If you have read any of my works, then you have likely seen this author blurb:
Zachry Wheeler is an award-winning science fiction novelist, screenwriter, and coffee slayer. He enjoys English football, stand-up comedy, and is known to lurk around museums and brewpubs.
It’s crisp, lean, and intentionally vague, as I am never one to overstay my welcome. My writing world is a peculiar place filled with good beer and bad puns, which I’m always happy to discuss when asked. But for the most part, I prefer to stand in the corner with the other nerds and talk about anything other than myself. Nevertheless, I do get asked about my history from time to time. So I thought, why not document it for posterity? (Read: keep my facts straight.)
And voila! I give you my official, extended, author-approved backstory.
Zachry Wheeler, A Bio of Sorts
The first thing I can say about my writing history is that I never intended to be a writer. I went to college to become an accountant, and I wish there was a punchline to follow that statement. I made it through half the curriculum before caving to boredom and switching to Computer Science (no offense to the ledger jockeys). Luckily, all of my classes counted as elective credit, so it wasn’t a giant waste of time. I remember sitting in class thinking, “If this what my life will be like, I might as well end it now.” Thank goodness I had the keen insight to switch to a more exciting career in, um … programming.
I graduated in the late 90’s. Yup, I left college with a computer degree right before Y2K. At the time, big-tech companies were handing out jobs to anyone who could spell “computer.” I also had the extreme foresight (blind-ass luck) to teach myself web development as it was gaining momentum. I oopsie-doodle back-flipped into a solid career.
That’s when my writing life began, but I didn’t know it at the time. Most people think that programming is just staring at code all day. And in a sense, it is. But, there are a lot of other tasks that go along with it, including a large bolus of technical writing. Think documentation, wikis, manuals, etc. At a baseline, most competent programmers are actually decent writers. They need a strong grasp of language in order to do their jobs. It takes a certain amount of editorial skill to translate blocks of machine code into meaningful user instruction. That’s why Technical Writing is its own career. The good ones are worth their weight in gold because they alleviate a lot of user confusion and training costs.
This is why I can say that I have been writing professionally for longer than I’ve been a writer. It took me a while to realize that coding was writing, which also gave me the tools to develop my own writing platforms. I have owned and operated several online ventures, everything from review sites to news outlets. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I had crafted a bypass to the reputation grind. I had the next best thing: a killer web presence.
When I decided to write fiction, I already had the basic tools. I still needed to learn hooks, structure, provocation, etc. You know, the things that make books interesting as opposed to sleeping aids. The first draft of my debut novel Transient actually read pretty well as a thesis on vampire biology, but the story lacked pacing and plot. It sucked, in other words, which kind of defeated the purpose.
That’s when my writing career began to take shape. I started learning more and more about the craft. I read constantly and devoured every pro tip I could find. The most exciting moment came when I was reading a book and could actually critique it. “This writing sucks and this is why it sucks.” (I was reading my own book, but that’s beside the point.) I had gained the insight I needed to write decent fiction. I was by no means at a Douglas Adams level, but I finally had momentum and I’ve ridden it ever since.
That’s what writing is to me, a never-ending battle of brain-melting masochism. It’s a skill you never truly master, which I find endlessly appealing. I enjoy learning new things and writing offers a bottomless pit of improvement. My appetite shows no signs of abating, so I hope to continue this journey for many years to come. Few things are more rewarding than a happy reader, so I promise to keep writing if you keep reading.