The Writing Journey of Melanie Nilles:
I've been writing for a long time. It started in grade school, but I didn't get serious about it until I was a freshman in college. I always loved making up stories, but I had always loved reading. The problem was that I have always been picky about what I'll read. I started writing as a fun escape from the difficulties of my life and to create stories that I would want to read.
Going back into grade school, I remember the first time we were asked to write our own stories. It was in third grade, and I won't forget how that story took Thumbelina and turned it, but my ending was a letdown. You know, I have a terrible memory, but I can still envision that classroom and that story. It sticks in my mind quite clearly.
We also had a program in our schools back then called the Young Authors program. One student from each class at all the local schools was chosen to attend this conference. We created our own stories and submitted them to be accepted. I had always wanted to go and you could only ever attend once between first and sixth grade; and in sixth grade, I was finally chosen. I remember listening to a children's book author talk, although I can't remember what it was about. I asked my mom to buy one of his books for me and he signed it. While a mouse chewed a corner of that book, it still meant something to me. It was the first time I had an autographed book and got to meet an author in person.
While at the conference, we were put into groups and asked to write a short story. I had trouble making something up on the spot but I managed. It was pretty lame, even by my standards back then, but that was our task, so I did it.
I didn't do much with writing after that, except for letters (actual handwritten, snail-mailed stamped letters because we didn't have internet back then). I had half a dozen pen pals I wrote back and forth to at one point and I enjoyed it. It was a way to express myself, especially in high school.
But it was in college that I really focused on creating characters and a plot and actions that built to a climax. I put down my first novel then and was hooked ever since on that writer's high of immersing oneself in another world and letting the characters talk through the author in the act of putting words on paper. I used a spiral-bound notebook and typed it out late at night in the computer lab in those first three years of college.
In my fourth year of college, I bought my own computer. I had trouble creating at the keyboard and found it easier to write in a notebook that I could easily stuff into my backpack during classes and come out when I had time between. In the evenings, I'd type out anything I wrote. I later started creating at the keyboard. I was lucky to finish one novel a year to that point and thought that was pretty good, although my writing was terrible back then. Workshops and critique groups over the years have helped me improve greatly.
It took sixteen years and about six or seven trunked novels since my college freshman year to write a story that a small publisher contracted. I was never a short story writer, but I loved novels and this one was part of a series. That's when things started happening for me, and that was only three years ago. Since then, the publishing landscape has already changed.
Two years ago, I decided to start self-publishing with Amazon's Kindle program and Smashwords. I haven't looked back since, although if a big publisher offered the right contract, I wouldn't turn it down.
It's been a long journey and, while the road behind and the road ahead are full of many bumps, I wouldn't quit for anything. I have always been a writer and always will be.