1 | how i started writing
I think I've always had a very active imagination.
As a kid, I was always creating stories and finding ways to act them out. I wouldn't just come up with games to play with my friends, I would craft entire stories, plots, and imaginary side characters. I would raise the stakes, come up with obstacles and villains that needed to be defeated. I never wrote fan fiction officially, but I think I made fan fiction up in my head.
My childhood best friend was obsessed with Batman and Robin. Just like most kids, we would take those characters and the existing stories (the exciting things we'd seen in the cartoon VHS tapes and the *BAM!* *BOOM!* *POW!* Batman movies) and we would craft our own adventures. I have memories of being nine or ten years old, playing Batman and Robin in the broken down Volkswagen parked in my friend's drive way. It was summer, with North Carolina heat. Looking back at the memory, it was probably too hot for us to have been playing in a car with crapy crank windows and no air condition, but our imaginations were soaring.
As a kid, hide-and-go-seek was never just hide-and-go-seek to me. In my head, I was an adventurer, being pursued by a monster. I was a brave knight, sword in hand, waiting for the right moment to pounce and slay the dragon. I couldn't keep myself from wanting reality to be more than it was. I think this was exacerbated by the fact that my father was sick during most of my growing up.
It was right after his first heart attack, when I was eight years old, that I really remember finding a home in books. At the time, my dad was driving to and from university. He was finishing a degree in communications at NC State University, which meant he was spending his weeks in Raleigh and his weekends at home with us in Wilmington. During his time at home, he started to read the Harry Potter books out loud to me. That was a portkey into something truly magical--all puns intended.
I had enjoyed reading before those books, but the Harry Potter series really opened my mind to fantasy, to make-believe on a grander scale. Up until this point, I think I'd read more realistic (and I use that term very loosely) books like Cam Jansen and June B. Jones. Aside from the occasional Disney movie, I hadn't really known that magic outside of The Magic School Bus and The Magic Tree House existed. Suddenly, there were new worlds to explore, places I could visit by reading. So, I traveled.
I was ten when we moved to Raleigh. I think it was then that I got a library card. It was the early 2000s and interlibrary loan became my best friend. I would use my parent's desktop computer to order books. My selections were based almost entirely off of the cover and the barest of descriptions. They would come from across state and I would await the email saying my books had arrived. Then those books, the worlds stuffed between the plastic covered spines of the East Regional Library, were mine for three weeks.
In late middle school, maybe eighth grade, a friend from school suggested I read Twilight. I think this was before there was any talk of a movie. I remember reading it and really enjoying the story. This was my first time reading anything that included romance. Up until this point I'd only read action, adventure or quest novels. Things like Narnia. Suddenly, I was reading about Vampires and love triangles and kissing. This was new and I was HERE FOR IT. I mean, like any good Victorian lady, I was swooning over them fangs and that broody, sort of shady vibe.
Like many girls my age, I was thrown into a new world of vampire books and
(subsequently?) romance novels. I read the Vampire Academy books by Richelle Mead, which I still 10/10 recommend. The House of Night books. Vampire Diaries. Devouring these books not only opened my reading horizons, it also put me into contact with other people who were reading similar things. I made friends with other girls who liked similar books and I learned about fanfiction.net. Now, writing became an option. I had a friend in middle and high school who wrote fan fiction all the time. this was something I'd never even considered doing. I would read what she'd written and give her feedback, but I never wrote anything for myself, or if I did, I didn't share it with anyone.
I didn't start writing officially until the second half of my eighth grade year. I can vividly remember how it started. I read Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (again, I still totally recommend), a book I'd gotta from my local library. I read that thing in a day and wanted more right away. I remember sitting in my room holding the book, thinking about all the things I loved about it. The plot and the way I related to the characters. This was a light bulb moment for me. It was the first time I'd ever looked at a book and thought, "Wow, that was amazing. I want to do that. I want to write like that." And I decided right then and there that I would. I was going to write a book.
The rest is less memorable. I got a spiral bound notebook, probably one meant to hold science or history notes (gosh, I was a bad student), and started writing. I didn't plot anything. I had no idea that plotting or character development were even things to consider. I had an idea what I wanted the book to be. I just went with it.
I wrote. And, if I'm being perfectly honest, my process hasn't changed very much since then. I still mostly write without aim or direction.
And that's how I wrote my first ever book.
My first book was a mess, as most first books are.
There were six main characters, each one based very loosely off one of my best friends at the time. I even let them choose the characters names, the only stipulation being that the chosen name had to start with the same letter as their own. I'm literally cringing as I write this.
I wrote that first book "for my friends." I would write chapters of it during class and then pass the notebook around during locker breaks. They would read it and give me feedback. But it was always my brainchild. I put everything I had into that story, into writing it and making it fun to read. I would let them read it, hear their thoughts, and then write some more. Then, in the evenings, I would use the clunky desktop computer in our spare bedroom to type it up.
There was nothing in the book, it was the most PG rated thing possible (something else that hasn't really changed about my writing, lol), and yet I was TERRIFIED that my parents would read it. Actually, scratch that----I was terrified that anyone outside of my little bubble of friends would read it. When I'd decided to write a book, it wasn't because I had dreams of being published. I think I'd just always had stories in my heart and suddenly there was an outlet, a place to put the words I'd always kept to myself.
At school, I wrote and wrote and wrote. At home, I typed and typed and typed.
When I finished my first book, it was less that a hundred pages and wasn't very good. Still, it was the first thing I'd written and, even now, I still stand by the general idea of it. My dad swears I let him read this, but I really don't know if I did. In college, I wrote a second draft of this story, (much better with five full books added to the series) he probably read that.
After I wrote that initially idea, I fiddled with some other projects, but nothing that I really formed completely. It wasn't until later in my high school years that I began working on something new--a two part novel called Autumn. Autumn was a story I'd had running through my mind for a while.
I remember writing the very bones of that novel and showing it to a friend, who thought it was decent. She was a year older than I was in school and was already considering what she wanted to major in for college. I was a junior, she was a senior. I remember her telling me that she didn't think going to school for writing was a very good idea, since it wasn't actually a job and I probably wouldn't end up published.
I don't remember how seventeen year old Brianna felt about that opinion, but I will say that I didn't stay friends with that girl and her opinion didn't stop me from attending college and majoring in English (a decision which was, in my opinion, one of the best decisions I've ever made).
Autumn, my second novel, was a book I know I shared with my dad. I remembering giving the printed out pages of the book to him. Afterward, I went up stairs, sat on the edge of my bed, and cried. I was that insecure about my writing. I was a senior in high school and I wanted so badly to be a writer. Not an author. A writer.
I hadn't even thought to dream that big yet.
I wanted someone to tell me that I had what it took, that my words were worth something. I wanted to go to college for creative writing and this, handing my dad my novel, was a test of whether or not my friend was right. Would it be stupid to major in English? Was I wasting my time?
Let me tell you, my dad wins Father of the Year every single year, no contest. He has always believed in me more than I believe in myself. He read Autumn and came back with good things to say, constructive things to say. He gave me ideas on how to fix the problems, told me to keep going, asked to read more. Never once did he or my mama question my decision to write or to pursue writing as my college major. And that is so important. It changed everything for me. In their eyes, I was always a professional. Without that support, I'm not sure I would be where I am today--doing what I love.