Beginning — and beginning, and beginning

I suppose, like most authors, if you asked me “how long have you been writing?” I’d tell you I first put pen to paper in eighth grade. Because haven’t we all been writing since, oh, we were out of the cradle?

I wouldn’t be lying. I did first put pen to paper in eighth grade. And that was when I decided I was in love with the power of telling a story – a story that I created, that is. So in a sense, this is a beginning. The beginning of a pipe dream to one day be a published author.

But as I look back with an experienced, impartial eye, that was only the beginning of the dream. I knew very little about how to tell a story. Heck, I knew almost nothing! I only knew that I detested most of my schoolmates and this hobby of scribbling story lines (that were really very thinly veiled autobiography with a hefty dose of fantasy) was a good escape.

I carried that dream for, oh, fifteen years and did very little about it. After all, I had to grow up, go to college, get a “real” job, get married, have kids, yada, yada. You know, all those things we are “supposed to do.” But one night, I don’t know, somewhere around when my first child was born, I got a new beginning. I sat down and started to write a novel. A real novel, with a plot and everything. And characters. But I still didn’t know how to write, so after about ten chapters, I fizzled out.

And life intervened again. I had a second child. I got a new position at work. My kids went to school. My husband, then in the Army, shipped out for a 15-month deployment. The new job position didn’t turn out so well. Again, life interrupted the dream.

But, amazingly enough, I got a chance at a third beginning. I got fired. What to do? I had kids, a husband, a mortgage, a car payment, school tuition. I had to find a job, another day job, something. And then my husband said, “What about finishing that novel? How about taking the summer off and pursuing that dream?”

And that, my friends, was The Beginning (notice I capitalize that one). That was summer 2011. I took the summer off. I wrote the novel. I joined Sisters in Crime. I committed to learning about things like plot, and structure, and how to craft “real” characters – all that writerly stuff. I gave myself the opportunity to fall in love with the dream again. Except maybe this time, the dream could become reality.

In a way, it’s like starting a novel. My story starts here. No, wait – it starts here. Hold on, it really starts here.

The point is, sometimes what you think is the beginning, really isn’t. And that’s okay. Sometimes, you have to keep hammering away at it – the book, the dream, whatever – to find the real beginning. You’ll know the real beginning because it will be the one that pushes you forward and makes you keep on taking the next step in your journey.

I guess in that sense, 2013 was yet another beginning for me. It was the year I began to be a professional. I wrote every day. I revised, I took classes, I submitted. And — I got published (okay, the first publication credit was November 2012, but I’m sticking with 2013 as “the beginning of my professional fiction career”).

It took a long time to get to that beginning – longer than I care to think. But now, having begun, I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Because it was the right beginning. Any any writer can tell you, the right beginning is priceless.

So tell me – how many “beginnings” have you had?

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Author: Liz Milliron

Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. She's worked for fifteen years in the corporate world, but finds making things up is far more satisfying than writing software manuals. A lifelong mystery fan, her short fiction has been published in online magazines Uppagus and Mysterical-e. She has also had stories included in Lucky Charms: 12 Crime Tales, Blood on the Bayou (the 2016 Bouchercon anthology), Fish Out of Water, and Mystery Most Historical. She is a past president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime. Visit her online at http://lizmilliron.com, find her on Facebook at https://facebook.com/LizMilliron, or follow her on Twitter (@LizMilliron).

8 thoughts on “Beginning — and beginning, and beginning”

  1. In essence, we are all reinventing ourselves,
    I feel like I have lived many lives, but the beauty of being a writer is once you “begin” you can continue for the rest of your life. It is a job we can have until our dying day!

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  2. Yes, yes, and yes. For me the stops and starts were often for different reasons, but it’s the same story here. What a great post!
    I got a poem published in high school. I wrote in Seattle before and during graduate school. I went to Women’s Voices at University of Santa Cruz. Got published in Adrienne Rich’s Sinister Wisdom. In Olympia, WA, I wrote a novel before I wrote my dissertation, because I just had to. Then really started studying commercial fiction here in Denver and have been pretty steady since then–although I could talk about the starts and stops of learning about the publishing world, which just keeps changing. Maybe another post.

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  3. What a great story, Mary! I wrote my first full “book” (30 pages, single-spaced!) at 12. Sent it off to Penguin on a disk with a letter. I actually got a letter back that was very nice and said that they couldn’t accept it. LOL. I’ve been stopping and starting (around job changes, moves, the kiddo, etc.) ever since!

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  4. Diane, yes, beginnings are good – as long as we don’t let ourselves be paralyzed with fear!

    Theresa, the publishing world. That’s a whole series of blog posts I think.

    Sarah, funny how so many of us have a history of “starts and stops.” And how nice of Penguin to respond to you back then. What a nice memory. 🙂

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  5. “Sometimes, you have to keep hammering away at it – the book, the dream, whatever – to find the real beginning. You’ll know the real beginning because it will be the one that pushes you forward and makes you keep on taking the next step in your journey.”

    Oh my goodness, how wonderfully said…

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