I’ve come to the end of my latest piece of writing, it’s all been submitted to the publishers and I am at the point where I’m contemplating what to do next. (I’m contemplating some short stories if you’re interested). I know, however, that I’ll eventually want to do a longer piece, be it a novel or even a novella. I might have a go at a sequel to Memory of Snow or I might try something massively Gothic and supernatural. Or I might do something nicer and more romantic. The world is my lobster, as they say, and it’s a really exciting feeling.
I know, also, that I have a ring-binder full of stuff sitting there that I churned out almost twenty years ago and sometimes, at this point in the process, I go into this file to see if there is anything I can breathe new life into. There’s actually a floppy disk in that file with ‘something’ on it which my friend has promised to resurrect for me, therefore bringing it into the digital age – so that should be interesting; although most probably it will be very cringeworthy as well!
Because this wonderful file is full of, basically, rubbish. Every story, every poem, every article is a failure. None of them got any interest anywhere. None of them got published. None of them won the competitions they were written for. And very few actually got submitted if I’m honest, because I just didn’t have any confidence. The ones that did get ‘sent off’ (paperclipped together in large envelope with an accompanying SAE – no email submissions then, not back in the days of beep beep beeeeeeep dial-up connectivity when you were charged by the minute) came back to me just as quickly with a brief ‘thanks but no thanks’. If I was a diva or a drama queen I’d whinge on about it being a folder full of crushed dreams. Realistically, it’s simply a huge learning curve. There’s some decent stuff in there, I think but it just needs weeding out.
I’m attaching a picture here of the folder, just so you can see the amount of rubbish I churned out while I was writing merrily away for my own amusement. I typed it all out on my first PC that had, I think, less memory than a USB stick has today; but fortunately I printed everything out on my trusty Canon BJ-10 black and white printer or it would all have been lost. Occasionally I find a gem in there and one short story – after a few tweaks – was the perfect little story for Choc Lit to use in the Choc Lit newsletter in 2014 to introduce the publication of my novel Some Veil Did Fall.
I do love looking through the folder though. As I say, I’ve managed to build on some of the stuff in there -one rewritten story, for example, was eventually shortlisted in a competition and one very long short story eventually ended up as my novel Refuge (only the book is about 40 thousand words longer!). I’ve attached a picture of my original version of Refuge, which I put together using a ‘90’s desktop publishing programme from Blue Squirrel that created booklets (wow!) and contrasted that with the real book, along with my other real books. It just goes to show, what a few years, a lot more confidence, a couple of writing courses, a bit of experience, a ton of perseverance and a decent cover designer (thanks Berni Stevens!) can do for a person. I can maybe call myself a ‘proper’ writer now – but every time I see this folder, it makes me smile – and makes me wonder what gems I can salvage from my cheerful little “apprenticeship” as well!