Hands up who has ever kept a diary? By hands up I mean like or comment, clearly. If you actually put your hand up you’ll look pure daft.
Saturday November 26, 13.40. I am sitting in our kitchen/living room listening to the hum of the washing machine and the wind outside. The enormous evergreen in the garden next door waves frantically at me and I wonder how much damage it would do if the wind was strong enough to knock it down – it’s as tall as this three story tenement building.
I should not be thinking about the tree, of course. I should be catching up on my NaNoWriMo story, which sits at 35, 962 words after a week of work, hanging around an industrial estate in Dundee, applications for funding and writing jobs, and last night an unexpected trip to everyone’s favourite grotty rock club in the cowgate. As I sat in this very same seat at 4am, scarfing down chunion crisps from the garage, my book was the last thing on my mind.
Time to Write or Die.
This week I will mostly be answering the questions of The Rogue Verbumancer, a scientician who occasionally masquerades as a writer on the internet, blogging here and tweeting as @Glempy. Here’s what he had to ask me.
It’s obvious that you enjoy writing, otherwise you wouldn’t have embarked on a project of such herculean proportions. But why do you enjoy it? What is it about writing that keeps you coming back for more?
First of all, I find writing fun. I don’t know why, exactly – I just enjoy doing it and I would blow other stuff off in its favour.
It’s an impulse I’ve had for a long time, I think because the process of creating feels good and I like the notion of engrossing people in a story as much as my own favourite authors engross me. I remember being really annoyed when I was ten, because I wrote a story that was about 12 pages long for a language exercise in school and my teacher kept not reading it. She probably had other marking to do, but I distinctly remember thinking she was being a hypocrite cause she used to bang on about how much she loved Gone With The Wind, which was much longer! The story was about a ghost called Jenny, who I think lived in a cabin in the woods and needed a bloke to help uncover the truth about why she died so she could move on, and I think maybe they fell in love? I don’t remember a lot more than that, although reading that back I wonder whether I should have re-used it for my paranormal romance! But I do remember one of the girls in my class telling everyone it was only that long because I wrote really big and left massive spaces between the words. I was deeply offended at the time an denied everything, but who knows, she might’ve been right! Can’t do that anymore though as I’m typing everything out!
I find that writing helps you process things – particularly when something is bothering you. That’s why the advent of blogging is a strange and terrible thing… When it comes to fiction, it’s fun because quite often things come out that I wasn’t necessarily expecting (although sometimes these things aren’t necessarily that good – eg when I was a teenager I wrote a series of stories that included some very embarrassing, deeply personal monologues when I was in a bad mood. They’d probably have been better in a diary or blog, TBH..). It’s only since I began doing this project that I’ve started trying to plan things, before that I’d sit down with a vague story idea and pretty much just write till it was done. That’s not the best way to do a novel, though. Not if you’ve only got a month, at least!
Is writing something that you’ve always wanted to do? Did you, from day one put your foot down and cry ‘I shall be a writer! And woe to all those who stand in my way!’ Or is it a career goal you’ve just stumbled upon unintentionally and decided to stick with?
In terms of how long I’ve wanted to be a writer, I can definitely date it back to primary school. I remember in primary 6 thinking I was very cool with my 3 As that I had in my career ambitions – I wanted to be an actress, an artist or an author. I kept up the acting in the local am dram group till I was about 18 or 19 but by that point I think I had lost my tendency to show off – I don’t know why, maybe because felt a lot more comfortable in my own skin so I didn’t need to borrow somone else’s anymore? That sounds ridiculously trite, doesn’t it. Clearly the real reason was that I could only do about 2 accents. And to be honest the writing took over – I started writing for local press when I was about fifteen and thought yes, I could be a journalist and make a living from that and then maybe segue into fiction later.
I was always pretty interested in writing books for children, and I applied to art college to do Illustration because I wanted to write the books and do my own drawings. I was accepted, but by the time I got the letters back from the places I’d applied to I was going through a practical phase where I thought doing an English degree more sensible, because as I said before then I could go make a living out of journalism and be an author later on. Essentially writing for a living in one form or another has been my goal since I was at least ten, so that’s fifteen years of it with varying degrees of focus!