How I Became A Writer

The main question that most people seem to ask is “How did you become a writer?” I love discovering how my favorite authors came to the path of writing, so I figure I’ll share too.

I owe my love of writing to 6 things:

1. My grandmother (aka Maw Maw).

I’m fairly certain that I was my grandmother’s (on my mom’s side) favorite. She loved so me so much that I was at her house all the time. She even got me taken out of preschool because she couldn’t bear being away from me during the day. She’s also the reason I love to read. I mean, books have always fascinated me. But she was the one who would read to me from the very beginning.

I loved her reading to me so much (and wanted her to re-read books over and over again) that she finally recorded herself reading to me on cassette tapes to probably save her voice. She would even tell me when to “turn the page” on the audio. I would play those tapes over and over. I actually still have one of them. It makes me both happy and sad. Happy because she clearly loved me a lot to do this, and sad because she passed away when I was about fourteen.

My first published book will, without a doubt, be dedicated in her memory. Thank you, Maw Maw.

2. Books (and the TV show Reading Rainbow).

As I mentioned in point #1, I’ve always been fascinated by books. The way they look. The way they smell. The TV show, Reading Rainbow, also made me love books. I loved Lamar Burton reading to me through the screen and showing me some really cool books. It got so when Reading Rainbow wasn’t on, I would just make my own and pretend I was on TV too (I often pretended to do TV shows and movies a lot when I was little).

3. My 3rd grade teacher.

My 3rd grade teacher was awesome. For English, she assigned us the task of planning, outlining, writing, and illustrating a book. I loved it. She even had them bound for us and included a note telling each of us how proud she was of us. My first book was called “The Movie Store.” Clearly I loved TV shows/cartoons/movies a lot as a kid as well.

It was about a boy named Mickey who is working at a movie store when it catches on fire one day. He’s suspected of setting it on fire and sent to jail. He’s rescued by his girlfriend, Cathy, and he decides to rebuild the store. It’s pretty hilarious to read it now, but back then, I was proud of it. We even got to go to the younger kids’ classrooms and read our books to them.

4. Author R.L. Stine.

In the 4th grade, I found an R.L. Stine book at the Book Fair. Now, I loved Book Fairs. Book fairs were one of my favorite school events. I picked up my first Goosebumps book, The Barking Ghost, because it had a ferocious-looking dog on the cover. After I read it, I fell in love. It became my mission in life to read and collect every Goosebumps  book, and after that, R.L. Stine’s other series.

This is when I decided to start writing my own series, a horror series just like his. My friends were impressed so I made them copies. I still have one. It’s not too bad considering my age, but it’s still funny. The one I have is about this ghost who kills people because he’s unhappy about not being able to find the woman he loves, who has been dead for a while.

One day I discovered R.L. Stine had an autobiography. I was shocked to discover that R.L. Stine and I were a lot alike. He used to write stories when he was a kid. He didn’t type correctly on his typewriter (and I still don’t completely type the way I was “taught.”). R.L. Stine will always be the most influential author to me because he was the first author I looked up to.

5. Author V.C. Andrews.

I discovered V.C. Andrews after I watched the movie, The Flowers in the Attic (Good movie unless you compare it to the book). I was in middle school. In ninth grade, one day I discovered one of my friends was reading the book. I was so excited about it that she laughed and let me borrow it when she was done.

After reading it, I fell in love. It’s not a book for the faint of heart. It’s the characters that grabbed me, though. I felt so much for them and had to know how their story ended. So my friend let me borrow the others in the series. Her mom had three sets of V.C. Andrews books, plus the stand-alone,My Sweet Audrina.

After I finished my friend’s books, I started buying them on my own. I almost have all of them by now. In high school, my family finally got the internet. It was dial-up because we lived out in the country, but it was internet. I discovered V.C. Andrews roleplaying. It was like a dream come true. A game where you can write from one of the character’s POV and interact with other people? I was sold.

V.C. Andrews Roleplaying taught me a lot about writing. It helped me improve. It helped me research and brainstorm. I even met some great people, including one writer I still talk to today. We don’t roleplay any more (sadly they died out when I was in college), but we are still writing original stuff. V.C. Andrews’ books and the roleplays have greatly influenced my writing. I’m not talking about the incest stuff. I’m talking about the characters and the traumas they go through.

6. Inkpop & Inkies

Inkpop was a writing website that the book publisher, Harper Collins started, trying to find new material from new writers. It was geared toward teenagers and young adults. My friend, Isabel Davis, directed me to it. Apparently if your work was loved by many people, you could be ranked into the top five and get a review from a real editor. It was an exciting idea so I joined.

And even though I really joined because of the top five, I learned there was much more to inkpop than getting to the top. I found books that I loved so much I wanted to buy. I learned how to give a better critique besides pointing out grammar errors. I learned how to accept constructive criticism and how to use it to make my work better. And I also met some really great aspiring writers, called inkies.

Inkpop taught me how to stick with a project. Before, I had trouble sticking with projects. I could count on one hand how many projects I had managed to complete and count many unfinished projects I gave up on or lost interest in. When I posted work on inkpop, my readers demanded updates. They commented and picked and hounded until I posted another chapter. Once I found people who wanted to know the end, I found it much easier to stick with it.

My love for writing also intensified with every project I read, every project I critiqued, every critique I got. I got answers from other inkies when I needed them. We swapped for critiques and made our projects stronger. I found a great group of writers on inkpop called the insomniacs. Mostly we just talk about random stuff and writing, but these people are great. They’re encouraging. We help one another.

My short story, Lost and Found, eventually made the top five. I got a very positive review with one suggestion–I need to cut down on exclamation points! I think I’ve done pretty well in cutting them down since then. I was also compared to John Green. Now that I’ve read some of his books and have watched his vlog with his brother, Hank, as well as became a nerdfighter, I’m much more excited about the comparison.

Sadly, Inkpop was sold to another writing site called Figment, earlier this year. I tried Figment, I really did. The contests were cool. But the only way to win was to heart-swap or spam people for hearts and I wasn’t going to do that. People would only comment wanting a comment and “heart” in return. No one seemed to want to read out of enjoyment. I plan on closing my account.

Thankfully, most of us inkies (no matter what, we will always be inkies, whether inkpop exists or not) found refuge in another popular writing site called Wattpad. We’re re-building our community. While I don’t get as much helpful comments there, I still manage to get some from friends I’ve made on inkpop. It’s actually pretty amazing at what almost three years on a website accomplished. Inkpop was more than a writing site–it became a community. And even though inkpop is gone, the community still exists.

My Writing Path

Writing has been a great passion of mine since I started, a passion that only seems to grow. Back when I was younger, I only wrote occasionally. I didn’t get too serious with it until high school. V.C. Andrews inspired me to write and complete two books out of a series I called CHALTS (The name comes from the first letters of the main characters plus the “S”). It’s about five girls who have to tell their life stories to one another for a group project. It’s pretty much a lot like V.C. Andrew’s (or should I say the ghostwriter, Andrew Neiderman) The Wildflowers. I hope to re-visit the series one day and make it much more unique.

I also finished two more books while in college, but after that, my writing seemed to come and go. I got busy and just didn’t make the time to write. It’s the one thing I regret most concerning my writing path. Once I started work, I got back into it, but like I mentioned earlier, had trouble sticking to one story. Then I joined inkpop and started committing myself to finish my books. During inkpop, I finished four books and several short stories.

Last year, I participated in NaNoWrimo (National November Writing Month) for the first time. I loved it. It’s an event where you attempt to finish a 50,000 word novel within a month. The prize for completing it was five free printed and bound copies of whatever completed book of yours that you send in. I am sending in Peace Represent in a few days. I’m excited.

Right now I’m participating in Camp NaNo. It’s kind of like regular NaNo, except in the summer. And I don’t think there are any prizes (besides finishing your novel and talking to others participating, which are prizes in themselves). There’s one for this month (June) and for August. I’m doing both. Right now, I’m working on the sequel for Peace Represent. It’s a busy time, but it’s still enjoyable. Plus finishing two books during the summer is just plain win.

I feel I’ve grown a lot on my writing path. Sometimes I look back at some of the stuff I’ve written in the past and end up laughing at how awful it was. Or I’ll appreciate how much better my skills have gotten. No matter what, I will never regret traveling this path. Because now, writing = life. I’m not sure how I would live without being able to write.

Happy Writing!

J.N. Cahill

Writer. Artist. Dreamer.


Are you an aspiring writer? I’d love to hear all about how you got on the path of writing. And if you’re a published author, I would be thrilled to hear about it as well. Comment below!


6 thoughts on “How I Became A Writer

  1. Excellent blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  2. Hey! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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