By Warren A. Johnson
I wrote my first novel on a whim. Sort of like Jeremiah Johnson, who ignorantly walked into a bear hunt. “That'll be far enough, pilgrim!” If I’d had someone say that to me, I could’ve avoided the dangers of moving into a wilderness full of awe and wonder, which drew me close to death. Well, to the point a writer gets when he loses the trail and the path contains nothing but tangles, briars, and killers.
I blame my friend Randall, a fashion jewelry designer. He hired me to transport him to the Javits Convention Center in New York City. I listened as he talked about a script. After he completed his tale, he said, “We’re never going to make the movie. Someone ought to write the book.” This is where the pilgrim thing should have happened.
As I sat in front of the blank screen, I discovered I’m a Panster. I sent Randall chapters to identify if I’d captured the plot. He and his wife liked it. Then I heard about writers’ conferences and the money vacuum turned on. ACW rescued me, except they told me, “Kill the first seven chapters. That’s all backstory.” What?! After the shock wore off, I took three years to finish the tale. No publisher knocked down my door—probably because I may have told a decent story, but it wasn’t a novel.
Like Jeremiah, without proper background and study of the art form, I lacked industry survival skills. But, I did know about Max Perkins. He edited Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the like. I needed a Max. Then one day the phone rang and the guy says, “For three hundred dollars I’ll publish your book.” Well, a book in the hand is better than a manuscript in the closet. I found out later it’s not worth much.
I retired three years ago and followed my writer/editor daughter to a conference where I found like-minded, peculiar souls called writers. I also found excellent mentors who never judged my lack, always encouraged learning, and have never said, “Hold it right there.”
So, people start a writing career for many reasons. Without an education in writing, there are pitfalls, but they can be overcome. It takes fortitude to do it this way. If you didn’t start out to be a writer, what made you decide to write the first book?
Warren A. Johnson writes magazine articles, devotions, and an occasional blog. He lives with his wife of forty-five years, Barbara, in the Catskill Mountains of NY. He fathered three kids and loves the ten child descendants they bring to the table. A public speaking venue, Haversack History, motorcycling and radio control airplanes use up some retirement time. His Socail Media Links are: Blog Facebook Author Page Twitter