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So How Long Have You Been Writing?

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 […]
| Oct 26, 2011 | No comments |

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.

John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, heโ€™s a Lutheran minister, husband, and father of two. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major, and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes unusual stories of geeky grace. He lives in Blue Springs, Missouri, with his wife and two boys. Keep up with him at JohnWOtte.com.

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Fred Warren

Welcome to SF, John! I get those same two questions, and my reaction is very similar to yours. You’ve got about two inches on me, so I won’t be trying to post-up under the basket against you anytime soon.

For those who haven’t encountered John online yet, he’s a regular participant in the monthly Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour, and he journals about his faith, popular culture, and his writing journey at The Least Read Blog on the Web (it’s hardly that–and I highly recommend a subscription. His sermon podcasts also rock).

Kessie Carroll
Kessie Carroll

Ha ha, it sounds like you started writing early and got the first million words out of the way so you could write the good stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚
As a kid, I wrote on and off for school, but I didn’t start writing seriously until one summer when my brother and I were banned from the videogames we had been obsessively playing. In rebellion, I sat down and began writing stories about those games we weren’t allowed to play.
Thirty novel-length fanfics, eight years, and the rise and fall of a fansite later, I think I got a lot of the awful beginner’s cliches out of my system. I always wrote to entertain myself, my siblings, and people on the internet who happened across my work. Reviews were my pay. I still write with a similar mentality, except now I’m entertaining my husband. Someday it’d be nice to get something published and reach a wider audience who has to pay to read my work. But I have to write something good enough to charge for. ๐Ÿ™‚

E. Stephen Burnett

Welcome to Spec-Faith, John!

Five years, two-and-a-half writers’ conferences later, blogs back and forth, and finally your attainment of publication, and I think this is the first I’ve read your life story.

Now we have you every other Wednesday, filling the slot formerly occupied by Rachel Starr Thomson, and alternating with author Kaci Hill. Thanks much for pitching in, and for helping forge what we hope will become the premier portal for exploring visionary fiction for God’s glory, for readers, leaders, and writers.

For everyone: the following now shows on the SF Authors and Faith Statement page.

John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, heโ€™s a Lutheran minister. By night, he writes weird stories. He lives in South St. Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and two sons.

His debut novel, Failstate, arrives in 2012 from Marcher Lord Press.

Keep up with his own website at The Least Read Blog on the Web.


I get asked both those as well. I’m shorter than both you guys (6’1″), but that’s enough for those who have me pegged as a WBA star (furthest skill from my hands, I assure you).

E. Stephen Burnett

Somehow I missed both height references. I’m about 6’3″, myself. Clearly, too, it’s a credit to my character and ambition that I have this height.

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Glad to have you on the team, John (you did know we’re forming a little basketball deal on the side, right? I mean, I coached for years and we have all this height. How can we miss! ๐Ÿ˜‰ )



A. T. Ross

I’m 6’1″ or 6’0″ (haven’t measured in a while). But I’ve been writing since, well, pretty much as long as I can remember. Though I didn’t get serious until about eleven years ago. Been writing ever since.

Also, welcome to SpecFaith, John!ย 

Morgan Busse

Well, um, I’m 5’3″ and 3/4th (that 3/4th is very important!). Nice to read about your writing history, John. I always find an author’s journey fascinating ๐Ÿ™‚


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