ORIGINS: Jim Hines

I became a writer because I didn’t know any better.

I had dabbled with fiction occasionally as a kid.  I once wrote a letter to a Star Trek author, asking how I could get into Trek novels too.  (I got a form letter and a flyer advertising her books.)  A few of my friends and I wrote a short-lived shared-world SF thing for a while.  But it wasn’t until college that the plotbunnies truly got their claws into me.

I had this friend who wanted to be a SF/F writer.  As I was a lifelong geek, he occasionally asked me to read some and comment on his stuff.  Eventually, I decided this writing thing looked like fun.  And after all, how hard could it be?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the first real thing I wrote was a novel-length adventure … about my Dungeons and Dragons character.  It was bad.  Painfully bad.  You wanna see how bad?  Check out the opening paragraphs:

The clouds seemed to glow with an inner light as the sun began to disappear behind the mountains to the west.  Brilliant orange clouds hovered over the dark silhouette of the trees in the distance.  In the east, the sky was darker.  A few stars were beginning to appear in the sky.

The forest was full of noise.  The sound of leaves rustling against themselves blended with the rattling beat of a woodpecker hunting for food.  Nearby, the gentle murmuring of a river added its contribution to the symphony of nature.  There was a quiet chirping noise, followed by a splash.

I’m sad to say, it doesn’t get any better.  But I had fun.  This was in college, when I was struggling to write five-page papers for class, but I wrote over 50,000 words for this book.

I tried a few short stories next.  I started looking at submission guidelines.  I got my very first rejection from Marion Zimmer Bradley.  I discovered the Clarion workshop and applied to that.  Another rejection…

This is where I started to learn one of the most important lessons about making it as a writer: talent is nice, but mule-headed stubbornness is far more important.

Had I known then that it would take more than a decade to see my first book in print, or that I’d collect well over five hundred rejection letters, then perhaps stubbornness wouldn’t have been enough.  Fortunately, I also had ignorance on my side.  I didn’t know any better, so I kept writing and submitting and studying other writers and mentally taking every rejection with a grain of, “Oh yeah?  Wait until you see the next one!”

Ignorance isn’t always a good thing, of course.  I took bad advice as well as good.  I wrote short fiction because “everyone knows you have to write short fiction first,” when I really wanted to write novels.  I eventually learned to write a pretty good short story, even winning the Writers of the Future contest, so I can’t really complain.  But I spent a lot of time worrying about what I “should” be doing instead of writing what I really wanted to write.

When I finally got past the “should” and went back to writing what I wanted, it was a book that took me back to my D&D roots: a humorous, silly story about a nearsighted goblin runt who gets dragged along on an adventure.  Of course, everyone knows humorous fantasy doesn’t sell, especially when it has such clear gaming influences.  But it was so much fun to write, just like that very first book back in the nineties.

If you want to read that book and see how much my writing changed over those ten years, just stop by your local bookstore.  Goblin Quest was my first published novel with DAW, and a huge turning point both in my career and in my development as a writer.  That was when I really learned that it was good to listen to other writers and get their advice, but in the end, I do my best work when I stop worrying and simply write what I love.

Jim C. Hines is the author of more than forty published short stories, as well as six novels, including the Goblin Quest trilogy and his latest, Red Hood’s Revenge (in which Red Riding Hood is an assassin sent to kill Sleeping Beauty, who happens to be a ninja.)  His work has been translated into a half-dozen other languages (apparently the goblin books are huge in Germany, making him the David  Hasselhoff of fantasy).  Jim also spends far too much time online, blogging  about writing and whatever else strikes his fancy.

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One Comment to “ORIGINS: Jim Hines”

  1. hello!This was a really wonderful post!
    I come from milan, I was luck to approach your blog in yahoo
    Also I learn a lot in your Topics really thanks very much i will come daily

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