I started writing on Christmas Day 2013. It was my first day off in ages. I woke up from the chirping weavers outside the bedroom window and enjoyed knowing that there was no rush. And as I was lying there, dozing, my mind started to puzzle jigsaw pieces of different scenes or daydreams together into one large picture. Five years of day dreams and silly fantasies had, in an hour on Christmas Day, turned into one (awfully long) story.
Me, writing fiction? It was such a foreign thought, but I figured ‘what the heck?’ I’ve got a couple of days off and got nothing better to do, I might as well have some fun trying to write a novella or short story. But when the holiday was over, the words still kept coming. And a month later, the words still kept pouring out. And two months later…Well, you get the drift. It turned into a frenzy, an obsession. Until a day in April when it all came to skidding halt with the thought: Maybe I should actually let somebody read this stuff.
You know, before I start planning my international book tour, and fantasize about my multi-million publishing deal and what it will be like to see my love child on the shelf in every book store.
My husband? No freaking way. My writing is way too personal for that. Weird, isn’t it? That the words I’d love to hold in my hands as a published book were too private or personal for my husband to see, even though I dream of sharing them with the rest of the world.
Friends? Nah… Too awkward. They’ll probably giggle all over the pages, quietly thinking that this is rather pathetic, but be good enough friends to gush and encourage me to go on, even if they know I’m a hopeless case.
Online strangers, that’s who. And where would I find those? Through online writers’ communities. Entering those three words into Google gave me several results, and somehow, I ended up on the second from the top: Scribophile.
Yes! What a great idea. And it was. It is. But, oh boy…! It was quite an eyeopener too.
It’s not easy to hand your work over to strangers and let them pick it apart. It’s actually a crazy roller-coaster ride with highs and lows to have your work critiqued. But oh, so important. Some feedback gives you wings, others threaten to give you a nervous breakdown. Luckily, the skin grows thicker over time.
I shelved that multi-million publishing deal fantasy pretty quickly after joining Scribophile. Because writing isn’t as easy as it felt those first few months when words tumbled out without any effort and were put down on paper uncritically.
No. Writing is a craft it takes time to learn. And it’s bloody hard work.
My gut feeling had made some tough decisions for me it turned out, without letting my mind be part of the discussion. I had, without much conscious thought, decided on a first person point of view, before I’d even heard about the POV abbreviation. And I’d decided on present tense for reasons I wouldn’t have been able to explain initially. I hadn’t thought about verb tenses since I had German in high school. But somehow, luckily, a part of me must have subconsciously been weighing the pros and cons and made the right decisions for me.
I’ll never be able to find back to the uncomplicated early days when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I’m a novice, but I already know too much. I know what filtering is, and have a basic understanding of plots and arcs. I know how much people detest first person present tense POV and yet I’m determined to hang in there. I’ve discovered how easy it is to head-hop. I’m told to stay clear of adverbs, but dammit, I like those buggers. My word count has been reduced to a fraction of what it was those first few weeks and the deadline for my first draft is pushed forward, time and again. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A lot of writers will advice against letting people read and critique your work while you’re still working on the first draft. Slows it down, they say. And their feedback can make you lose control with your own story, push you to change it into something else than you envisioned yourself. And the writer’s block is lurking, just waiting for opportunities like that to place a huge, messy road works area causing massive delays right in front of you.
But for me it’s rather the new basic knowledge of the craft that slows me down. It’s the awareness of the tools and styles, of the possibilities and limitations, that drains my mind of words now and then. Critiques, in general, are energizers. They motivate and inspire and give me the urge to write. They keep me going when the technicalities slows me down.
The day I decided to get involved in a writers’ community is like year zero; the start of a completely new epoch.
Looking back, I do miss my early writing frenzy days when everything was simple. But I appreciate the eye-opening experiences and personal development joining Scribophile triggered much more.
Thank you lovely Scribbers. For lifting me up and keeping me grounded, all at the same time.