I’ve been writing my debut novel for almost two years now. I started when I was a student and received a bad grade for a source analysis I tried my damndest on. My lecturer merely said, “You’re writing was not good enough. I know you know what you were trying to say, but that’s not what I read.” Here’s why this annoyed me so much: I had done a presentation and sat through two discussion meetings with this lecturer over the subject matter – Dutch Revolt Pamphlets, if anyone is particularly bothered – for this source analysis and had several in depth discussions with herself over exactly what I thought should be included. She continued, “I know you know this stuff, but unfortunately I cannot give you a grade any higher.” The clincher? She finished by saying, “Those are the rules.”
Fuck the rules.
I cried. Big, horrible, messy, oh woe is me tears as I spoke down the phone to my gran. Oh why, oh why, should I respect the grades of an institution that prefers pretty little lines of extraneous words over true understanding of the relevant subject matter. There is no wiggle room, I complained. None at all. “Why should there be?” my gran asked me. I couldn’t answer. I was upset. I had put a lot of work into something that had been shot down in a ball of fire. What irritated me more was the boy who was doing the same assignement as I didn’t even get the pamphlet book until the day after the assignment was due. I knew my stuff better than he, yet still he got a higher grade – yes, that included the penalty for late submission. When I told my gran this, in another ‘oh why is the world against me?’ phone calls, she simply replied, “Fuck their rules.”
Ten points to my gran.
I tell you all this, even though it may paint me in the light of a spoiled child who wants nothing but praise and adoration for the limited work he did two years ago, purely because it put me on a path that I could never have seen myself on before. Now, with the knowledge that life did not always reward hard work – I could move on. Something a lifetime of abuse and unashamed neglect had given me the ability to do. So I sat down and had a think. What could I do that meant I wouldn’t have to follow their –the cosmic whatever that hated me so – rules.
I didn’t always want to be a writer. I hadn’t grown up devouring book after book in the hopes I could replicate their success and forge a career as a successful oiterary icon. I had read books because I enjoyed them. Because they were and escape from a life otherwise unpleasant. Because the rules of reality did not apply to them. The writer made the rules. It was their world. Their story. Their reality.
But I wasn’t any good at writing, hadn’t that been what my lecturer had told me? No, she had said my writing wasn’t good enough for them. It was perfect for me.
I love adjectives. I love describing the vividness that paints itself across the starry night in my head. Plots and characters were easy to me; I had a childhood filled with stuffed animals and plastic toys that all lived in a harmonic hum of mish mashed story arcs that I carefully pieced together. Batman and Xena were perfect bed buddies as they fought the Rainbow Bunny Queen that lived over yon pillow. Flat Dog, a toy much larger than the rest, your size won’t stop you joining in! NO! You can be a med-bay, toys can spend only one night beneath your belly and be healed of all the injuries sustained after last nights playing. I could make them do as I pleased. But that didn’t mean I was all powerful, no. I couldn’t cheat.
I didn’t read Misery, by Stephen King until I was nineteen, far beyond the playtime romps with stuffed animals; but it resonated with me deeply. I shan’t wreck the book, if you haven’t read it (if you haven’t, why not? Do so now, I implore!) but essentially the antagonist, Annie Wilkes, becomes enraged when the protagonist (I know the lingo, see) tries to cheat his way into her good graces by bringing back a character Miss Wilkes adores through unbelievable means. Now, I am not in the habit of admitting similarities with psychotic single women who torture and kidnap famous authors – but her rage made sense to me. Things have to make sense. They cannot be one way one day and another the next without adequate explanation – or so I believe.
Back to deciding to become a writer.
As I’ve said, I can make characters, develop plots, and create shiny new cities and the murky dungeons that lurk below them with relative ease. But, from a technical aspect, I am not a very proficient writer (one point to the lecturer) but who goes into any job and immediately knows the ropes? I am lucky. I have always cultivated my imagination and been lucky enough to use it as a life raft against a current that was not always kind. I am unlucky that my younger self did not pay more attention in English class and learn how to use grammar and punctuation properly or what passive and active voices mean. But alas, there’s always time to learn. And I have to learn, because now I have started its all I can think about. Now I know I want to be a writer more than I want anything else in my life. And that is largely because of Conniption, my debut novel.
A description of the book can be found in the “About” section on this blog.
I am scared. I am scared that I have jacked in my job and have no money coming in. I am scared my savings are dwindling and the thought of having to return to work, no, not returning to work, leaving my world behind, to be visited only in the precious few hours between home time and bed time, fills me with even more dread. I am scared that I will have to change too much should I receive a traditional publishing deal and not have the strength to resist. I am scared to send my book out into the world, like a flaming origami duck on the tide, to be dissected and torn apart by bitter and hateful people who seek only the bad and the mundane features of a book, devoid of their contextual nuances, and splatter them all over blogs and publications like stains of blood carved from a rotting pig.
I am scared only when I let the hope wilt in my heart and the future dull in my eyes. For I know that those things I am most scared of, their converse will bring me more joy than … well, more joy than I can even conjure in my heart to describe for you now. Those fears are what give me strength and their realities are just the shadows dancing on the walls, trying to stop me going further down my own path. Shadows cast by other lost dreamers, who let their own dreams be smothered by reality and cast aside by the world in a furious rage. I can’t imagine how it feels to be one of those people, and nor would I want to.
Conniption is almost done, and I can’t falter now. I won’t falter now. I conceived it in my head, birthed it on the page and have watched it grow and develop beyond ANYTHING I could have ever imagined. From a hazy outline of a dystopian mutt of our own world into a gleaming dimension in its own right, it has exploded beyond the parameters my imagination had tried to set upon it in the beginning. It has taught me things about myself that I did not want to know, and I have poured it onto the page, like honey into porridge, the lessons I have hard fought to learn. But it’s almost time for it to stand on its own two feet, to brave the world and its critical stare. All I can do, like any guardian, is stand behind my work and support it no matter what. When it gets knocked down, I will pick it back up, as it has done for me countless times. When it leaps forward I will be there to hold its hand and shares it joy.
Together we can make it.