If you’ve come to this page expecting to be intrigued rather than bored, you might want to look away now.
I would like to call myself a writer, but I think my words would disagree with me. There’s nearly a million of them, and only one of me, so it’s probably best that I err on the side of caution and just call myself a storyteller.
My writing life began when my father loaned me a typewriter. A very old typewriter. One that clattered loudly and, as I found out in later years, annoyed the rest of the family. It’s from those humble beginnings that my words manifested themselves into a semblance of legibility. In those days, the height of technology was a sheet of carbon paper that allowed two copies of the page to be produced at the same time. That’s if you didn’t put the paper in the wrong way around.
In later years, I bought an electronic typewriter that was said to hold several pages in memory for about a month. Some of it’s still there 20 years later, leaving little chance to hide from the embarrassment of so much rubbish. And it was rubbish. It’s been over 25 years since my first words hit paper and they were really so bad that they’re an insult to the tree that the paper came from.
I didn’t write much for about ten years, but the same story lurked in the shadows of my mind – ready to pounce at my lowest ebb. And pounce they did. Around about the turn of the millenium (I’m sure there’s something ominous about that), the words decided that it was time that they took control once more and out they came, like a waterfall cascade of gibberish and nonsense. 90,000 words burbled forth from my computer keyboard and, ashamed as I am to admit it, not all 90,000 were rubbish. So I tried for a sequel. Another 80,000 words. A few less of them were rubbish but, when put together, the idea for the story looked like it might work after all.
After another break, the year 2006 came along and the words promised that they would do better this time. A short but entertaining 40,000 word adventure demonstrated that there was life in the story that didn’t involve getting tied up in convoluted plots, mischievous characters, and a multitude of clichés. That story ended up being the first part of a 200,000 word trilogy – the third part of which finally convinced me there were hints of an epic adventure to tell in the few characters that had lurked in my head for so many years.
In 2007, I stumbled across the National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) – an annual challenge to all budding writers to spend their spare time during November writing 50,000 words. I hadn’t written to a deadline before, and I rather liked the idea of doing something that everyone else was doing, and so I chose the second part of the trilogy to be my 2007 NaNo. As it turned out, that story didn’t have more life in it than 60,000 words, but I learned a lot about how to tell a story that didn’t involve a huge amount of action. It also left me with the question of whether I needed NaNoWriMo in order to get a story done quickly. In 2008, the third part of the trilogy came along through my desire to have more action scenes. Over two months of just using weekends, that 120,000 word final part of the trilogy emerged, and it came out slightly better than I’d imagined it might.
After the trilogy, a spin-off story helped to persuade me that it was okay to not pigeon-hole my stories into some limited genre and that it was okay to play with the characters. This led to retreading over the old stories and ultimately to a major rewrite of the first two mostly-rubbish stories. Working on these three stories distracted me away from NaNoWriMo for two years (2008, and 2009) but I came back in 2010 to write the third (missing) story that I needed to put between the first two stories and the trilogy. That took me to a double-NaNo (100,000+ words) but didn’t get anywhere near finishing the story. I guess that’s what happens when you let characters control the story.
Today there are eight stories in the series so far, with the ninth in a tentative planning stage. Only four of the stories are in any way close to the finished product (i.e., protected from much in the way of major rewrites), and that third story still isn’t finished.
Over the past year or so, my writing has taken second place to a new hobby – running. I’m the least sporty person you could meet. I’m someone who idolises laziness like a religion. I don’t do exercise. But I caught the running “bug”. Every Saturday morning sees me at my local parkrun to run 5K around the local park, trying to beat my best time. If that was all running was to me, it wouldn’t be an issue, but I’m stupid enough to continue running during the rest of the week, too.
I now run 160-200km every month. I may be healthier than I’ve ever been, and I sure haven’t been this fit in my entire life, but this comes at a price – a severe lack of free time. I’m not putting in anywhere near enough time on my stories. I must find a better balance.