In a post from a while back, agent Jennifer Jackson (link above) asks, "What did you want to be when you grew up?"
I don't remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer. Writing runs in my family. My mother and father met because they both worked for the local newspaper. My grandmother and grandfather met because, you guessed it, they both worked for the same newspaper. My great-grandfather was also a journalist. Ink runs in my veins instead of blood. But unlike my journalist ancestors, I wanted to write fiction. And not short stories, either, but full-length novels.
By fourth grade I wrote something fictional every day and I had a T-shirt made that read, "I'd rather be writing." (Nerdiness, thy name is Ellen:-). At age eleven I wrote three articles for the local newspaper (and discovered that I really loathed writing nonfiction). I wrote kind of erratically, rarely finishing a book but starting gazillions of them. I did complete a 70-page book about dogs in fourth grade and a 200-page book about horse racing in junior high (although I didn't learn the value of editing until later:-). But what really mattered was that I had a compulsion to write. This meant that I practiced, every day, not because I wanted to but because I had to.
In college I wrote a 400-page historical romance novel, sneaking into the computer lab to write it when I should have been writing papers (which probably accounted for my generally mediocre grades). That book sucked, to be perfectly honest, but I learned a lot while writing it. You can't write four hundred pages, even four hundred crappy pages, and not learn SOMETHING.
How did I get from that point to writing something publishable? Hmmm... well, this post is getting kind of long. I'll post about that tomorrow:-).