all!! I hope this Saturday is bringing you lots of time to read and fun with families. Today, on Between the Bindings, we have Jon Ripslinger, author of The Weight of Guilt. Take it away, Jon. :)
Becoming a Writer
I don't think a person chooses to become a writer. Writing chooses the person. It's a voice that seeps into your brain and whispers: Write something. Give it a try. First of all, you have to listen to the voice and follow its directions.
Because I liked my literature classes, I first heard the voice in high school, but I did nothing about the whispering. Too young and stupid. After graduating, I joined the Navy and, while serving, I took a college correspondence course in English because the voice was still telling me to explore writing. Turns out, my grammar and spelling were bad, but I got a B in the course because my instructor said I visualized very well.
After my discharge from the Navy, I made a major decision. The voice still whispering in the back of my brain, I decided to become an English teacher. What better way to learn about grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure - all that - and someday become a writer?
But life got in my way. I got married. My wife and I raised six kids. Because my job as a high school English teacher didn't pay well, I worked part-time jobs after school and during the summer. Sadly, too busy for writing, I shut the voice out. Then I happened to read Judy Blume's Forever. It's the story of a girl who feels it's okay to enjoy sex with her boyfriend because she believes their love will last forever. But when she goes away to a summer camp as a tennis instructor, she becomes involved with one of the other instructors - proving that first love is not always forever.
I loved the book, the writer's style, and the story's theme. I thought to myself Man, I can write a book like that! I know about teens. I've been working with them for years. I have six of my own. The whispering voice was back, louder than a whisper this time, and very clear: Write something! I joined a local writer's group that met every Thursday night. I attended local writing conferences. I took a Writer's Digest correspondence course about writing fiction, the beginner's course and the advanced course. With my instructor's guidance, I wrote a novel titled Black Water. I started the book June 10, 1992 and finished the rough draft March 23, 1993.
Yes, I keep records like that.
Agents and publishers rejected the book. I set it aside, kept writing, and over the years published seven other young adult novels. In May 2012, I took a serious look at Black Water. I thought, No wonder no one likes this book. The premise is good, but the writing is lousy and the ending is predictable. I rewrote the book and this time had it professionally line edited, critiqued and proofread. In November 2013, Red Adept Publishing offered me a contract for the manuscript, now titled The Weight of Guilt. I'm happy and proud to say it's a novel chosen for review on this blog.
Which brings me to my second point:
A writer needs to be persistent and believe in his work. Never give up.
My third point: Seek help wherever you can. Subscribe to writing magazines and blogs, like this one. Buy books about writing. Join writing groups and attend conferences.
Another point: Somehow, somewhere carve out your own writing space so you can go there everyday in a familiar setting and enter your present story world. My two daughters shared a bedroom. After they moved out, I invaded their empty space, made it mine, and eventually sold my first novel. But not until I had my own writing space.
Here's another point and a very important one, I think: Fall in love with the process of writing. If you do that, rejections won't seem so bad. The long wait for an agent's or publisher's reply won't seem so bad, either. A bad review might hurt, but not that bad.
Because what you love to do every day is return to the computer and hook up again with your story friends. Listening to them telling their story in your head and recording it are the most important things you can do that day. In fact, if you don't sit at the computer with your story friends, you feel guilty. You can't help it.
You know how many folks are addicted to working out and feel rotten if they miss their time in the gym. Same thing with a writer. If you haven't had your time at the computer that day, all is not well. I know some writers claim writing is a drag: it's painful, it's misery. I'm not one of them. In fact, I'll offer this somewhat embarrassing statistic from my records. Over the years, I have sent out 179 book queries to agents and publishers and have had eight books accepted for publication. Not a very good batting percentage. Would a person really do that if he didn't enjoy the process?
To sum everything up:
If you've been chosen to be a writer, listen to that voice whispering in your head. Welcome it. Embrace it. Nurture it.
Remember, nothing in the world will take the place of persistence. Not even talent. You fail only if you quit.
Seek help from others. There's tons of it out there.
Find your own writing space where you and your story friends can rendezvous daily.
And lastly, fall in love with the writing process. Make it an important part of your life.
Happy writing and good luck!
Yes, you'll need luck.
But you'll find it.
About the book:
Driving home from a bonfire party, eighteen-year-old John Hawk crashes, killing his girlfriend, Riley. Bullied and tormented at school, and crushed by his guilty conscience, John transfers to a school on the banks of the Mississippi River, where he attracts the eye of the principal's daughter, Megan. Though he's reluctant, she convinces him to be her prom date. The morning after prom, Principal Jones reports Megan missing. Four days later, her body is recovered from the river, and John becomes the prime suspect in her death.
Charley Cotton, Megan's best friend, knows that Megan had a secret, but she doesn't trust John because of his past. John is desperate to avoid adding to the shame he carries for Riley's death, though - it's destroying his life. With Charley's help, he learns that others in Megan's life had a motive to keep her quiet. But every effort they make to uncover the truth edges them closer to a desperate murder with everything to lose.
About the author:
After Jon Ripslinger retired as a public high school English teacher, he began a career as an author. He has published many young adult novels and truly enjoys writing books for teens. He has also published numerous short stories in Women's World magazine.
Jon and his wife, Colette, live in Iowa. They are the proud grandparents of thirteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
When not working writing, Jon enjoys the outdoors, especially fishing. He waits patiently for the next "big one" to strike.