Writing, Or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Word

People often ask me “when did I started writing.” I think the better question is “when did I start writing professionally.” Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been jotting down ideas and forming them into stories. But the story of how I became a professional writer, much less an author? That is a bit more involved.

leo-king's-lego-blocksLego blocks were my first major inspiration. Not really surprising, since they are known for stimulating the imagination. As early as I can remember, I used to make entire worlds out of Lego blocks, from recreating and expanding worlds crafted in games like Adventure for the Atari 2600 to just about every Star Wars Lego model I could convince my parents to buy. As I got a little older, I’d stop recreating scenarios that already existed and started creating stories of my own. Using a composition notebook, I’d jot down my ideas, as well as mark down where I was in my stories. It was mostly immature chicken scratch, but it was the beginning of my life as a writer.

leo-king's-atari-2600At around eight years old, I got into video games. I mean really heavily into video games. In the span of less than two years, my household got filled with an Intellivision, a Commodore 64, and an Atari 2600. From then on, I was hooked, and for every game I fell in love with, I started writing more and more short stories about the worlds of those games. By the time I was twelve and got my first Nintendo, I was shamelessly writing what would now be referred to as “fan fiction”.

Then I went to High School. Everything changed.

My Writing Improves! (not just filler)

I guess when you’re an adolescent boy growing up in New Orleans, a primarily Roman Catholic city, and going to a Catholic High School, you’re bound to seek an outlet for those constantly changing hormones. Due to my strong spiritual beliefs, I refused to engage in many of the vices a lot of my classmates and friends indulged in at the time. So writing became my one of my major outlets. I’ll admit, a lot of the stuff I wrote at the time was crap riddled with teenage angst and “unending Gothic darkness”, but it was constant and continuous practice at what would one day become my career.

leo-king's-roleplaying-gamesAnd then there were Roleplaying Games. I could probably write an entire article on my personal history with roleplaying games, from starting off with random tabletop rpgs to live action games. I even started my own live action gaming group and ran a game at an anime convention for fifteen years (which is really funny, since most people only do that for about five years – apparently, I didn’t get the memo…) Point is this: Roleplaying games have done more to shape me as a writer than anything else. When you play in, or run, one of these games, you have to write – a lot. And if people are going to enjoy these games, especially people who don’t know you from the next guy, you need to write well. A lot of what I learned about plot development, character development, and crafting a good, solid story came from playing in and running these games.

leo-king's-hands-on-his-keyboardAll of this history is well and good, but when did I decide to write professionally? The answer is pretty simple: After my wife (fiancee at the time) and I fled to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, I went through a series of job-changes. It was a tumultuous time for me. Several years later, I realized that I was spinning my wheels and doing everything other than what I truly loved – writing. So somewhere around 2009, I started writing web content and blog content on a contract basis. The money was horrible, but the experience was invaluable. I learned so much about proper grammar and sentence structure doing these contract jobs. It really helped me tighten up my writing.

Becoming an Author, Or: Goodbye Sleep!

leo-king-portraitSo how did I become an author? In March of 2011, I saw an advertisement for Bayouspehere Magazine, a literary mag published by the University of Houston in Clear Lake. On a whim, I submitted a short story entitled “The Sound of Raindrops” to them. It was accepted and published in their online publication for Fall of 2011 (apologies for the censor bars.) And like that, my life had changed. I was a published author.

Since then, I have signed up with a wonderful small press publishing company, have been featured twice in a short story collection, and have had my first novel published, and have completed the other two books in the complete trilogy. In short, my career is just beginning, and it’s looking good!

So when did I really decide to become a professional writer? When I realized that I had been wasting my time doing anything else!