My novel question is this: why admit to trying to write one?
Why confess to spending hours in a head all by yourself, obsessing over things that aren’t real and trying to write them down?
The vast majority of novels are barely read; people who write them must be egotists. How else do they persuade themselves for thousands of words to keep writing; that their work is good enough to finish the thing? There lies, perhaps, a barely distinguishable line between someone with confidence in their outstanding abilities (like JK Rowling), and someone sad, deluded and hopelessly over-committed (like me?).
Yes- that’s right. Deluded! I nearly fell off my unicorn at the thought. Honestly though: why admit to trying? Who wants to publicly end up like the woman who wrote this?
In the beginning, I decided not to answer such pivotal questions. Sidestepping is easy:
– *surprised look* – ‘But I’m not trying to write a novel
– ‘You’re not?’
– ‘No. i’m just writing a story. For fun. Just for me.’
It’s a great line. It re-frames the whole idea: suddenly, I am not some desparado bent on creating a masterpiece, but someone who sits there for hours rearranging the structure of a few sentences because it gives them mental satisfaction. Readers? Smeaders.
Reputation intact then. But is it true?
Who cares? I used it anyway. I used it when I started to ask my friends about stuff I didn’t understand. If they smiled to themselves, I didn’t notice across cyberspace. I just appreciated it that they helped me out.
In fact, I grew in confidence until I stuck a few of them in a Facebook group, and even sometimes picked up the phone. I found myself having all sorts of hypothetical conversations with this generous expert gang.
So then I got brave and contacted Sheffield University. I told them I was a writer doing research: technically true, because I write. They invited me in and were nice to me and showed me their department. I went out feeling as though I’d been right to go there and was a step closer to my goal.
Nearly a year later, I’ve finished the first draft of my 110,000 word ‘story.’ Unable to contain myself, I Face-booked that I’d just written a novel.
Then I read it back and gulped. When had that happened? Was ‘novel’ actually my word for it now? It must have crept in steadily over the course of a year; I’ve become one of those weird egotists after all. A potential delusional being who likes to spend all evening with her lap-top. I felt as though, in using the n-word, I had just laid myself bare.
I was still sitting blinking, when a strange thing happened: ‘likes’ started pinging in.
In fact, people were saying positive things. Quite a few who’d enjoyed the blog even asked to read it, which made me happy. Then I thought: ‘Not yet. I’ve got to make it as good as I can get it, first.’
So I’ve nonchalantly sent it to a very few (well, two) trusted people, to try and flag up the story’s main problems. Nonchalance is a must: I’m obviously not on tenterhooks to learn whether my perception of the current draft’s problems is anywhere consistent with theirs. I don’t want to put them under any pressure, other than to be honest and tell me every tiny bit that is shit; not to give it praise it doesn’t merit. I know everyone says that, but it’s true. I want to know how to make it better, after all.
Anyway, where was I? Nonchalant. Yes. I nonched home from printing and posting out the snail-mail copy, then nonchalantly sat down. Hubby looked over at me and said mildly, ‘So your sent it second class, I take it?’
Well, obviously – er – I mean, no.
But there’s no point in being ashamed, I suppose. I’ve put more hours of my life into that than my career for the past year. I am a person who has invested hours in hoping that I might write something that someone might want to read. One day. After some small improvements. Possibly. And then, I’ll let it loose on someone. Somewhere.
So yes. I am presumptuous. I am weird. I am possibly delusional. I am, after all, an unpublished novelist. And what’s really weird about it is that I am actually okay with that fact.
Only since I started using the N-word, I have realized that I am not as much as an out-lier as I thought. Did you know that Sheffield has a novel-off, where people read out bits of their novels in a competition a bit like the X-factor?
In the library, I found out that there’s a group, with other people, all trying to write novels, too! They are probably human, because they meet in a pub. I might slink in there one day, and join in.
Before-hand, I’m going to do a recce though. I’m only going in if there’s a ring on the wall outside, that I can tether my unicorn to.