At this period of my life, the plans for what I do when I’m not working are very loose. Having to plan for a wedding and saving for it will mean that have to spend more time at home. This is a bummer, but it also means I could actually do something creative, like some work just for my own amusement. I now feel like there is no excuse for sitting at home watching random videos on YouTube whilst eating cookies. Don’t get me wrong, I take a lot of relish in being able to do that, but I don’t want to be that passive forever.
I have one simple goal that I’ve tried to achieve before in the past year once or twice but have stumbled at the first hurdle on both occasions. Whether it is the critic in me being overly harsh or just a lack of direction, every attempt has been brave but unsuccessful. I am talking about a different kind of writing than my usual efforts – a short story.
Back in the day, I really enjoyed handwriting made up bits of rubbish. Before I was interested in wanting a job reviewing computer games (this was roughly when I was an early teen), I was concerned with stories that weren’t necessarily sincere and grounded in reality, so I quite happily let my imagination run wild. Even though my interests, and indeed my idea of a career that I would enjoy, changed over the years I still enjoy daydreaming about a whole variety of different things, whether they are good incidents or things that make me cringe.
I read Stephen King’s part-memoir, part-advice book called On Writing a couple of years ago or so and I found it to be an eye-opening guide into how a really successful author wrote several best-selling books. I was so enraptured by it that I, perhaps naively, used it as a direct inspiration. Unfortunately, I forgot one important thing he mentioned:
Some of this book—perhaps too much—has been about how I learned to do it. Much of it has been about how you can do it better. The rest of it—and perhaps the best of it—is a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.
I spent too much time using the King method. The King method, for me, didn’t really work.
For far too long I looked at a blank page…then I started to get a few lines out of my system. After that, I stared at the screen some more…then scrawled some more words. At some point, I wondered what the hell I was doing and why I was wasting so much time on something I had decided in the heat of the moment was crap. So I went ahead and ignored it, returning to YouTube videos in the process. Nothing further was said about my endeavour; to me, it had died.
Last year, there was a TV show called Broadchurch. It was quite hard to miss. Anyway, Chris Chibnall is the man responsible for the brilliant, tightly-woven plot that kept me gripped for weeks. He explained to the Radio Times how he developed it:
I thought, I’m going to write something just for me. I am going to write the thing that I want to do and I am going to have complete control over it. So I took some time off and storylined it with a friend who’s a script editor. I bought some whiteboards and pens and set them up in the back garden. We had lots of cups of tea, then I would go away and write biographies for each character to have a sense of who these people are.
Now, I have no desire to write a TV show (unless my ego balloons intensely) and what he came up was impressively complex and multi-layered, but that quote lingered with me for some reason. It’s with that quote in mind that I decided to give fiction another go, this time borrowing a little bit from his methods. I took my little black notebook, put aside a bit of time last night, put on Lost Souls by Doves and wrote down an idea for a character. That character developed and I soon found out that details were starting to emerge very quickly. Then the eureka moment: I had a story.
It also made me realise how my past attempts had gotten so little traction – I just never planned. For me to come up with good pieces, regardless of whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I need to have a clear vision. I can’t just manufacture something on the spot.
This past week, I contributed my first review of 2014 to MusicOMH. The way that I went about it, in a way, confirmed my suspicions about the way that I write. I had a plan for my first draft and I stuck to it as much as I could. I then allowed myself to tinker with it and re-arrange certain sentences, take out unnecessary lines, etc. After a final draft, I finished up with one of the better reviews I’ve written recently, and I was very happy with it.
Now that I have a story, and that I know what it’s about and what emotions it’s going to convey and so on, I can actually go about writing it. It won’t be easy, and starting it is something I’m sort of half dreading, but there is a Point A and a Point B…and I am definitely sure that, somehow, there’s a good path of getting from one to the other. I am really excited to get going.
I have set myself a month-long deadline to complete it; I think this is easily achievable considering I have other things to do like reviews, my day job, wedding planning, etc. Either way, the aim is to sit here in a month’s time and say that I’ve written a story and to be happy with what I have done. Let’s see how this goes.