My interest in creating stories of my own goes back just about as far as I can remember, possibly even further. My parents say that when I was very young, I was a bit of a storyteller. That’s not a nice way of saying that I tended to lie a lot, but that I actually came up with all these stories to tell them when I didn’t have anything better to do. I honestly don’t remember that at all. Regardless, I do remember writing little short stories a few years later, mostly of the “my friends and I get stuck in a haunted house” variety. They were quaint and amusing, but probably not much else. I wish I knew what happened to them.
It really wasn’t until the last couple of years of high school that I really began to take writing seriously. It was during this time that I began to write Ruins of a Forgotten Earth, which, over the years, eventually grew into my first completed novel. It was also during this time that I came upon a website that allowed writers to post their work online for everyone to read and critique. This venue allowed me to hone my craft, receive a little feedback, and grow my confidence. I started with free-form poem. I grew into short stories. Then, finally, full novels. The process was slow and laborious, I won’t say otherwise, and my early work was… amateurish. If even now I sometimes have doubts about my writing ability, you know I’m not using that word lightly. Nevertheless, all that work was a stepping stone. Without all the work and all the mistakes, I wouldn’t have progressed to where I am now.
If I had to pick an early inspiration for what finally got me to take writing seriously, I would say that it was The Rivan Codex by David Eddings. I read many of his books while in grade school and thoroughly enjoyed them, but The Rivan Codex was different. It was one part a behind-the-scenes documentary and two parts the material upon which David Eddings based his Belgariad and Malloreon series. For me, this was the first time that I’d ever had the peak behind the curtain at how stories got started and the kinds of information that a writer, especially a fantasy writers, sets out before putting pen to paper. Despite admonitions from the writer that the reader shouldn’t immediately go out and start doing writing of their own after reading the book, that’s pretty much exactly what I did.
A lot of my early work was very derivative. I’d read something that I liked and then try to recreate it. I never outright stole anything or used someone else’s characters and worlds, but it was clear that my work wasn’t really writing, it was just a cheap form of imitation. Growing beyond that wasn’t easy. It took me years of work and years of fixing and tweaking my old stories, figuring out what worked and what didn’t. What was most important was finding my own voice. A voice of my own allowed me to take inspiration from various sources and then turn that into something that wasn’t just cheap imitation, but a unique story that I could be proud of having written.