Why I Write: one grad quits her job to pick up a pen
My writing career began with Snow White's ride off into the sunset.
It was Christmas break the year after I graduated college. I had come back home for the holiday after six months of living in New York, working an internship and then an editorial assistant position at a large publishing house. I don't quite know how it happened, but the Disney version of Snow White was on TV, and well, I was bored.
I watched the whole thing, grimacing over Snow White's high-pitched girly voice (Seriously, do you remember it? It'll break your eardrums), and wondering how I had loved this movie so much when I was eight. Snow White marries a prince who apparently admires her singing voice and thinks she looks pretty in a coffin. He kisses her, she wakes up, everyone cheers, he hoists her up onto his horse, and then it's time for that ride off into sunset, all without exchanging a word.
That's when the idea hit me. What if Snow White didn't fall in love with a prince who goes around kissing dead girls?
I had been a writer in high school. By writer, I mean I took creative writing courses and became Editor-in-Chief of our literary magazine. I had never attempted writing a book, beyond that time when I was about seven years old and I wrote the thrilling adventures of Mr. Pear and Mr. Plum. Yes, they were actually fruit. In college, I had pretty much stopped writing except for the occasional angsty poem, and I focused on majoring in history and my future career as a lawyer.
Senior year of college, I finally decided that being a lawyer was nowhere near my dream, so I tried to come up with a new career. I loved reading. If I got paid to read professionally, that would be awesome, right?
I sent my resume out to editors and cold called them until a publisher finally took pity on me and offered me an internship. The day after I graduated, I moved to a tiny Brooklyn apartment and threw myself into the publishing industry.
But after watching Snow White that Christmas break, the idea in my head just wouldn't shut up. So right in the midst of the recession, I quit my stable job, moved to Boston and then Houston, and began spending my days writing.
Most days, you can find me in a coffee shop, hopped up on caffeine and staring at my laptop screen like I'm contemplating throwing it out the window.
It's drastically different from my little cubicle at the publishing house, that's for sure. My days are my own, but I tend to spend every spare minute writing. I wake up early and go to bed late. Weekends mean nothing anymore because I work seven days a week. And yes, sometimes I do spend entire days in my pajamas.
I never thought the writing process would be easy, but I didn't know it would be so difficult. I wrote the first draft of my Snow White story in three months. And it was awful. The plot twisted off in random directions and, worse than that, bored me. The characters fell flat. The dialogue felt forced and fake. Everything was just off.
I've been working on it since, putting it through countless rounds of revisions. It's attracted the ephemeral attention of some agents, but it's just not there yet. I'm still overhauling the plot, crafting it into the best book it can be, before I start to try for agents again. I've also written one manuscript that will never see the light of the day, a few half manuscripts that I'll have to get back to when I figure out how to make them not suck, and one manuscript that I'm also revising now.
I write mostly young adult, meaning I pretend to be seventeen again as I write my protagonists and use words like 'frawesome' and 'epic' way too often in normal conversation. Considering I hadn't read a straight-up young adult novel in years, the fact that all of my ideas were set in high schools or among teenagers in fairy tale lands surprised the heck out of me.
But there's something about the emotional intensity of those transformative teenage years that draws me back again and again. It's the time of growing up and growing into yourself, stepping away from the family and into an individual space. Also, it's awesome writing about first kisses and all that high school drama.
For months on end, as I write a manuscript, I inhabit my main character. I imagine her voice, her history, her personality traits, her favorite color, everything. It's gotten to the point that my own personality will shift in subtle ways. When I wrote the voice of a dry, sarcastic girl, my own wit grew sharper and more pointed. Any guy who hit on me that month got a whole lot of barbed comments and rolled eyes. It wasn't pretty.
I'm fully aware how crazy it sounds to quit your job and spend your time on words that may never be published. But this is the time to take risks, the time for no regrets.
On those days when I'm considering giving it all up, I think of one thing. I picture myself on my deathbed, old and wrinkly and surrounded by family, wasting away like old women seemed to do in all those Victorian novels. I want to look back on my life and know that even if my dream to become an author didn't come true, I tried my very best. Not trying at all would be the worst regret I would ever have.
As I progress in my writing, I've got my story about a more kickass Snow White on the backburner now (and hopefully will get back to it soon), but it introduced me to a whole new world. Now, through my words, I can reside in a bleak dystopian landscape or the chaos of a high school hallway.
I have doubts all the time about my writing- if I'm writing the right book, if my writing isn't good enough, if it will ever amount to anything.
But I never doubt the fact that this is what I'm meant to be doing. I'm a writer. It's my dream. And this is the time to make it come true.
Meredith Moore is a writer based in Houston. She blogs at meredithmoorebooks.blogspot.com