By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

For Taran Becker, writing her first novel has been a journey of self-discovery.

In May, Becker, a Fort Hays State University freshman from Hays, began writing her book "Linked" about a teenage girl grappling with feelings of grief and guilt after her brother dies, a victim of a drunk driver.

Becker's interest in writing a novel emerged unexpectedly after she was hurt while participating in a soccer game her senior year at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School.

"I couldn't play to the best of my ability, so it frustrated me greatly," she said during a March interview. "So I was just very angry on the bus, and I just kept writing and writing.

"And over the summer, I wrote a lot because I had a knee surgery. ... I had a lot of down-time, sitting around a lot."

At a time when most teenagers are more comfortable with texting and emailing, Becker's original manuscript was handwritten. After writing until December, she began typing the novel.

"It was a struggle, but I think I'm more creative when I write it out on paper than when I type," Becker said.

In an attempt to enter her book into an online contest with a deadline only 11 days after she discovered the contest, Becker went into overdrive typing and editing.

"It was crazy," she said. "I thought it was going to be impossible to even finish, but I had to be finished by 11:59 p.m. on a certain night.

"I finished at 1:30 in the afternoon and I went to submit it, and they had already received the 10,000 submissions so they closed it early. I did all that work, and it felt like it was for nothing."

Recently, Becker has been submitting "Linked" to agents in the hope of having it published. In addition, she is considering setting up a self book-tour across Kansas this summer.

One day, she hopes to be a published author.

But, Becker said, if that doesn't happen, she might put her persuasive skills to use writing advertising copy for commercials or magazines.