Another Short History of Writing (According to Kate)

Those of you playing along at home might recall that there is supposed to be a short story this week. There is not. In my defense, I do have a completely edited manuscript and a pile of job applications…but no short story.

Instead, I will continue the Short History of Writing. Last time, I talked about the writers who made me read. This time, I am going to talk about the writers who make me write.

These people are, by and large, a colourful bunch. Most of them can be found in various places on the internet. Some of them I’ve met in person. Some are published, some are not, but all of them are excellent at what they do.

As I mentioned before, I began writing on the internet in 2002, writing fanfiction for CSI. The fanfiction community is wonderful when it comes to feedback, volunteer editing and go-to research experts. I said once that I loved writing CSI because you could do whatever you wanted. You just had to explain it with science at the end. Plotting out cases, making them stretch just far enough, was really good training for me.

I went through a host of fandoms over the next 10 years, until I found Sanctuary (oh, that was awful. I’m sorry. There’s really no getting around it). The Sanctuary fandom was interesting, because it was predominantly made up of people from Stargate SG-1, but the ones who had been in it for Sam Carter. Writing Sanctuary is amazing because you can write any time from the 1880’s on, and abnormals, creatures with special powers, are the GREATEST PLOT DEVICE, EVER. Most of the fandom cut its teeth writing Space Adventures for SG-1 and Atlantis, and the move to Sanctuary just gave us more room to flex.

More than that, though, was the network. Like any good network, I’m now in contact with people I never would have found if I’d kept my blinders on. I’ve been so lucky in that I’ve found other people who are willing to help me along (editing, helping with query letters, cheerleading, mailing me cookies…). And I can trace all of it back to fandom.

I do have a few writers-who-made-me-write who are not fandom trained, of course, but I found most of them through my existing friends. I don’t remember the last time I read a book that wasn’t a) written by someone I follow on Twitter, b) recommended by someone I know online, or c) handed to me by a friend I met on the internet.

Because those books are really the key. Market research is important when you’re trying to get published, and fandom has helped me stay up to date with what is going on. I used to look forward to movies and TV premieres, and I still do (322 days until The Hobbit!), but books have once again taken an important place in my schedule.

The writers-who-made-me-write have helped me find my voice, develop my style, and improve my craft. They’ve helped me solve crime, save hobbits, fight vampires, travel to other worlds and learn more about the Franco-Prussian Wars than I ever anticipated. And they all  have wonderful books and stories that you can share.

Jo Graham
R.J. Anderson
Tessa Gratton
Natalie Parker
and eolivet, who has been with me since I started, and doesn’t remind me too often. 🙂

Of course, that’s only part of the list. The rest involves a birthday gift, a slight fascination with maps, Avatar the Last Airbender, Star Wars, and a roadtrip to Ohio. Because the second group, as you might have guessed, are those writers that force me to actually write, whether though physical threat or emotional manipulation (Laura Josephsen, Faith King and emmaorgana).

There’s a very funny, kind of awesome story here. After Christmas of 2010, my writing crit group, which I affectionately call When Fangirls Collide for, um, very good reason, descended en masse on Faith’s house. After some fangirly goodness, it was time for Laura to leave, and so we celebrated by staying up way, way too late. During the course of the evening, I rather casually mentioned that I was thinking about killing off the male romantic lead of the manuscript I was writing at the time because he was bothering me. Upon hearing this, Laura rolled out of her sleeping bag and army crawled across the floor to hover over me until I promised her a happy ending with many, many babies, if she would watch season five of Doctor Who.

(Actually, I’m not sure I promised her babies. All I really remember after realizing that Laura was thisclose to my face is the bit about Who and then frantically whispering to Emma “Quick! Fall asleep while she’s still in the bathroom!” when Laura got up.)

But the point of the whole thing is what Laura said to me on the phone a few days later. “Kate,” she said. “You don’t kill people. You write happy endings.” And it’s true. One of the things I always loved about Epic Fantasy as a kid was that the good people all lived happily ever after and the bad guys often died in fires. Yes, it’s escapism. And no, I don’t care.

The writers I have found, both online and otherwise, have pushed and pulled me towards being better at something I love. They are all fantastic at what they do, and I’m glad to know them. I hope my list gets longer,but in the meantime, I will share the best lesson I have learned from them:

Write. Write what you want. Write when you want. Write what makes you laugh and write what makes you cry. Write for yourself and for your friends. Write because you love it, and the rest will take care of itself.


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