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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Writing: A Hobby Out of Control

by Terry McLaughlin

I've often said I never wanted to be a writer. It just sort of...happened. However, I can trace the genesis today's blog post to two accidents (or, in writing lingo, inciting incidents).

First accident: taking a class I didn't need. But that class was in the right building at the right time on the right day of the week, so I signed up. That's how I met the professor who told me to write a book someday.

Second accident: reading a book I thought was a mystery. But I discovered it was a romance when I asked a bookstore clerk if the author, Nora Roberts, had ever written anything else. That's how I discovered the romance genre.

And so, with a nudge from a teacher and a craving for love stories, I decided to give writing a shot. Once I'd written a couple of chapters of my very first story, I challenged myself to finish the manuscript. And once I'd finished, I challenged myself to get it sold. It was a huge dare, the biggest trick of my life, and I wanted to see if I could pull it off.

But I still didn't consider myself a writer, not even after I attended a weekend seminar presented by a novelist who came to town. When my husband asked me what I'd learned, I told him I'd learned there were twenty-two local people willing to pay $200 to find out how to get published. I figured as soon as I sold a book, I'd travel around and get rich giving my own seminars. After all, I was a teacher, not a writer.

And then I discovered writing conferences. Pahrr-teee! I got my first manicure, and then my first pedicure, and I jetted around the country having tons of fun. At last I'd found a reason to write: writing conferences! Although my writing took a vacation while I vacationed with my new writing buddies...until my husband threatened to ground me if I didn't finish the current work-in-progress. I wrote the final 100 pages under duress, enduring my first deadline ordeal. But that story was my first Golden Heart final, my ticket to the Wet Noodle Posse and, two years later, my first sale. (I dedicated it to that college professor.) As you can see, another series of accidents.

I remember telling one of my conference roommates that I wanted to sell just one book, just to see if I could do it. Once I'd pulled off my big trick, I could retire.

Seven books later, I'm still at it. Go figure. And not only did I get myself an agent, not only am I giving novel-writing classes at the local library (for free!), I'm a member of the board of directors of Romance Writers of America. What in the world happened? I have no idea. This whole writing thing has spun completely out of control.

And the craziest thing is that when people ask what I do, I tell them I'm a writer.


At 6:03 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I hooted when I read about your love of writing conferences. They are a lot of fun--especially when I get the chance to spend time with my noodler sisters!

I'm so glad you decided to follow through on that nudge. I love your books!

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Thanks, Mo :-).

Yep, conferences are what kept me going. Whenever I thought of quitting writing, I realized I wouldn't have an excuse to go to any more conferences, and that would get me working again. Seeing all my writing buddies is such a treat :-)!

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Coming from the mental health/social worker community I thought I knew all about the support of one's colleagues, but I really learned about support from the Romance Writers of America world. I've never seen so many people rooting for each other's success. And it is not just because we are primarily women, because the social worker profession is primarily women, too.

No wonder conferences were addictive to you, Terry. There's just nothing like being in a group of Romance Writers!!!

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Diane, your testimony about Romance Writers of America is wonderful--thank you for sharing.

Yes, I do love this organization :-).

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Judy said...

I am so glad you decided to write that first book and have kept writing, Terry! It's been a bit of a struggle to hold onto the Built to Last series, as I'm waiting for the last one so I can read them all at once.

I haven't attended a conference yet, but I do enjoy the monthly Desert Rose (RWA chapter here) meetings. I'd have given up long ago without the monthly encouragement and the delightful reminder that I'm not crazy. I was just reading Trish Wylie's interview with her hero over at My favorite hero on Harlequin. Also loved the follow up on Brenner, Diane. Other writers "get" the individuals who are a part of your life and don't leave you alone, and are so demanding, and interfere with other stories not their own, and wake you up, and take you places you never planned to go, and then have the audacity to introduce new characters from out of the blue...

I still don't always introduce myself as a writer, but I notice a difference in myself, in the way I interact with people, when I do.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Judy, I had no clue so many people wanted to write before I started admitting I was working on stories. I love their enthusiasm (and sometimes wish I shared it).

And I love your description of "the individuals who are a part of your life"--wonderful :-)!

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Unfair! Unfair, unfair, unfair!

Although I will admit to getting a wee bit high on conferences, myself...


At 1:47 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Diane, I share your viewpoint on social work and romance. And while social work taught me much about people and their stories, writing romances taught me more about social work with a better understanding of motivation and how it influences goals and creates conflict.

And yes, social workers tend to be very supportive of each other. But there really is nothing anywhere like the support romance writers share with each other.

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

"...high on conferences..." Yes, that's it, Delle :-)!

At 8:23 PM, Blogger Christine said...

Just went to my first conference--five years after my first ms was completed. LOVED IT and totally get the addiction. And LOVE RWA and the chapters and the support....

At 10:47 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

I'm so glad you had a good conference experience, Christine :-)!

I love RWA, too. I wouldn't have been published without the generosity and support of so many members. And the RWA staff is awesome :-).


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