Friday, February 24, 2006

All I Ever Wanted

The one thing I've always been good with is words. It's a very specific talent though. My skill is in painting pictures with words.

It might have been nicer if I'd had a knack for telling stories. When I was starting out, I could have made money from stories. I might even have finished my novel ten years earlier than I did.

When I was much, much younger, roughly from seventeen to twenty two years old, I wrote around 300 poems. Some of them found their way into fanzines or found themselves used by the bands of people I vaguely knew. Others I gave away, usually to girls in whose knickers I hoped to get.

It never worked. Or rather it DID work, spectacularly so but I was too young and stupid to realise just how well it had worked. The poems provided an avenue to allow a degree of emotional openness men so rarely attempt, let alone achieve. I could write the words and reveal my hunger, my rage, my fear or whatever. Each of them made me somehow alluring. That's the other thing I wish. I wish I'd known at the time just how powerful the effect of my words was.

It's not the real regret though. I did eventually get rid of my virginity (I was twenty nine years old and that's a story for another time). My real regret is, I could never make a living as a poet.

I realised that pretty quickly and began to try writing short stories. They were very short, in effect prose poems that drew pictures instead of telling stories.

As an exercise, the leader of a writers' workshop I was in briefly, tried to stir up our creativity by having us write fifty word stories. That's the story boiled down to its bare essentials. The thing is, my creativity didn't NEED to be stirred up, it was dancing with fireflies already, sizzling and snapping like snow on a grill. What I needed was some way to hold it in check long enough to write.

I did finish stories. I even sent them off to Interzone, the Gate, and Aboriginal SF, the only three magazines that would take SF/fantasy/horror short stories from people in England. They all turned me down and when I finally got a rejection slip (I remember, it was for a story called Seventeen) that said, "this is a fine story and moves along well but is not suitable for Interzone", I knew, at the age of 27, that if I was ever to make a living from writing, I'd have to write a novel.

I was 37 when I finally finished it. I thought it was really good but came to realise that the words were good, it was well written and every scene jumped out of the page, seeming real to the reader, but as a storyteller, I was far too dull.

That threw me into a spin. I sank into a deep depression. Princess Diana died. My father died and I managed to crawl out of the hole I'd dug myself.

I tried to sell the novel as slowly it became dated. I even found someone who loved it (but loved me more). Now I need to write another but it's 8 years since I finished the last one. I've written a screenplay since then but it's for a movie nobody will ever make (Rapunzel set amongst the stars).

To write for a living. To do nothing but write is STILL the only thing I want out of life. Nothing else comes close.


Blogger Alan Saunders said...

I like your blog. Keep it up. I've always thought that being successful at writing and the arts is more a matter of luck than skill. Going from short stories to a novel seems a big jump. Are there ways you could do short articles for magazines about things you know about or emjoy - music for example? Maybe this would give you more confidence/incentive to tackle grander works.

Best wishes

Alan Saunders

Sunday, 05 March, 2006  
Blogger Alcuin said...

Thanks Alan

Yes, I agree that luck is involved but only in the sense that I made decisions without all of the facts available. In retrospect, I think I would have moved to Canada (or possibly New York City) so that I had a bigger market for SF short stories (Astounding/Analog or Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine for example).

Moving from short stories to a novel IS a big jump, but not as big as moving from poetry to short stories.

I have sold a total of one article to a magazine (it was an online recruiting magazine and the article was on handshaking). I know I can do it. it's not a lack of confidence, just a lack of application.

Sunday, 05 March, 2006  
Blogger Alcuin said...

Still, this is all I want. And yet I procrastinate. Even when I took time off work to try Nanowrimo this year, stuff happened so I only got a 57 page novellette written. It would be so good to have the sheer old fashioned stick-at-it-ness that would let me write say ten pages of publishable prose a day, every day. Ahh that would be the very heaven.

Saturday, 24 December, 2011  

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