One of the many Rules Of Successful Writing (because there’s more than two, so yes, I lied – get over it) is that all your first attempts will be terrible. Your first drafts will fail to convey anything except confusion. Your turns of phrase will horrify more people than the average song by Scouting For Girls. You will be one enormous fountaining mess of ineptitude, and you won’t know it for years. Rediscovered manuscripts will flay you with shame. Ideas that rang like cut crystal will now go *dink*. For the first time the length and breadth of your suckiness will be paraded before you. You will suffer.
So hey, let’s do some of that.
“Show, Don’t Tell” goes another Rule Of Successful Writing. So I’m showing you my very first, vomitously awful blog post from the first incarnation of Fevered Mutterings, back in 2004, at the start of my meteoric rise from the plains of total obscurity to the lofty pinnacles of near-total obscurity. (Hell of a ride, folks – hell of a ride).
This is going to cause both of us a lot of pain. Be ready for that.
And anything in italics? Is therapy. Thanks.
Monday, 26 April 2004
A Good Day To Set Out
What a glorious morning it was. Buttery sunlight oozing through the branches of the trees overlooking the garden, the birds alighting in them and then sliding off because of the grease.
If I’ve ever mangled a one-liner worse than I did here, I never want to find out because my mind would break and I’d probably be found weeks later at the bottom of the garden dressed only in a tablecloth and singing songs about goblins. You know when someone delivers a joke in a way where you see what they meant, but you immediately hate them for opening their mouth? Or being born? That’s how I feel about that line.
And it’s the second line of the first paragraph of my first blog post.
Well, we’re surely off to a cracking start.
Warms body and soul, does such a morning. For me, the first real day of Spring this year (a bit late, to be sure – I think we’ve had the April showers for the next 5 years all in one delivery).
“All in one delivery”? Was it UPS? Amazon? Maybe you were out, and the April showers were left round the back under a cardboard box. Or perhaps left with Doris and Bob next door. Mike, listen. Never, ever use a longer word where a shorter one fits *better*. Or, never write anything ever again. Either is acceptable here. Thx.
I always feel twitchy on day 1 of a new year. Another opportunity to wrestle back some kind of meaning from the seething chaos of haphazard events we call Life.
*gunshot* Pretention, thy name is Mike. Evidently I saw myself as a philosophical crusader, banging on the gates of Antioch with my bleeding heart.
Never actually try to write something that’s destined for immortality. Because there’s the very small but utterly life-ruining chance that you’ll succeed.
But this year is special. I’m at a kind of LaGrange point…
I’d just read 2010: Odyssey 2. Shame I didn’t pay attention to the spelling, because it’s “Lagrange“, one word.
…between an ill-judged and unsuccessful attempt to beat a path into Archaeological academia for myself, and my first concerted effort to become the writer that I’ve always dreamed of being. So, being a creative type and partial to grand, melodramatic gestures, I’m opening up this Weblog.
I can’t convey how important fiction is to me.
OK. Well, never mind eh?
I grew up with a passion for it…
Wait. I thought you said you couldn’t…..? So, why are you even bothering to…..? Oh, for….
…particularly scifi and fantasy but also thrillers, mystery and adventure novels – Alistair Maclean, Bernard Cornwell, Dick Francis and James Clavell to name a few. With some of my early favourites, my tastes changed – I now find L. Ron Hubbard unreadable, Ellis Peters dull, David Gemmell brief to the point of almost being abstracts rather than stories. I’ve grown into others: Frank Herbert, Gene Wolfe, Iain Banks, Kim Stanley Robinson, William Gibson. A couple of authors I’ve come full circle – Anne MacCaffrey is one: initially I was intrigued, then put off by some perceived lack of action….
Perceived by who? Oh, you mean YOU. So you’re kinda referencing yourself as if you’re not yourself? Only self-obsessed idiots do that.
…finally drawn in again by the subtlety and depth of her characterisation. Nowadays my reading diet is much more diverse: I’ve now branched out into contemporary fiction, ‘classics’ (19th and early 20th-C fiction) and the like, while broadening my fantasy and scifi roots – George R.R. Martin and Greg Egan are a couple of recent favourites. Further to all this, a significant proportion of my current intake is now non-fiction: travel-writing, magazines of all kinds, popular science…..
The appeal was, and is, escapism. But context is everything. When I was a kid I wasn’t part of any groups or clubs or sports teams, at least until I was 15 or 16 and only in a loose fashion (anyone for a game of Silkworm IV at Dave’s?).
You may laugh. You may joke. But the moment when I completed SwIV in front of jaw-slackened friends with only 2 lives left, on my own, in the helicopter, beating the previous record of just 40% of the game completed, was truly a sign that I was filled with the Awesome. In that moment, I tasted greatness.
(Tastes like chicken).
Worldly I wasn’t – but fiction set me off on the road to being the fairly outgoing and adventurous and highly ambitious soul I am today. Fiction has probably conbtributed to an unrealistic ideal picture of what my life should be like that gnaws at me occasionally, but since the byproduct is ambition, I’ll leave it be.
History lesson over. You, boy, wake up!
Hilarious, Mike. I’m in tears over here. No – not that sort. It’s fine, I’ve taken painkillers. Just…just keep going.
To summarise, my intake of fiction has always been rapid, and a number of years back I reached the point where I started feeling capable of reversing the process. It’s always been little more than a dream, even when I was writing and selling short stories…..if I ever get to the point where I can use writing as my main source of income I can’t see it being anything but the product of years of hard work.
Good man. And you’re so very right. Seven years and you’re halfway there, but the road *is* that long. You didn’t get lucky, you didn’t get snapped up by publishers and hosed with money. You worked until you were good enough to get paid for it….
Maybe I’ll remain amateur forever, by necessity. The point is that I am going to write because it’s what I can do, a proven fact, and I can’t imagine not doing it.
…and that’s how you got to the point where you were getting paid. You did it because you cared. This really is the most fundamental requirement to get anywhere in writing. It’s mainly low-paid, involves silly hours, is something squeezed into the cracks of a full life, and your best hope is that it expands and breaks your old life into big, ugly pieces. Then you duct-tape the remains together again and label it “success”, making the letters Really Big so they hide what a pig’s ear it truly is.
The interesting thing about this personal manifesto, written 7 years ago, was that I spent the next 4 years blogging because I loved it. It became a hobby. Something for fun. Something I didn’t take seriously.
And if I’m going to set out on this road and take it seriously…
Houston, we have a problem.
….I need a centralised point where I can organise my thoughts. My original plans was to have some kind of enormous database of thoughts, hopes and general tappings (that’s “scribblings” converted into word-processing format). But then I had the immense fortune in re-establishing contact with an e-friend who introduced me to the Blog revolution (ta, Tonya). The website is dead – long live the website.
Right, then. Here’s a brief summary of what’s on the horizon, project-wise. As I become more adept at manipulating this site, I’ll find some better way of visualising my workload. In the meantime:
1) A short story, based on the concept of urban alienation. No real deadline, but as it’s the first of hopefully many, the quicker the better.
2) An entry for the BBC End Of Story competition: take a half-story constructed by a notable author, and finish it. A shot at the big-time. I have until the end of May.
3) Ongoing additions to my ‘fiction blog’ at http://maximusowden.blogspot.com …
Hilariously, it’s still there. I can’t bring myself to read it right now. Not enough whisky in the house.
…entitled Pacts – my first attempt at fantasy. Non-profitable and just for the practice, rather than High Art. The original plan was a couple of entires a week – with my dissertation kicking in, it dropped to one a week and then nothing for the last few weeks. One update a week sounds achievable with everything else going on.
There’s a battered orange notebook upstairs. It has “Pacts” etched into the cover, in that special way where you’re channelling a mixture of frustration and laziness into doodling over the top of existing writing until you punch right through. Turn the page and you find my guiding motto for 2004: “Write more, you twat”. I still like my Pacts idea. The core of it is dark and gritty, like tarmac. I reckoned then and reckon still that there’s not enough tarmac in fantasy fiction.
My disillusionment built and built until I wrote this, 6 months later.
So that’s the basics. And with that, I’ll be off for today.
No, wait! Please, us Hangers On Your Every Word must know what you are reading! We’re hamstrung with existential tension, our hearts in our mouths – please put us out of our tremulous, quivering, slightly moist misery. Please, have pity, demigod of Blog. Bless us with your minutae! BLESS US!
BEDSIDE TABLE UPDATE:
Thank you thank you for thine glory! Uh – wait. This is just a list of books. What use is that to anyone? Demigod, you sucketh.
– “The Island of Dr Death And Other Stories and other stories” (no, that’s not a misprint) – Gene Wolfe
– “Tai-Pan” – James Clavell
– “Eating Well for Optimum Health” – Dr. Andrew Weil
– “On Basilisk Station” – David Weber
– “Sourcery” – Terry Pratchett
– “Dragonquest” – Anne McCaffrey
Is it over? Can I look now?