I didn’t start out dreaming of being a writer. In fact, the idea never entered into my career path thinking. One of the reasons is because I grew up hating to read. Another reason I didn’t read was that my father authored over 70 books. As far as I was concerned, he was the writer of the family.
But his other work held a major attraction for me. He wrote, produced, and directed numerous dramatic films that were used in churches at the time. This was long before video, or even televisions in every home. Most of my early entertainment came from radio dramas, so the opportunity to hang out at the film studio, to watch actors and actresses deliver their lines then view the finished films, made a major impression on me.
I began working on films at an early age. All through my teen years, I continued working on film productions. I traveled across the country and around the world. At the time, I had no idea what was being stored up in my creative file.
After an interrupted college education and service in the US Army, I began working full time in the film company. My experiences there gave me a sense of story, pacing, dialog, tension, drama, comedic timing, and a host of other storytelling elements.
As my children grew up, I’d tell them original stories, night after night. I developed countless stories with believable characters. At least my kids believed them.
A few years later, 9/11 happened. After that, most of my commercial video clients stopped contracting production work. All these years later it hasn’t fully returned. What’s a person to do? My interests were still in the creative field, but I was confused about direction.
That’s when I heard something, way in the back of my mind, “Why don’t you write The Scarecrow?” The Scarecrow was a screenplay that had never been produced. I’d written it years before and tossed it into the bottom of a desk drawer. For several weeks, I fought this notion until, one day, in frustration, I pounded my fist on the desk and said, “All right! I’ll write ‘The Scarecrow.’”
The process was agony. After 16 drafts, and many weeks later, I felt it was good enough to show to a few people. Reactions were surprisingly positive. What happened next can only be described as a miracle. Story after story bombarded my mind. These came with location, primary theme, characters, and location. The only thing I didn’t know was what would happen in between the major elements.
So, I started writing. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more. Over a period of 3 – 4 years, I completed 35 manuscripts. A new publishing company formed for the expressed purpose of publishing my books: action-adventures and mysteries written for readers eight and up, especially boys. Seven books were published, but the company lacked the finances to impact the market, and they went bankrupt late last year.
It wasn’t long before my agent located two publishers who expressed an interest in my work. Because so many manuscripts were already completed, I concentrated on building my platform, including a number of articles in print and online, an author’s website, and a blog. I also speak to kids in schools and churches, and I built a network for promoting my books as they are released.
Today I have contracts for 10 books, and an option signed for 16 more. A Christmas story will appear in a special edition of a Chicken Soup book this year, and I have three pieces in a book that Tyndale House will release in August of 2011. Two motion picture production companies have even expressed interest in a couple of my manuscripts.
But this is no overnight success story. It helped when I read several accounts from other authors as they related how long it took for them to become established in the market. A common denominator seems to be 10 years. For some, due to special circumstances, it may happen sooner, while others may take much longer. But I believe one thing: if you do your best to write the very best you can, and you refuse to give up, doors will open. If it’s true for a guy who grew up hating to read, then it can be true for you too.
Never give up!