The Stepping Stones To Becoming A writer



When I finished reading all the YA I could get my hands on, I wondered if I could write anything that could create those feelings in another.


It’s funny when I think back to the stepping stones that led me to becoming a writer. It should have been obvious from the start that I was always going to become one, yet for years I searched for it. I always had a deep seated need to be my own boss. I knew that whatever I was going to do, needed to be unique, creative and inventive. I also knew that I needed to produce something that was truly mine, something I could call my own. The question was what?


I wasted a lot of time looking for the outlet that was going to lead me to my future accomplishment. Singing on the X-Factor was popular, but completely out of the question, as I am tone deaf. I’m not exactly sporty; in fact after running a mile, I’m more incline to collapse than run a victory lap, so I needed to look for something else. I needed to look for some special quality or skill, but I also needed to make a living, so I had to dig deep and start thinking outside of the box.


I have to admit that for years I was lost, because I’m nobody special. I’m just as ordinary as the next person. I knew that I had always been a creative. I’d always enjoyed all forms of art and was of a reasonable standard when I was younger, but I had turned my back on it when I left school, writing it off as a hobby, rather than something I could make an income from and never considered writing to be an art form.


My best friend at school, Anne, once told me out of the blue, that she always admired my writing. I remember choosing my A-Level subjects and being stuck for my forth choice. I walked around all the stalls as students do and in the end picked English Literature. I had no particular compulsion attracting me to it, I hadn’t bought into the subject at GCSE, but simply needed a fourth, it meant that I could read books and I remembered what Anne had said. In the end it was my best subject. I found an affinity with it that was unparalleled. I answered every question first and took the lead on every discussion in class. I was a natural, I understood the characters, the writer’s inner workings, the subtle symbolism and the motives behind their characterisations. I didn’t have to think about it, it was as clear to me, as if I had written it myself. I had the ability to read between the lines. I had found my subject. It was the first time I had really felt accomplishment, but life caught up with me as life does and took me in a new direction leaving English behind.


As time went by, nothing presented itself as a particular talent. I had long since put my success with English behind me, so I was amiss, until I linked a number of random events that had occurred throughout my life. These led me to picking up a computer and making a start. Who knows what makes us suddenly sit up one day and make the connection we’ve been trying to make for a life time. Maybe there is no answer, but for me, it all started when my colleague, Elaine, came into the office one day and raised the question, ‘If you could be anything you wanted to be, what would you be?’ I remember sitting at my desk, up to my neck in work, having one of my usual stressful days and without a moment’s hesitation replying, “A writer.” It wasn’t something I considered before replying. It just rolled off my tongue. I hadn’t even put pen to paper at that point, but there it was, it was out there. I was busy and the conversation ran its course, so I forgot all about it and went back to work, but these words must have come from somewhere, and they certainly lodged themselves somewhere more available.


So not much changed in my life. I went about my usual daily routine, working full time at a school and raising a family, with many more little events happening along the way. I changed my job at the school and writing became more of a feature in my role. I wrote a report for a colleague – Tucker, who read it, immediately passing comment on how well it had been written. Again, I didn’t think anything particular about it, I’d just completed a task that he’d asked me to do. I had previously worked with many English teachers, but I particularly remembered Mrs Basic’s classes. Her work really struck a chord with me, but again I still hadn’t made any connections.


We had an old computer that a friend gave me. It had a big bulky tower and was set up in an awkward place, but one day I had an urge to have a go at writing something. Another random thought that popped into my head. I wondered if I could do it and the compulsion to do it felt really strong. The kids were occupied and I had some time, so I sat and wrote a couple of pages. I started striking the key, instantly finding a story line. It was the weirdest thing, but it felt natural and comfortable. It all got interrupted and I never went back to it. Soon after, the computer died and that was that.


The next, more significant event that took place was when I noticed my daughter was reading a book that everyone on the bus was reading, and all the kids at school. With my motherly curiosity taking president, I wanted to know what my then teenage daughter was reading, so I asked her. She told me about it and offered to lend it to me. At the time I had a busy career and no spare time to indulge in reading, so when she offered to let me read it, I immediately regretted it, because it was the size of a catalogue. I didn’t want to let her down, as she had so adeptly plugged the book and I wanted to ensure that what she was reading was appropriate, as she had already started the second, so I took it. At first I decided to just read enough to get a feel for the story, see if it was suitable and slip it back into her room, telling her I’d read it, but I reach a point which hooked me to the point I almost missed my bus stop. I remember hurtling down the bus, shouting at the driver. Something inside me unlocked, something I couldn’t explain. The book was Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I have a lot to be grateful to Stephenie for, she was the humble beginning of all the dots lining up.


I read the whole Twilight series in 3 weeks, which was a record for me, discovering that reading YA books was quite appealing. It reminded me of all those raw emotions felt as a teenager that are lost over time, as our careers and daily grind beat them out of us. When I finished the series, I went to my daughter to see what else she was reading, looking to evoke the feelings that had been stirred up inside me. She was heavily into L.J. Smith at the time, so I started reading her novels. I went looking for more of her work and came across the Vampire Diaries. I tore through the series. When I reached the end of book 7, I put it down and wondered what I should read next, because I had read everything she had wrote in the series up to that point and was hungry for the next one, but knew that I had to wait. The thought occurred to me that maybe I could have a go at writing myself. I wondered if I could write anything that could create those feelings in another. Again, being a practical person, I brushed the momentary thought aside and went about my usual business. Later that month, I had an unusual dream.


At this point you may be reading this, shaking your head and thinking what’s unusual about that. There are two things that were unusual for me. Firstly, I know that I dream, everybody does, but I very rarely remember them or know that I have. Secondly, on the rare occasion that I do realise I’ve had a dream, I remember it for all of 30 seconds, often forgetting the finer points, like everyone else. However, this dream was different.


On a handful of occasions in my life, I’ve had dreams that have been so profound, they have not only stayed with me, but it have marked a significant point in my life. These dreams I can still see when I close my eyes today. I can recount them at will and they never go away. This was one of them and it came with an over whelming need to write. I woke up with what I can only describe as a charge inside me. It was like electricity and it surged through me, looking to expel itself. What everyone else could see, suddenly occurred to me. Had I found my talent? And could I make it work?


I still relive the emotions of having to wait for the right time to try writing again. The burst of excitement within me was all the more concentrated for waiting. I finally found my opportunity one August afternoon in 2010. Everything fell into place that day, my son was out playing football and my daughter was hitting the books for her GCSE’s, so I borrowed my daughter’s laptop and headed down to the bottom of the garden. I can still feel the butterflies today. It was like holding a winning lottery ticket on a windy day. One false move and the whole thing could be a disaster, but I opened a word document and began typing. I wrote the opening chapter to Hidden and never looked back. Today, I am in the process of publishing that very same book. I have two more books at various stages of completion and already know that there will be at least another two books in the saga.


It’s funny where humble beginnings can take us. Who could have imagined, when I was my children’s age that today I would be a writer and author? To this day, I have not stopped writing, whether it has been something for one of my books, or something toward marketing the saga. It just took one or two stepping stones and a bit of realisation that my talent was there all along. I just never put my finger on it.


Serina Hartwell – Author of The HiddenSaga



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