Being a Writer: How I became one and why I can never stop.
Many years ago when I was a Firefighter based in East London I had an idea for a book. It was an idea borne from my love of all things science fiction, an interest in A.I. and my fascination with robotics as introduced to me in books by the author and Professor Isaac Asimov. After mulling (and by mulling, I of course mean procrastinating for bloody ages!) over ideas for the book I finally, some years later, sat down and began to write. Having written about a chapter I showed my new masterpiece to a member of my family. His full critique consisted simply of “Rip it all up and start again.” I’m sure there was a perfectly good reason for this reaction but, at the time, I wasn’t able to extract anything from it that might help me develop as a writer. The one thing I did learn from this experience however was that in future I should simply write what I wanted to and, if the reader didn’t like what I’d written then he or she didn’t need to read it. Now that may sound somewhat harsh or disrespectful of the reader, but not at all. It simply acknowledges and respects that if, as a writer, you are to write everything that the readers wish to read then you are never going to successfully challenge them or introduce them to ideas that they themselves may not have considered before. After all, if all you’re going to do is tell a story that the reader can conjure up themselves, then what’s the point?
This early experience with such a brutally honest critique put me off the idea of writing…for several years in fact…and it was only when the hunger for writing resurfaced a year or so ago that I gave it serious consideration again. After some thought (and only a smidgeon of procrastination this time) I sat down and tried to write the book that I had originally abandoned so many years previously and soon found that words and ideas spilled out onto the page as quickly as I could type them. Clearly the seed of this story had taken hold and had been quietly forming within me as the years had ticked by and had merely been waiting for the opportunity to reveal itself to the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not postulating to be anything other than an aspiring writer and, as yet (and four books on) I still haven’t found myself able to think of myself as an author but…and this is the thing, regardless…I am a writer now. And I don’t see myself ever wanting to stop being one. It’s like becoming a member of a sales team and wanting to push for that one big sale…wanting to continue to write that one extra chapter before I go home for the night…and forever tapping up your friends for that extra nugget of information, that shiny quote or smart idea. Becoming a writer is, like most things creative, as addictive as heroin and as necessary as food.
I finished the book, Existential Anger, within a few months and showed it to a select few who gave it some constructive and valuable feedback and, once I edited it, I e-published it on Amazon. The process was simple and quick and, though I’m very unlikely to make anything in the way of life changing profits, I have at least found that the process of writing and publishing is both rewarding and surprisingly cathartic.
Having finished my first book, I found that I wanted to know more about the events that had led up to those discussed in it and, moreover, where an eventual sequel might lead the characters that I had created. As such I wrote the prequel (Shaking Libya) that served as the second instalment in the trilogy and I will write the final instalment once I have completed other books I have in the pipeline.
Between the publications of my first two books I took the time to write a children’s book, Homeless. The process of writing for a younger age group proved to be a fun experience and I also used the opportunity to illustrate the book, mainly to see if I could, but also to give it a more accessible feel. Again, upon finishing the book, I wanted to know what happened to the characters after the book ended and so decided to make it into a series of books that I will continue once I have completed my next project.
And now I find myself finishing a steampunk novel which I never intended to write but that simply popped into my mind one day when I was minding my own business. And once the bulb of this idea was switched on I knew that I would not be able to ignore it until I had shone it down onto paper.
The process of writing can be tremendously rewarding but can also be equally as frustrating. Though it is exciting to finally complete a scene I often find myself calmly driving to work whilst characters in my head are taking part in full scale conflicts in faraway lands or are battling to escape an army of the undead in an alternate timeline. I can be talking to someone and actually paying what I feel is full attention to then find myself drifting off into a scene that I realise has been looping over and over in my mind and which will continue to do so until I have suitably extracted it and committed it to paper.
Also, when writing, I find that many of the events or characters that I include are based on places I’ve been to and people I’ve met. As a consequence I often find myself having to expose myself (stop it!) as I relay conversations I’ve had with actual living people whilst I thread them into dialogue of imagined characters.
So be warned, when you are speaking to me I may be storing up your words so as to later quote you. However, when I do quote you, your words might this time be spoken by a Quizar’n General to one of his aides aboard an armoured Sciff as it scurries at speed along the surface of a blue sanded landscape in the light of Sluran’s third Moon, or it may be in the form of text written on an ancient tablet and later discovered by a Martian tomb raider. Such is the threat of the writer. All of my friends and family are now potential victims of my literary indiscretions as I constantly adapt and regurgitate experiences in the form of newly woven yarns.
Oh, and don’t even get me started about endings because sometimes when I struggle to think of a suitable ending I sometimes have to resort to…
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