What Started Me Writing – Part Two
If you have been paying attention, and I’ve no reason to suspect that you haven’t, you will recall how, after many years of dedicated toil and the destruction of several trees, I somehow wrote 4 first draft novels and a good hundred thousand words of 3 more without really noticing how much writing I tended to do. I had even gone as far as to place myself in front of a computer and recreate one of these novels in an electronic form which could be easily shared with friends and acquaintances, assuming I could make some.
In the end I didn’t send the MS out to query, although I did consider the matter very carefully indeed – and by this I mean “hyperventilated at the thought of anybody, anywhere, at all, ever, finding out I wrote”. I tried to picture myself explaining the plot of my novel to my parents, but happily my brain, in an act of supreme self-prersevation, repressed that one like it has never repressed anything before or since. I don’t think it has anyway. If it has, my inability to recall such an event suggests a hitherto unrealised talent in such areas.
So, there I was, slowly accumulating long hand drafts of novels I occaisionally thought about writing up in a “sensible” manner.
Then, my Cat died.
Naturally, I was somewhat upset. She was 19 years-old and had stuck by me through everything, partly because she enjoyed sitting on my chest with her claws on my jugular, but mainly because she knew I was a good source of poultry. Even now, 2 years later, I am welling up trying to find an emotionally neutral sentence capable of explaining just how much of a hole this left in my life.
So, discombobulated by my new felineless existence and habitually weeping over an excess of meat, I did what any (sort of) writer crippled by grief does: I joined Authonomy.
I was aware from the start that I would not be setting my cap for the Editor’s Desk. Such an achievement takes many hours of dedicated spamming and more praise than I am willing or capable of expressing. My goal was to get a bit of honest feedback and apply it to my novel with a view to thinking about submitting it to agents.
It did not end well.
In addition to the praise I was, frankly, bewildered by (I am under no illusions regarding my literary abilities), I recieved a missive from one charming man who did not appreciate the honest appraisel I had offered of his work (at his request). He, presumably driven by the belief my MC was a thinly veiled version of myself, told me she was boring and, rather helpfully, pointed out I was going about this Authonomy business all wrong. I concurred and have rarely visited the site since.
Well, I say rarely. I noticed my new friend had made the Editor’s desk and was enormously gratified to find many of the points I had raised being repeated by the people who know about this kind of thing. I’d like to think my new friend remembered me when he read those points, but given how many thousand comments he had been given, I doubt it.
Time moved on. I was able to concentrate again and my MS returned to its file on my hard drive.
However. One day I received another missive. My Authonomy profile had linked to my old blog; on my old blog was an email address; they used this email address to get in touch with me, to tell me they had enjoyed my chapters, noticed I was not on the site anymore, but hoped I was going to finish the MS.
I never replied to them. I intended to, but my intention became lost among the thousand other things I intend to do daily. I salute you now and forever, kind stranger. Your trouble moved me to look at my MS again.
I rewrote it. I didn’t intend to, but once I realised it was needed, I was liberated. During the rewrite, I realised I loved doing it. I realised how much I want to spend my time making stuff up and writing it down. It makes me happy in ways other things do not. I have mentioned before I have no pressing desire to go into a shop and see my book there, with my name on it; I want to write and I want to do so well.
It is an odd thing to look back and realise that one MS has had – I estimate – in excess of 400,000 words put into it. That’s 4 novels worth of words. Of course, the vast majority of them were rather terrible and were taken out later, but that’s still an almighty number.
That MS was sent out on submission. It failed utterly for a lot of reasons – so many I may even make a helpful pie-chart – but justly so. It was the first thing I sent out into the world and it’s important because without it, I wouldn’t feel as I feel about sending my next one out: marginally confident.
There is a reason I have provided this rather convoluted story of how I came to write a novel.
One of the biggest challenges for me, as a person, was getting hold of the idea that it was okay for me to try and do this. As I mentioned in part one, I felt as though the kind of writing I would like to do, was not the kind of writing done by people like me. I got to the stage of being a writer (sort of) by doing it, then realizing what I had done.
I’ve shared this story with you, whoever you may be, because I am saddened by the way people – and I firmly include myself here – cling to ideas of how things are “supposed” to be. So many people think there are certain ways a writer has to go about things : outline, write every day, write a minimum of x-words a day, edit as you go along, don’t edit until the first draft is finished, the first draft should be wonderful, the first draft should be terrible, create character profiles, take online courses, include an exceptional dog. I hate the belief that it is necessary, just as I hate the belief these things are the magic X which will make it happen. You make it happen, random stranger, and you are capable of doing so without the psychological tricks.
All a writer has to do is write.
If you want something, do it. Do it until you realize what you’ve done. Knowing what you have done, go on and do it again.