Sunday, 11 April 2010

How do you know you suck?

When I started writing, almost thirty years ago, I really didn't care how good I was. That's easy for a four year old. As long as you can write your name and all the letters facing the right way, you're golden. 

I started writing actual stories when I was about seven or eight and still didn't care. 

At thirteen I got my first typewriter, not only could I type stories and make them look printed, I can type faster than I can write longhand. This was about the time I started showing my stuff to other people. And they all liked it. So I figured I was pretty good at it.

I wrote all through my teens, got a couple of poems published, stood up at the Love Apple once and did some stuff onstage. What did I care? I was a teenager, fearless I was. 

I wish I still was fearless.

It's a funny thing. The more you learn about your craft, the less you seem to know. In my early twenties I decided to get serious about writing novels and bought some books on the subject. Bad idea, I succeeded in killing my muse for about ten years.  Why? Because I wanted it to be better and for it to be good and done properly. It's taken me a long time to realise that there is no proper way to write. Each writer's ways of getting that story down are as individual as the writers themselves. 

I went back to writing in 2004. I had come across something called National Novel Writing Month and thought I'd have a crack at it. I had a few ideas but no outline, no tightly plotted line with action points marked in red pen. I struggled through it but I did it.

The year after, I failed the challenge entirely. It wasn't a writing problem so much as a life getting in the way problem. 

The year after, and every year since then, I've won, and won comfortably. I've given up going into it with anything more than some nebulous ideas scribbled on bits of paper. I let myself leap into the unknown with no plot and just then everything develop.

Call me an OLPer (organic linear plotter - I think) or call me a pantser (as in flying by the seat of-) the label doesn't matter. What matters is the realisation that I do not plot and I do not plan and I simply cannot sit down and draw up a plot-line with action points on it. 

So I'm writing again now. Good stuff. Now the problem is, how good is it? Worth reading? Worth publishing?  The only way I'm going to learn the answers to that is if I let people read it. I'm assured that it's definitely worth reading, publishing may be another matter. When I've polished the novel enough to send out, then I'll know. 

1 comment:

  1. "All I ever needed was right here
    But I had to reach way down inside
    I had to have faith I'd find - No fear." (Terri Clark.)

    Sounds to me as if I might be just a bit further down that same road you're on, Elle - I've gotten up the courage to send my work to readers and other writers, and gotten my share of both praise and criticism for it.

    When you're ready to take that leap, keep me in mind, I'd be interested to see what you've been working on.