Ever since I was a child, I have loved books. Reading them, buying them, just being around them. That’s why I did an English degree. I had idle dreams of owning a bookshop, or of being a librarian, or being an author, because my naïve mind had no concept of the publishing industry at that stage.
Writing stuck with me, whilst librarianship and bookselling drifted away, although nothing significant ever emerged. I spent long years thinking “Why haven’t I been published?” before I acknowledged that perhaps part of the reason was that I had never finished anything longer than a couple of thousand words. I have scads of half-finished novels knocking around the place, because I just never had the momentum or drive to finish.
Writing is hard.
Prior to completing my Masters, I went through a long period of not being able to write, despite trying my hardest. It felt like smashing my head against a brick wall every time. This changed when I got accepted onto my MA, and in the year prior to starting I found myself looking for things to occupy myself to make the time go faster until I started my course. I reconnected with fanfiction, and began writing. I wrote a lot. To date, 287,216 words across several stories, including two novel-length works within a series, and a couple of novella-length works. (No, I won’t tell you what name I wrote under, or what fandom. No, you haven’t read it. I write a rarepair in a small, old fandom. Not many people have read it.)
More importantly – I finished things.
Everything I have written now, for the first time ever, is complete. If I were never to write another word of fanfic again, I won’t leave people who stumble across it in years to come wondering what happened at the end. It’s a weird, wonderful experience, and very empowering. I learned a lot of lessons too – I learned that I can write and finish long works. I learned what sort of planning works for me, and how to use it properly. I learned how to keep going and push through when the narrative gets difficult, or I feel blocked and unmotivated. I learned to spot when I was relying too heavily on dialogue and too little on description, when my pacing was off or I was going down a dead-end plot route. These were key skills which I didn’t have before. There’s a whole other, ongoing discussion about the value of fanfiction, but for me specifically it was a place where I was able to properly train myself in the areas I had struggled all my life.
In my quest to find a job in publishing, I have found myself surrounded by books, writers and bookish people. I have gone to all sorts of events, read all sorts of books, seen all sorts of marketing campaigns take shape. It’s been incredibly inspiring, and made me want to work and create and write. As my aim to work in publishing is taking longer to realise than I anticipated, something in my brain decided that one way or another I was going to be part of that world, so I took the tools I have learned over the last two years in fandom and started writing something original. Something all mine.
I’ve been trying to write at least a little every day, I’ve set up my planning, and I’m tracking my word count each chapter, my overall target word count, and how far I have to go. I remember hearing Ben Aaranovitch talk about his novel spreadsheet and honestly it sounded like a thing of beauty – it was so complex and involved. I’m hoping I’ll get to see it one day because damn. Mine is quite simple, but so far it seems to be working. I’m also noting how much I write each day and totting it up across the week in my diary, because then I get to use my new diary more, and it acts as a reminder alongside my everyday to-do list that I can make time to be creative and work.
This has happily coincided with the start of Camp Nano 2018. So here it is. I’m doing Camp Nano, my first Nano event for several years. My first with experience of actually finishing something.
It starts on Sunday. Maybe see you there?