Put this off long enough…

Well, good morning and welcome to blogpost #1. An exciting day. More for me than you currently as I presently handily outnumber my readership. But nevertheless here the imaginary ‘we’ are, and on we go.

I feel like I’m writing an essay for school, so perhaps I should should start by outlining the subject.

I suppose the subject is me. But not in a navel gazing kind of way. Nothing wrong with that of course, if you are still physically capable, but there just isn’t much to see in there generally – clichés about lint abound. Old navels can have really quite grotesque materials lodged firmly in place, and it has in the past been my sad job to clean them out without gagging. Sometimes you should just leave it (the navel) alone. And for the record I don’t know why I had to go there when cleaning people, but it was in the spirit of “I’ve started so I’ll finish” coupled with “What’s that? Ohmigod! Can’t leave it there now I’ve seen it! Gaaah!”

So. The Blog. It is about a lazy person who decided not to be so lazy no more about his dream. And instead started a blog as a masterstroke of procrastination, at which said person is at least a state level competitor. This blog will go forth and ramble among the hedgerows of this motivationally-challenged person’s imagination, memory, and obsessions as he continues to try to not be quite so workshy. Some mile markers of progress may be shared, but that is it. Honest. All in a way that is not TOO unnecessarily sharey, and not necessarily grammatical. This person saves grammar for rainy days, or for instances when it absolutely must be employed. Like in the books I write. However this blog is intended to be an exercise in accountability and (self) motivation. And fun! When I can work out the dashboard controls and how to import thingies…

What is this dream, you ask?

It is writing. Ugh – there I’ve said it. Cue drum roll and every aspiring writer’s life story – I’ve read a few and they are all eerily similar. (Did I mention that this person’s laziness also expresses itself in a tendency to generalize and a certain disdain for looking up facts he cannot remember. Wikipedia is TOO FAR AWAY, for this individual. Sigh.) Anyway, the short and uninteresting. Mum read me The Hobbit at 5. I read it myself at 6. The old Allen&Unwin hardback cover in green with the black Tolkienesque (I suppose Tolkien-actual would be more accurate) dragon snaking around the bottom of the hard cover, and the lonely mountain was there too on the back I think, with the dwarven maps (yeah I write it dwarven – sue me) on the inside front and back covers – fabulous. It was a delightful other world, and one I loved to be utterly immersed in. The copy I read over and over was missing the last page. For years I had no idea Balin had upgraded to gold buttons. Anyway. I was a bloodthirsty child and by 7 I earnestly desired to write my own epic, but didn’t want to bother with the whole boring story part and get to the good bit – the big battle at the end. So… in a remarkable foreshadowing of later events, I wrote my own version of the battle of five armies, got about 8 pages in… and ran out of steam. The precious scrawled manuscript ended up in my cupboard, my recollection of which is a chaotic avalanche frozen in time. For some reason every time I opened that door I wasn’t engulfed – maybe it was more of a lurking swamp of decay and disorder – I did not have THAT many toys or possessions – but somehow I had filled that space with crap, and then let it breed. Childhood.

Well puberty happened and I had not made it to Narnia, and now the door was closed. I became a teenager, snarled at mother out of Aslan denied frustration and set about being distracted by girls and Kestrel lager. We moved to a farm. Probably a good thing – at the time it was the end of the world to be torn from the bright lights and big city of Edinburgh to the rail stop of Drem and a three mile+ bike ride to the cottage. (I could look up Google earth/maps to identify the exact length – but I refer you to the laziness mentioned above) I was 15. I was a social outcast. The farm folk were nice… but let’s be honest I didn’t fit in, even though we shared the religion of heavy metal and I lent out some albums and kept the peace that way – got them back too, unharmed – so that meant we’d grunt at each other minimally and not resort to any form of physical warfare, but I did not know their ways, their dances, and had no shot at their limited numbers of girls. To the extent that I cannot remember one from the farm. Instead I dreamt hopelessly of a raven haired beauty who I met occasionally on the train, my heart leaping precisely to the spot in my throat from which sounds were supposed to issue. And she had a boyfriend. Typical.

So… I had actually started writing an attempt at a book when still in Edinburgh, and had written it out long hand and completed it. A gorgeous piece of wish fulfillment made up as it went along, full of ridiculous names (I had a character called Penor. Seriously. Poor sod.), and of course it was the first part in a 5 book series. Got to aim Belgariad big. Fantasy novel of course – my main interest has always been fantasy. Anyway – I think I finished the thing long hand on the farm, and then received my first (and only, thank god) typewriter. And from my room for the next two years emerged only the sounds of NWOBHM, plus classic 70’s rock and now classic 80’s metal, and the sounds of a typewriter being hammered on in a two fingered frenzy – which is how I still type by the way. That thing resisted use, and had to be wrestled into submission. Some keys had to be hit so hard they’d puncture the paper. (This is my salt mines phase if any of you had not got that by now.) And yes – I have known the joy of changing typewriter ribbon, and using the swanky yet annoying red and black banded ribbon. Did anyone else always put the new ribbon in upside down the first time?

Anyway (a word which this blog will be littered with as I am digression prone), and get used to brackets also – another sure sign of the easily distracted thinker but we work with what we have here. And overuse of hyphens, and over-fondness (ha!) for exclamation marks/points. I’m being conversational. Don’t be expecting Joe Conrad here. Anyway, in typing up my first book I decided to add a whole second storyline, of equal length to the first, and with its own subplot. Fantasy books must be long, my teenage self reasoned. I felt like if the second plot had its own subplot then the first, and still barely primary story should get its own subplot too, so I grafted it in there somehow. It was awesome. There were mobile continents, wizards, shapeshifters, dragons of a really not lifted directly from Pern type, dodgy references to Dio albums, and a resurrected demon who still makes me smile when I think about him – which isn’t often, but this retelling has brought him to mind – he was fun to write. They all were. Incredibly I managed to finish the expanded epic, and started in on the second. Never being one to expend my energy usefully I both wrote it and typed it out – possibly an early attempt at what I laughably call “editing”. I just typo’d editing to editong – and editong it should remain as a poor contraction of edit and long as I tend to add far more than subtract. But I’m not precious about it! Perhaps I should write a guide to Editonging – the creation of that version of a manuscript that many writers experience before they get a grip and learn to cut.

I’m going long here. Sheesh. The second book in my five part series, though the typed and written versions differ as to where they petered out, both stopped short of completion. Why? We moved back to Edinburgh, baby. I was 17 and ready to go. I also started to look at the made up as it went along mountain and realised I had to somehow guide it through another three books, tie together my parallel stories and their various subplots, and bring it to a satisfying conclusion. I decided that would be entirely far too much effort. I had proven I could write something long. So I would write something stand alone, that would not require oodles of sequels. (But could have them if commercially viable! *ting*) This time I would even plan it out. I still have the original plan. In pencil. Maybe a page and a half. It was supposed to be a comedy. How a brooding Dark Knight Returns era protagonist replete with standard tragic fantasy hero back story was supposed to fit into a comedy is now beyond me. But there you have it. I went off to Edinburgh University (I spread my wings to my hometown and me and my bank balance never regretted it as Edinburgh University is a great educational establishment. I do not donate to their alumni fund. Bad alumnus.), got a degree in Philosophy and English literature. Did some writing. Mostly had fun doing other stuff. This becomes a long running theme.

Suffice to say the book started at say age 18-19 took until I was just shy of 25 to finish in first handwritten draft mode. Having money, paying bills and not being a teacher (if that had ever been an option) were all attractive to me. I got a job, bought my first computer and began “editonging” my book into a new longer-winded digital existence. Life continued. I met a gal and moved in with her. Continued to write – I think pretty much finished up with the book even in computerized format by the time we broke up and I decided to emigrate to the USA. The gal I had lived with had shared her opinion prior to our break up that “Maybe the next one would be better”, which I of course – being utterly precious at the time, HATED. Of course now I totally agree with her. And I was too insecure to try to get it published once ‘finished’ in Scotland – I sat on it for fear of rejection, so while being unable to admit something was badly wrong with it, my inaction spoke volumes. A lot of procrastinating for me historically has been easier than trying and failing. Better to be inactive and daydream of success than to risk confirmation that a daydream is all it will ever be. Enough of that I say. I’m blogging as part of a new not really procrastination, this is building my future kind of meme. I just used the word meme. Sigh.

I duly arrived in the States – a lot of adjustments, new job, new city, new culture, new people. New computer, new computer games. Yes Baldur’s Gate saga – I’m looking at you. (I had played the original in Scotland, but if I was going to play the sequels I had to start from the beginning again, right? Maybe with 2 or 3 different characters??) And the AVP games. Epic amounts of time wasted. More tinkering with old faithful… not yet ready to let it go. Met my wife. Who writes for a living. She read old faithful. Liked 2/3 of it, HATED the ending. Could not finish reading the ending it was so bad. We disagreed on where the shark got jumped exactly – but it did. Too much philosophy major in there. (Maybe one day I’ll finally rewrite that ending (Um, and most of the rest too, probably!) and publish it, but for now it moulders in the discard pile.) So finally I see it, it being the awfulness of that ending, and a lot of what preceded it. 15 years on. Oh dear. But what the hell – why not submit the start – see if anyone is interested in it when it still appears to be a fairly standard fantasy adventure and before it leaps left into philosophical never never land, and if no-one bites – put that bad boy to bed and start anew.

I got some polite replies. Better than I expected in some cases. I realised after refining my submission letters and blurbs based on feedback received that I should have sent off to the most unlikely targets first and worked my way back to the best chance venues once I had improved my submission through contact with the real world. Live and learn. Never send out to the most receptive looking publisher or agent first. So I swallowed the bitter pill, which was no longer bitter, it was kind of stale and tasteless with age by now and did not put up much of a fight – I put that bad boy to bed and wrote something new. It did not take 15 years. First draft took maybe a year and a half. This one I can and will publish. And the other one I’m writing now. I’m trying not to editong, but it is a tough fight against well ingrained tendencies! More beautiful words, not less!

So here we are. I am now going to embark on a great experiment, for me at least. In social media. Something I have done my best to utterly avoid for the last decade and more. I don’t even have a FB account. That’s going to change. Apparently I’m going to enter the twitterverse, which I view with something precisely identical to dread. Uh, tweet? Tweet tweet? Shuckinfruckinhazznfrazz. I’m going to start this blog, have a website and find things to fill it with. Maybe. Mostly observations on writing, and markers of my glacial progress towards publication. The Long Road. No advice other than of the “see what I’ve done and learn probably not to do it” variety. Many experts are out there. I am not one of them. I am a writer though, and I will continue on my journey, come what may.

So please join me in my exploration of this brave new world, and be amused by my many many instances of utter noobishness as we head along. I could write more – but I’ll save that for next post. Thank you!

One thought on “Put this off long enough…

  1. Pingback: The Strange Highway of Novel Creation | The Long Road

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