Part 3: Becoming a Writer

For me, becoming a writer was a gradual process. I knew I had talent, but I did not see myself as a writer of novels. I was more fascinated by theater and movies. In high school and college, I got involved in community theater, having been mildly bitten by the acting bug. By the time I got to college I had decided that I wanted to write screenplays. At McGill University I majored in English, and my primary field of study was Film and Communications. Yes, I was able to study films in college! I joked at the time that I was training to become a film critic.

“Film Critic” is, of course, not a very viable career option. So after graduation I dabbled in screenwriting on my own while I pursued “real” jobs. After a number of years in forgettable administrative positions, I finally got work as a proofreader/editor of training materials for continuing medical education programs. That was a big step up, since at last I was able to use my editing and writing talents in a significant way. But still I had the feeling that I wanted to do something more—to write something of my own, and not simply edit someone else’s work.

I completed a screenplay with a friend of mine. Actually, we’d worked on it for a number of years, off and on, until we finally got to the point where we thought it was as good as we could make it. While contemplating what to do next—should we enter it in a competition?—I kept on studying books about screenwriting. There were still many things about how to plot a movie that didn’t quite click for me. Then one day in late 2007 I found a book by Blake Snyder called Save the Cat! Not only was it charming and funny (as you can guess from its title), it also completely demystified the process of how to tell a ripping good story.

In January 2008, I took a vacation day from work just to contemplate what I should do about my life and how I might pursue a writing career. In retrospect I can see that I was following the Biblical admonition to “ponder the paths of thy feet.” Certainly there was prayer involved. My personal life was happy, but I had a vague sense of dissatisfaction with the way my professional life was going. I knew I wanted more.

On that particular day, I had a thought to visit Blake’s website. I knew he offered workshops, but since they were nearly always in California I had no dream of ever attending one. Imagine my surprise when I saw on his website that he was going to be in Charleston, South Carolina, in just over a week’s time! I couldn’t believe it! Here was his superb plotting workshop just an easy half-day’s drive from my home in North Carolina. I knew I had to drop everything and sign up. Happily, my husband agreed with me. We had no idea what might be in store, but we both saw this as a tremendous answer to prayer.

Blake’s workshops are designed to be small. There were just me and nine other students. When I got there, I discovered that every other attendee was a member of Romance Writers of America, and most were published authors. They introduced me to RWA, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Next up:  From Screenplays to Novels