I did actually write quite a bit growing up; I think the YAF got me in the habit of creating stories (which is why it is the best program ever, and if I should ever become a gazillionaire, I will totally fund that for as many schools as possible). Anyway, I never got very far in any of those stories, mostly because it was more fun to plan and draw pictures in my notebook. Like Sheena, I also had a story featuring a girl and a dog, though my dog was a golden retriever, and my story was going to be a survival-in-the-woods story a la Hatchet.
But my first finished story happened when I was 15. And it was about vampires.
|Photo "Interview with the Vampire" courtesy of Frederico Casares on Flickr through a Creative Commons license|
In the 90s, as today, there was a surge of vampire fiction. And my friend and I - we'll call her Rei - were totally into it. Our favorite authors were Laurell K. Hamilton (this was well before the books had any sex in them) and L.J. Smith (she of Vampire Diaries fame, but Rei and I most loved the Night World series). Rei and I had a lot of classes together, and we used to love to talk about books, and about how awesome it would be if we could be badass vampire slayers.
Shut up, we were 15, and the epitome of over-imaginative.
Just for fun, I decided to write a story for Rei, that would star us as vampire slayers. And this is super embarrassing to write, but I also gave us vampire boyfriends. I spent a lot of time working on the story - I wrote it out all in a spiral notebook. I still remember the moment I gave her the notebook to read. She loved it, and for the rest of our high school years, we were forever plotting out the future adventures of Alyssa (my character's name) and Rei (her character's name).
For many, many years I thought I'd lost the notebook that contained the original story... but then a few years ago, I found it. And looking at it now... it's bad. Cliches galore (Alyssa has violet eyes*), all sorts of telling rather than showing, and completely nonsensical plot developments.
And yet, this story is still very precious to me, for a lot of reasons. One reason is that it gave me a gift of confidence - it was my first story that I finished because I wanted to, not for a school project. Before, I'd always given up on a story before it's end. I'm not sure anymore why it's such a big deal for beginning writers to finish a story, but with the writing of this one, I no longer felt that fear. And the confidence I gained was invaluable as I started to write more and more often in the upcoming years, until I finally had my first finished novel, and after that, my first published story.
And I haven't stopped yet.
*That would be Tamora Pierce's fault rather that romance novels; at that point in my life, I desperately wanted to be Alanna when I grew up.