How I Started Writing: The K.M. Weiland Novels No One Will EVER See

How I started writing? That’s a question I get asked a lot, and it’s a question that came up more than once in last week’s giveaway post when I asked you what you’d like to know about me and my writing life (and, by the way, a super-huge thank you for such an awesome launch to this new blogging adventure!).

My usual answer to “how did you start writing?” goes something like this: Uhhhhhhhhh…. (during which I make pained faces and offer a thousand-yard stare as I try to remember back to a time when I didn’t write).

But, wait, yep–there it is! There was a time when I didn’t write (I wanted to be a veterinarian–until I saw a calf being born on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, decided it was too icky, and changed my ambition to being a horse trainer). There was not, however, ever a time when I didn’t tell stories.

In the Beginning: My First Stories

My very first memory is of myself at about age two. I was up in a tree house at a family reunion. And what was I doing? You guessed it! Making up a story. This one was about how I would turn into a superhero should bad guys attack and save everyone (especially my favorite aunt).

The first story I remember writing was probably in first or second grade. There was a troll, and he was grumpy, and it ended badly. For better or worse, I couldn’t convince my mother to go rummaging through scrapbooks to find a copy to share with you.

But that’s kinda all prologue anyway.

In the Middle: The Newsletter Years

My writing really began at age eleven when I decided it would be fun to force my younger brother and sister into helping me produce The Straight From the Horse’s Mouth Newspaper. It featured blatant copyright infringements against wildlife and poetry books, advertisements for products we were totally unprepared to sell, and original stories. Mine were all about . . .  horses (sensing a theme here?).

Straight From the Horse's Mouth Newspaper by K.M. Weiland

The Straight From the Horse’s Mouth Newspaper started out as a typewritten, carbon-copied bi-fold, then eventually migrated to my very first hand-me-down PC.

After a couple months, my siblings mutinied. Left to my own devices, I evolved the family newspaper into the commercial ($5 a subscription!) newsletter Horse Tails. It went through a number of face lifts and lasted sixty issues and five years, right through high school. It only ever netted about thirty subscribers, but it got me to write hundreds of short stories and articles.

Horse Tails Newsletter

Turned out Horse Tails also taught me a lot about design over the years.

The End of the Beginning: The Novels No One Will Ever See

And then came the novels!

I think my first novel (for which I’ve been trying all week to remember its title and which just came to me: Tuff and the Tornado!) was written when I was eleven-ish. It was about a bull rider and an orphan girl, but it disappeared in one of those regrettable teenage episodes of embarrassment when it got burned.

My first “real” novel (at age thirteen) was about a barrel racer who was fighting emotional scars over her childhood abandonment by her parents. (My email address at that time was, so you know where the inspiration for that came from. Also, I was in love with Ty Murray.) It started out as a trilogy (see! I do do sequels!) but all the books were so short, I ended up combining them.

Thus Cry the Winds

I had to work admirably hard to get that “wind” motif to make any sense in the story.

After that, I was hooked. I think I was fifteen by the time I finished Thus Cry the Winds (nice poetic use of that fancy word “Thus,” don’t you think?) and started my first historical novel: the western For Justice inspired by Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett (who were my frequent riding partners out in the Nebraska sandhills). This one was all about a young Irish girl, living in the Arizona Territory in the late 1800s, who witnessed her family’s murders and took it upon herself to avenge them (but it wasn’t for revenge, it was “for justice.” Get it?). Naturally, she fell in with some charming outlaws.

For Justice by K.M. Weiland

As you can see, I was experimenting at that time with using my middle name for my nom de plume. So that answers one of the questions I know you wanted to ask!

Somewhere in my teens, I discovered (American) football. I’ve never been the same since. Naturally, I had to write about it. My story was about a cocky rookie quarterback trying to escape his legendary father’s shadow. He gets drafted by the Dakota Lightning (cleverly avoiding legal issues right there) and falls in love with the coach’s niece (also an orphan–hmm, sensing another theme here…). The poor girl then tragically ends up with a completely unforeshadowed bout of spinal meningitis. Naturally, he gets his act together and wins the Super Bowl for her.

Bria's Play by K.M. Weiland

Spiffy team logo, right?

And then finally, around age eighteen, I stumbled onto a writing how-to book at the library. Light bulbs started going off, angels started singing–and writing started to get a lot harder. My fourth book was a huge period of growth for me, but, honestly, it’s so bad I can hardly even remember writing it. It was about a girl who was captured and raised by Indians, until she was finally discovered by a guilt-ridden cavalryman who returns her to her family–where she struggles to fit in. I do remember the plot would probably have been a whole lot more interesting if the Indians had attacked a whole lot sooner.

Sierra Sunrise by K.M. Weiland

The book was baaaaad. But I did write a pretty good song to go along with it (one of only three songs I’ve written in my entire life–unless you count the one when I was ten about “kicking my brother in the nose”).

And from those delightful, nostalgic, ignominious beginnings has come my writing career, ladies and gentlemen. Needless to say, the rather spiffy covers are the only thing you’re getting to see of these books. Ever.

Let’s chat! If you’re a writer–do you remember your first story? If you’re a reader–do you remember the first story you read that captured your imagination? Tell me in the comments!

How I Started Writing: The K.M. Weiland Novels No One Will EVER See

Enjoy this post?

MainAvatar-1Want to make sure you never miss a post? Sign up for K.M. Weiland's mailing list to hear all the latest tidbits, get updates about new releases, and receive a free copy of her epic medieval novel Behold the Dawn.


  1. robert easterbrook says:

    Well, anything I say isn’t going to compare with your writerly history, Ms Kathryn Marie 😉 I’m not even published the traditional way as yet. Sheesh! Oh, did that sound a little optimistic?

    What I remember is very little. My earliest childhood memory is me played with metal, jet fighter on the back porch in the spring sunshine. That was pretty much my childhood until I found model trains and it was my new passion that last until the end of my teens!

    As for writing, I’m not sure when I first started keeping a diary; mostly a dream diary later. But that was the extent of my writing for quite a while. That’s because I wanted to be a teacher and had to go to university to train for that, but it never actually worked out like that. Oh, I was teacher, sure; but not the kind of teacher I dreamed of when I 10 years old.

    In university, I was conscripted by my pals to write for the university newsletter. It was worse than your Horse Tails – some of the stories were just hilariously wrong and stupid. I thought it was fun, at first. But then I thought it was a waste of time and by my third my enthusiasm had waned. In 4th year, I observed the newsletter from afar, not without some nostalgia.

    After the Bachelor days, I didn’t do more than keep a diary, though I had these itchy feelings that I should be writing. But I ignored the feelings until I was doing my PhD.

    I wrote my first full-length novel while completing my PhD. Don’t ask what came over me; I can’t explain it. One day I just woke and I had to write a novel. There were no horses whinnying outside my bedroom window, :P, or anything other animals, or gentlemen from famous native American tribes. Nope. Just this feeling – an itch that needed scratching. A compulsion.

    By the time I finished writing that Sci-fi space opera ‘masterpiece’, my Opus Magnum, I was hooked on writing. At the time, I felt like I had climbed mount Everest, but all I’d done was breaststroke the length of the school pool, which I’d never done before because I was hopeless in the water.

    How will this story end? Let you know when I get published by a traditional publisher. 😉

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I don’t know about that: I think *every* book is Mt. Everest. Every book is the biggest challenge we’ve faced yet–and the most exhilarating climb. Thanks for sharing your writing journey!

  2. Lydia Hansen says:

    Oh man! I’m totally in envy of you having such spiffy covers for your books, though! Mine have always just had a plain-o, plain-o white page with the title on it in big letters. I should definitely have spent some time on design. 😉 If only for the nostalgia for when I’m older. 😉

    Have to say, I’m glad you got past the horse frenzy. Though I haven’t read all your books yet (working on it), it seems to me that you’ve shifted the focus from horse-crazed protagonists to real people (who might have a thing for horses, but aren’t unnaturally obsessed with them. ;D) And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a really, really good thing. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Hah, yes. I think Storming, my next book coming out (about barnstorming pilots in the 1920s) is the first book I’ve written without a single horse in it. 😉

  3. Wow, my stories never got spiffy covers like yours! 😉 They did get thrown into numerous binders, though.

    My problem was I kept rewriting the same stories. So I don’t have that many from that era. My first foray into serious writing was Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys fan fiction. I even contactei Simon & Schuster about ghost writing for the series that were going on then! Sadly, that never came about. Or, maybe it was better that they didn’t! Around that time, I joined Sisters in Crime, and an article about a teenage author who was published by a local small press inspired me to keep going since she was close to my age. Probably made me more determined than ever.

    Ah, well, good memories. 🙂 Love hearing about your past!

  4. Perhaps one day you can return to all those themes… at the same time! Billy the Kid rescues a girl who had been taken by indians and she is then reintegrated back into her old life, except her parents were killed so she is on her own and she ends up meeting a football star who is struggling under the weight of his father’s shadow but then the girl decides to find out who killed her parents so she goes out and hunts them down… for justice. I see potential here!

  5. Nice one. I actually feel out of place hearing almost every writer started writing at such an early age. I only started about 4 years ago. I guess it was because I did not really start reading until after my bachelor degree. During library periods in my school days, I would be going through the encyclopaedia pages reading about cats and dogs. Yeah, I was a big animal lover, and my writing touches on that, as well as my love for sports.
    My first project was a historic fiction about my favourite football club, Juventus FC. I think I worked on that for about 2 years before abandoning it for another story. I am still working on that, but I have already published a novella on a different subject on Amazon. Predictably, there is football and some form of animal animal connection (If you consider monsters and dragons as animals, of course).

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I know many, many wonderful writers who started at a much later age than even you. Sometimes I think there’s a great advantage to starting later, since you have more life experiences to bring to your work.

  6. I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller. A wrote and drew comics in my early years. I decided my artwork was too atrocious (when is atrocious not too atrocious, right?). Also, by age 10 I was finding superhero stories too limiting, and fell in love with sci-fi and westerns. An interesting combination. I gave up on comics and started started thinking about screenplays. My goal was to create a new western TV series. The problem was, I didn’t want to have to move all the way to Los Angeles. It seemed so far away to a 13 year old boy from Maine. On top of that, Hollywood was largely giving up on westerns. Then my father suggested I try writing a novel, and I was hooked. My first was really a short novella, 161 handwritten pages, and it was called The Outlaws. It was about two brothers who are misunderstood and find themselves on the run from the law. 161 handwritten pages can seem like a lot to a kid who has never tried writing a story before. Then a high school teacher told me about writers like Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour who wrote for a living. It was there job. I said, “Well, sign me up.” I have never wavered from that goal. Today,thanks to Amazon, I’m making a modest but somewhat comfortable living writing and self-publishing westerns. The manuscript for The Outlaws has long since been lost, but I might write a novel based on it someday and put it on Amazon.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I congratulate you! Westerns are a hard niche to be successful in these days. It’s kind of funny: you went from superheroes to westerns, and I’ve gone from westerns to superheroes (my WIP is about a Regency-era superhero–kind of “Jane Austen meets Spider-Man.”).

  7. Oh, thanks for sharing this! It´s lovely to know how other writers started.
    And, wow, you did start with novels very young.
    I started writing as soon as I learned too, but mostly I wrote fanfiction back then, and mostly wonder woman or superhero stuff. THEN I discovered Harry Potter and I changed to a whole new level. By the age of 16 I had written books 5, 6 and 7 by myself. All that work was thrown away or lost and my sister keeps asking me why, lol. I also loved making comics. I would write a script and me and my cousins would take the necessary pictures so I could put it all together later! It was a lot of fun.
    I started early with my own short stories too and when I won my first award I knew this was what I wanted to do for a living 🙂
    It also took me a lot of years to write a novel that is actually worth it!

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      You know this reminded me (for some reason): I forgot that I wrote some (very bad) plays when I was ten or eleven. Sadly, they were lost too. That’s always regrettable!

  8. I’ve been making up stories in my head ever since I can remember, wrote a few down, and I’ve always kept journals.

    I fancied myself as an artist early on, my friends were rock musicians, and I hung out in Greenwich Village back when it was full of hippies and mad poets. 🙂 I went through a poetry-writing phase myself, scribbling poem after poem, usually while waiting for the subway train or in seedy diners at 3AM.

    Then the need to actually make a real living took priority, and working long hours in the corporate world prevented me from pursuing my passion until later in life.

    I wrote my first full-length novel in 2003, when I finally left the corporate world behind after 30 years.

    The first novel was at least three different genres in one huge tome. I thought it was wonderful, and I entered it in a writing contest, haha.

    I still have a copy of it sitting in a manuscript box in my closet. It wasn’t a bad story, but totally unpublishable. I’ve “stolen” characters and settings from that story over the years.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I love stories about people rediscovering their early passions. Life has its own path for us–one we could never plan ourselves–but it’s always lovely when it decides to come full circle.

  9. From your lips to G-d’s ears, Katie.

  10. Well, I don´t know if it´s something to regret or the be thankful for! I´m sure my old pieces were very bad too! lol

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Ah, I don’t know, I think it’s sad to have that piece of ourselves–even if it’s not necessarily a brilliant piece. They’re all valuable!

  11. Whether I get to read your fiction or not, Ms. Weiland, I am in awe of you.
    (And especially thank you for writing “OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL.”)

  12. My first book was called Bootsie the Courageous House Cat and that sucker was fully illustrated. By me. My mom laughed and showed everyone. I was humiliated. My marvelous piece of art was being Laughed. At. I threw it away 3 or 4 times before it actually made it to the garbage man (which makes me think my mom might have actually liked it…) and I never wrote another word for fun until a marriage conference years later. And I haven’t stopped writing since! 🙂

  13. At the risk of sounding critical I have to say that in your blog post you hit on one of my pet peeves. Your story did not have a calvaryman in it it had a cavalryman in it. Calvary is where Christ was crucified. The cavalry is the branch of the US Army that used horses for fighting. Now I’ll get off my soapbox and answer your question.

    The first book I ever read that made me want to become a reader was Lester Del Rey’s Runaway Robot. I read it in the fifth grade and was hooked. Later on I would go on to write some inspirational non-fiction when I was in college that no one but my wife will ever read. I would like to try my hand at fiction but never know how to start. I have been reading books on the craft of writing, including yours, but have yet to successfully put any of what I have read onto practice.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Hah. You’re right. That’s one of those words I *always* misspell. In fact, I think it was in writing that book that my spellchecker first taught me that the two words were even spelled differently to begin with. :p *goes to correct herself*

  14. I still have the first story I ever wrote down. Long hand. With a number 2 pencil. It was about wild horses and the over arching theme was a whole lot like the Thomas C. Hinkle horse novels I was reading at the time. I was in the eighth grade or thereabouts.

    Before that, I was more interested in drawing than in writing so the stories I told were told with crayon. Usually on paper grocery sacks my mother tore apart for me. Art was my main thing for years. It’s only been in the last six that I’ve turned back to writing fiction.

    To date, I’ve written eight or nine novels. None of them have been published, but more than half of them are complete and three or four have been rewritten numerous times. I still get them out once in a while to remind myself what my writing was like “back in the day….” since most of them are 20 years old or more.

    That’s not the only thing we have in common (other than the horse thing). Writing got a lot harder after I started learning how to do it right for me, too. Sometimes, I’d give almost anything to have those carefree days back.

    By the way, delivering a calf isn’t all that bad. I’ve done it alone a couple of times and assisted my Dad countless times. That’s what comes of growing up on a dairy farm.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Yay for adolescent horse stories! And yay for drawing your own illustrations–which I never could manage. And, yeah, if the writing bug hadn’t grabbed me I probably could have gotten over birthing calves–I’ve stood by while the vet dealt with prolapsed cows at the ranch where I worked during the summers growing up.

  15. I quite agree that every book is a Mount Everest of its own….

    …though some of them look suspiciously like the Rockies. The whole range!

  16. The mentions of fan fiction remind me that I’ve done my share of that, too.

    In high school, a couple of friends and I wrote several stories together. I’d write a chapter, then the next gal would write a chapter, then the next one. By the time the story got back to me, it was tough to remember where it was going!

    We dabbled with The Wild, Wild West, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, and some Emergency (I know, I’m dating myself, here), but most of our stories were Star Trek. With the original crew.

    I just wish I knew where those went!

    By the way, Katie, one of the first “full length” novels I ever worked on featured a scientist from the future who was running for his evil boss on a charge of murdering his brother. He ended up in the old west! Little did I know at the time how far ahead of the curve that would be. Alas, I have no idea where it is, either.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I did some co-writing early on with a friend too–although we alternated every other page. It was a ton of fun!

  17. You see all sorts of things working around animals.

    I live in town now, but am still dealing with animals. Four orphaned kittens at the moment. I’ve begun wondering if I should be writing a book about all our cat adventures instead of fiction. My husband thinks so. He even has a title.

    House Lions.

  18. The first story I remember writing was a colorful, self-illustrated booklet about the littlest witch. (Yes, she had a pointy hat, not to mention glasses, which were totally cute:) The first I remember finishing was “How the Elves Saved Christmas,” heavily influenced by the kids movie about toys who saved Christmas, and I might add, complete with Rudolph and Clarice. (Copyright infringement may have occurred there, I’m not so sure;)

  19. Patrick Null says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing your humble beginnings, Kathryn. I always love reading about how people started writing.
    As for me, I started writing when I was little. I remember my first story was about a football team whose team members kept getting injured, until there were only two players left, and they won the game. It sucked, but at that time, I thought it was gold.  I wrote a story called the Sandman, but I don’t even remember what that story was about anymore. I even dabbled in writing and drawing my own comic called Sammy the Wonder fish.

    After that, I stopped writing for quite a few years, and so that part of my life is hazy, as far as my writing is concerned. I didn’t start writing until my freshman year in college. I remember it was late at night and I was cramming for this exam, and this idea struck me, so I needed to write it down. It literally burned out of me. It was about my MC running across this mannequin in a store, and he starts slowly turning into a mannequin. I started babbling about it to this girl I didn’t know, and she looked at me like I was half out of my mind. Well, deprived of sleep and having no caffeine, I probably was.

    After I graduated, I joined this critique group that’s no longer in existence, and it’s there where I have developed most of my skills I have now. I literally wrote tons of stories (too numerous to count) and critiqued tons of stories as well. Oh, all the stories I’ve critiqued!

    All I have ever written are short stories, mostly for me and never for publication. I made a decision a couple of years ago to write a novel. Now, I’m trying to get it published. And that’s where I am in my writing journey.

    Thanks for sharing your story, K!

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I think having people look at us as if we’re out of our minds is something all writers have to get used to pretty early on!

  20. Gina Scott Roberts says:

    Like you, I’ve been making up stories ever since I can remember and started writing them down as soon as I could. My first attempt at ‘real writing’ was when I was about 15, I think. I’d been playing a game with my niece, nephew and two step-nephews (their mom is now an ex so I have to specify here) about police officers who were part of a special non-violent team (a la CHiPS attempt at a spin-off Force Five) chasing bad guys who used gas for their robberies. Naturally, it got dark before we finished but I was curious about how it would have come out. Thus was born Force 9, a quick story to finish the story of the game that turned into about five short books. Then I left behind my non-violent phase and moved on to the a miserable attempt at a western and ninja. THEN began the Felina series (yes, that’s where the email comes from), about a band of mercenaries. When Felina became too hard to deal with for personal reasons, I began working out a series based on British spies. Supposedly, a romance novel with espionage overtones that is turning into more of an espionage story with romantic overtones

    Not matter what I write, though, two elements continue to be woven into all my work: strong female characters due to my being raised to believe a woman is every bit as capable as a man (and getting pissed when a local bookstore put all the action and adventure books under the heading of “men’s adventure”) and some element of romance because my father once told me I should always include an element of romance in whatever I write and being a good Daddy’s Girl, I listened.

    I’ve written through good times and bad, used writing to vent and problem solve ever since I can remember and don’t see that changing. I’ll probably die at the keyboard, trying to get that one last story out before I go….

  21. Catherine H. says:

    My first stories I wrote in kindergarten. They were all about a girl named Jane (which I was convinced at the time was spelled “Jan”). They’re still floating around somewhere. Then when I was ten I wrote a “chapter book” called ‘Danger in the Forest’ about a unicorn named Princess Diana and her family Queen Jewel, Princess Rose, and Prince Rocky. I even illustrated it. I thought it was the best thing in the world. Now I look at it seven years later and cringe.

    Now I’m in the process of re-vamping a novel I started when I was twelve. It had some serious character, plot, and structural issues, but the foundation for a good story was there. Your website has been a huge help, especially your series on story structure and common writing mistakes.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Haha. Yes, the nostalgic spelling mistakes of our youth. And pronunciation mistakes. I’m still notorious in my family for pronouncing Gibraltar “Gibble-tar.”

  22. Thanks for sharing your story. I’ll never forget attending my first writer’s conference in San Francisco, and asking an up and coming fantasy author how many novels they wrote before their first published novel… because the answer was ZERO. I couldn’t wrap my head around getting it right the first time around. Since then, I figured she must have rewritten the same story over and over until she got it right. That counts as at least a couple novels in my head because the plot likely changed in dramatic ways. Anyway, thanks again for sharing!

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Honestly (and perhaps a little unfairly), my knee-jerk reaction whenever I hear the big “ZERO” answer is to cringe inwardly. Unless that writer is the prodigy of prodigies (which, of course, is totally possibly), I really, really don’t wanna read that book.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.