Thursday, August 5, 2010

How I Traded Needlepoint for Writing by Terry Odell, Guest Blogger

I'm pleased to introduce Terry Odell as my guest today. Many of you are already followers of her excellent blog at Terry's Place.

I first "met" Terry on an online authors group for one of our publishers. And we have something else in common -- we both retired from Florida to Colorado.

Now I have high hopes of meeting Terry face-to-face one of these days, maybe at one of the Colorado writers' conferences.

Here's what Terry has to say about her own path to publication.


How I Traded Needlepoint for Writing.

The second-most often question I get asked when I tell people I'm a writer is, "How long have you been writing?" (The first is, "Have I heard of you?") Other authors spout off their histories of wanting to write since before they could talk, or how they wrote their first manuscript in crayon. My answer: "About six years." I was a card-carrying AARP member before I considered writing anything.

From there, it's, "How did you get started writing?" The short answer? I ran out of room on my walls for needlepoint and had to find another creative outlet. But the real answer is, "By mistake."

I never had any dreams of being a writer. Creative writing classes weren't my forte. I knew all the rules of grammar, got A's in English, but I was a reader. I devoured books. I read anything, from comic books to cereal boxes. My parents tell everyone that we moved when I was 12 because I finished the library. I made up stories, but they were in my head. I never thought about writing one down. They were usually daydreams, or continuations of books I'd read, or stories about characters on television. The closest I came to writing was two pages of a story I'd had running around in my head. But the actual typing was a total drag. Punctuation mattered. You had to start sentences with capital letters. There were quotation marks to deal with. All that use of the 'shift' key was a nuisance.

Years later, my son was visiting. He, as all men are wont to do, was "watching" television by flipping the remote. He stopped on a show. "This one's cool," he said. "It's all about these guys who can't die unless you cut off their heads."

My son went back home. Being a good mother, I decided to watch the show so we'd have something "cool" to talk about. I found "Highlander" in the listings, set the recorder, and watched an episode. Okay, I'm not proud. Watching Adrian Paul was no hardship. But the show also raised questions about what these Immortals could and couldn't do, and I got curious. I discovered the world of fan fiction. I found an author whose voice resonated with me (although I had no clue it was her 'voice' back then) and read all her stories.

Then, one day, I decided to see what would happen if I tried to write a story. The beauty of fan fiction is that your world and your characters are all there. You can work on the skills of the craft in small increments. I cranked out my little story—actually, sweated it out, because it still didn't come easy, what with getting all those quotation marks in the right place—and bravely sent it to the writer I'd befriended.

I'm sure she got a good laugh, but she came back with advice and comments. What the heck was POV?

I accepted the challenge. She had immeasurable patience, and when I finally had her approval that it was done, she insisted I post it to one of the Highland fan fiction forums. I got positive feedback, and like any good puppy, kept trying to please. (Had I known then how low the bar was for positive feedback, I might not have kept going, but since I didn't, I did.)

Eventually, I thought I'd try writing some original fiction, just to see if I could. I recall an exercise, where we were supposed to write a "hook" in under 200 words. I sent mine in, and got lots of "Wow, what happens next?" comments. How the heck did I know? So, I kept writing. 143,000 words later, the first draft of Finding Sarah was finished, and I'd hooked up with a local, in person, critique group who drove me to consider the "get it published" side of the writing craft.

Much later, I was talking with my son. I asked him a Highlander-related question. His reply. "Oh, I never actually watched the show. I just thought it was a cool concept."

And that's how I became a writer by mistake. I don't think I'll go back to needlepoint.

My latest release is a romantic suspense, Nowhere to Hide, from The Wild Rose Press. It began as a spin-off to Finding Sarah, but was revamped as a stand alone. There's a story behind that one, but it will have to wait.


Thanks so much for being here today, Terry. The transition from needlepoint to writing is novel. I enjoyed reading how you tumbled into this new adventure by accident, and I wish you continued success.

Terry Odell is the author of five published romantic suspense novels, and an assortment of contemporary romance short stories. You can learn more about her and her writing at her website and her blog, Terry's Place. Watch for her new novel from Five Star Expressions, Where Danger Hides, in 2011.


Stacey said...

Really great story, Terry. Thanks for sharing with us.

Michele Emrath said...

By mistake--that's perfect! And a lesson to those of us who feel if it will never happen NOW it will...never happen. Juggling it all and driving ourselves crazy for the moment isn't necessary.

I can't say romantic suspense has ever interested me, but your story and your writing make it compelling to me now! So this one goes to the TBR list.

Thanks, Patricia, for hosting, and Terry for writing here!

Beat Generation on SouthernCityMysteries

Terry Odell said...

Stacey-happy to share. I still wonder what would have happened if my son hadn't shown me Highlander.

Michele - it's never too late. And I hope you'll give Nowhere to Hide a try. It's really more of a police procedural mystery with a relationship subplot.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Mason Canyon said...

Thanks Patricia for hosting Terry.

Terry, I for one am glad you got bored and decided to write. I enjoyed NOWHERE TO HIDE very much.

Thoughts in Progress

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I'm glad your son got you into Highlander...even if he didn't get into it, himself! Cool story about how you started out in the business. :)

Terry Odell said...

Mason - so glad you enjoyed the book.

Elizabeth - who could complain about watching Adrian Paul? It took me several episodes to realize there were stories being told!

Linda Leszczuk said...

Terry, you have no idea how encouraging that "I was a card carrying AARP member" comment is to another late starter. Thanks for sharing.

Terry Odell said...

Linda, it's never too late. Hang in there!

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Jemi Fraser said...

I hadn't realized how you got into writing Terry - that's a fantastic story!!! Love it :)

N. R. Williams said...

I loved that your author friend stepped in to help. I have found writers to be one of the most generous peoples. I love highlander too.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Carol Ann said...

Terry, what a fun story of how you got started! I truly envy you living in Colorado. What great scenery. I loved the pic on your blog of the deer looking through your window.

Carol Ann

Lisa_Gibson said...

What a fun story! Fellow Coloradoan waving from Littleton. ;) I think it's positively inspirational that you felt brave enough to try something so new to you and met with such success. Really fabulous. :)
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now that's a funny story,

Ann Best said...

I loved reading this - and meeting Terry!

Terry Odell said...

Jemi, Alex, Ann - thanks so much for stopping by.

NR. I agree. Writers are very sharing people.

Carol Ann - we're loving it here. When we got back from some morning errands, our doe had brought her fawn with her to rest under our deck.

Lisa - New things are what keep life interesting.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Terry -- Thanks again for being here today and responding to comments. You're a wonderful guest. I love knowing you had a doe and fawn under your deck this morning. I've seen mule deer and foxes on my bike trail walks in town, but we don't get much wildlife in my neighborhood -- too much cement, I think.

Terry Odell said...

Patricia - thanks for having me. We have no cement. Lots of gravel, lots of dust. And wildlife.

Jan Morrison said...

Thanks Patricia for hosting Terry and thank you Terry for being so generous with your story. It is quite inspiring!
Jan Morrison

Terry Odell said...

Jan, I love talking about writing (in case you couldn't tell. Thanks

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Journaling Woman said...

So that's how you got started. What a cool story.

HearWriteNow said...

That is a great story. I knew I wanted to be an author when I learnt that real people actually created the stories I loved and that it was a "real" job. I wasn't quite writing in crayon, but close.

All the best,
HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

Terry Odell said...

JW - thanks

Elle - I've never been that focused. Normally, two years was my limit for any endeavor. But writing seems to be something I'm sticking with for the long run.

Morgan Mandel said...

One road leads to another. You never know where they'll all lead. Glad you found writing from one of them.

Morgan Mandel

Terry Odell said...

Morgan, so true, and thanks.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

skyangel said...

You never know where the road will take you...

Wonderful story. :-D

Caroline Clemmons said...

Great story, Terry. Funny, too. So glad you ran out of room for needlepoint because you are a born writer--even if you found out later than some. It's never too late. Lisa Kleypas sold her first book at 21 or 22. One of my friends sold her first book at 60 and is going strong at Avon and NAL.

Terry Odell said...

Skyangel, those winding roads are the best.

Caroline, thanks so much.