I started writing novels all of a sudden in May 2009. Why? To tell a story, of course, a story that had been squatting in my head and slowly brewing for over ten years. It was sparked into life by a visit to the cinema.
I’d always fancied the second male lead in the film we were going to see, the producer had consistently turned out high quality films and as a clincher, we had Orange Wednesday Two-for-One tickets.
The film was impressive cinematographically, but total pants as a story: implausible, unconnected, heaving with coincidences, obvious.
‘You know, I said to my husband, ‘I could do better than that.’
‘So why don’t you?’ he replied.
The demon seized me and three months after I tapped the first key I had 105,000 words of mangled crap. Then I set out to learn how to write.
Writers are storytellers. Luckily, human beings have a hard-wired need to hear stories. This is how family and personal history, customs, laws, traditions, myths and spititual teaching, philosopy, let alone heroic tales of love, war and sacrifice have passed down. They’ve been embellished along the way, of course.
Storytellers were always welcome in the hall and given respect through history. But mainly they told stories because that’s who they were and that’s what they did.
Although my novel writing was triggered by a light bulb moment at the cinema, I realised I’d felt the itch for a very long time. Since I could remember, I’d told funny stories about my experiences, somebody else’s dilemma or achievement and usually held my audience and got a laugh. I’d witten plays for my friends when I was small and trade articles or pieces for hobby magazines most of my life. The only ‘long writing’ I’d done before was my academic thesis of 18,000 words.
I found a story the other day on yellowed lined paper that I’d written when I was in the Upper Fifth (about 16 years old). It was about a boy experiencing the annual flood in the Camargue in southern France. He saw the warning sign of birds rising and helped the old ‘gardien’ secure the horses. The style lumped along and the description was shallow, but I was strangely moved by the characters. They were people of their environment. As I laid the two sheets back on the desk, I realised I’d conveyed the emotion created by my 16-year-old self to my current day self. Result!
I write what I write, what interests me. I don’t think I could have sustained that first novel draft if I hadn’t been so fired up by the story. And if my beta readers are right, I think my stories may well interest others.