I’m a sucker for anniversaries and commemorations. It’s probably an offshoot of my love of history or, rather, perhaps my love of history makes me keenly aware of dates and things. Ten years ago this summer, my family and I took a vacation. It was on that vacation that I began writing what would become my first novel. It’s called Treason at Hanford and it features Harry Truman as the protagonist.
Not knowing how to write a book, I fell back on my experience writing my thesis. A key to that endeavor was a common file in which I kept the status for my professor. I figured if it worked for a thesis, it should also work as a novel. I did not want to take my laptop—vacation, remember—so I bought a good, old-fashioned composition book. I also brought some post-it notes, pens of many colors, and a pencil.
Ten years ago this coming Monday, 27 July, I started. It was a brainstorming session. I had the vision of a single scene. This scene was crucial and I made a decision that has led to a pattern ten years on: I would write all first drafts chronologically. This scene took place later in the book. With my copious notes and in this comp book and obsessive dating, I finally got to that scene on 21 May 2006. It was a long wait, but it was oh so earned.
I have read through this comp book/journal more than once in the past few years. I go back to it when I was feeling particularly discouraged in 2008-2013. You see, while I wrote this first book from 27 July 2005 to 1 June 2006, I didn’t start and finish another long project until May-June 2013. In these years, I used to joke that it’s taken me longer NOT to write my second book than it did to write my first. That was a bad stretch, I’ll admit, one in which I dreamed about writing and wrote about writing much more than actually writing.
That last thing was something I swore not to do once I started back up in May 2013. I us
And I’ve rarely done it since. In the past two years, I’ve started and completed seven longer projects and I’m not sure how many short stories. Maybe I needed the discouraging time to get me going. I don’t know. There are days, here in 2015, when I wonder what my professional author life might have been if I had actually completed books from 2006 to 2013, but I don’t dwell there. I see 1 May 2013 as my Writer’s New Year’s Day. That was the day I decided I would pick up the pen again, write, and complete things.
And I’ve not looked back since.
But it all started ten years ago on Monday. 27 July 2005. One of the most important days of my writing life.
So, do y’all have a specific date that you can point to and say your writing career started on that day?