I have been writing since the age of 14. I began writing because I took a high school creative writing class and found that my peers at the time thought I had a knack for it and also I loved doing it. I loved the process, the meticulous nature of it, and the joy I get from people escaping to another place for a while – a place I created.
In those salad days of the high school creative writing group, I wrote a short story entitled “Eagle One” about a failed and top secret mission to the moon during the Apollo days that ended in tragedy for three astronaughts when they discovered a terrible and frightening silicate life form living on the cratered surface. I never published the story, I haven’t even thought about it until now, but last night I watched a movie entitled “Apollo 18” that had the same plot. I claim absolutely no rights to the movie and do not claim that they “stole my idea”. In my opinion the film was poor at best and highly predictable, like a high school kid’s short story plot.
But what if I had published that short story? I could be sharing in the lackluster glow of that film’s mediocre success. Sometimes I wonder what could have been if I had simply tried to build my platform when I was 21 instead of 41 (today is my birthday, by the way). The question I ask is how long have some of you been building a platform with no real success under your belt, and like me, have mediocre self-publishing sales to show for it? I’m not being pessimistic, I’m just being realistic. It takes a lot of effort to get your name out there. You have to blog often, social network often, buy your way into conventions often, do book signings often, and above all write all the time to continually turn out good writing.
This takes listening to your peers, finding critics who will really tear your stuff apart and give you constructive advice, ask your wife if she thinks your female first person narrator really sounds like a girl, and do what they say.
So the next time you see one of your short stories or a plot idea you had at one time end up on screen at the local theater, don’t fret and don’t scrap that idea entirely. Soldier on and rework it, listen to what the critics said was wrong with the movie and don’t do that. Learn from others, and above all read good writing. Even if you are never a success financially, you will be a success in your heart. That might sound trite, but it’s true.
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Also, the same thing happened to me with Monsters, Inc. Of course, my high school version was definitely something a high school student would write, whereas the Pixar version was amazing.