There are two questions in life that make me cringe. The first is one I’ve heard for most of my life: “How tall are you?” An occupational hazard of being 6′ 6″, I suppose, but still. It gets old after a while, as do the follow up questions about weather at my altitude and what sports I currently play or have in the past.
The second has only popped up recently. When I tell people that my debut novel, Failstate, is going to be published by Marcher Lord Press in April, people will invariably ask me, “So how long have you been writing?” And when I hear that, I inevitably cringe, not because I’m annoyed, but because, well, it’s complicated.
The tl;dr version is this: “All my life.” For as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing. The goofy thing is, I’ve always written with the dream of getting whatever literary masterpiece I was producing published.
For example: when I was in the fifth grade, a friend of mine and I became very concerned about the crisis facing many American farmers and we decided to do something about it. That “something” involved writing a book entitled Old McDonald Had a Farm. My friend would handle the middle of the story, I would write the beginning and the end. So she wrote about how Old McDonald drove to town to punch the banker in his rather immense nose. I wrote about how clam-headed aliens that could shoot lasers out of their eyes arrived to help Old McDonald save his farm.
Yeah, I’ve always written speculative fiction.
In spite of the rather inconsistent plot, my friend and I were convinced that once our book was published, we would rake in the money. We would magnanimously donate all of the profits to the suffering farmers.
After that project fell apart, I moved on to creating poorly drawn comic books about stick figure aliens. A year later, I wrote my first novel about an alien invasion of Earth. That led to a quasi-autobiographical novel about a teenage boy that had an alien computer implanted in his brain (long story, don’t ask). In high school, I wrote bad teenage mysteries, what basically amounted to Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic, and some really bad Christian speculative fiction. In college, I wrote theatrical plays. In the seminary, I wrote movies. My writing career, such as it was, was all over the place.
The thing is, no matter how atrocious all of these projects were (and they were awful, no doubt about it), I always intended for them to be published. I just never knew the hows or the ins or outs.
It wasn’t until 2006, when I joined American Christian Fiction Writers that my writing career seemed to gel. I started to “take my writing seriously” and really study the craft. I started attending conferences, I networked with agents and editors, I started blogging, I set up a Facebook author page (no pressure), and so on and so forth. The end result? My life-long dream of getting published has come true.
There is a point to this, I promise, and it’s this: writing takes persistence. There were some days where I was sure that I would never get in print. There were days when I was ready to pack it all in. I’m glad that I didn’t. Granted, it took me 27-some-odd years to see that dream become a reality, but here I am.
My name is John W. Otte, and if my crazy dream to be published can come true, so can yours.
Glad to be here. Hope to have great conversations with you all in the coming weeks.