It’s almost Easter 2014, and, aside from the obvious to celebrate, I realised that I technically have a writing milestone to celebrate: five years since I decided to write a novel and succeeded. Well, pretty much.
So, how did I really become a writer? What was my story beyond being an only child who sat on the hill in her garden talking to herself and wrote A Bug’s Life fiction in bright pen*?
Barmy to think it, but it’s been five years since the completion of my first proper manuscript. I’d written before, sure – hey, I’d written a full script (as well as three shorter ones) by the time I was eleven – but I’d never written a full book** before.
Holidays seem to be my inspirers – in the Easter of 2009, I journeyed to the balmy sand-dunes of Jordan, to casually tell my story of the mystery game we’d played in our school library. Death in the library. How very Christie, as Agnetha would remark in her sniping tone.
When it was suggested I write down what I had narrated, I don’t think I first took the comment in true seriousness. Don’t get me wrong: I wanted to write, but I was writing in the back of my school notebooks (I was thirteen at the time) without chapters, without thought to progression and arcs and tone.
When it was time to copy the story from the notebooks and into a Word doc, I did the same, absent-minded activity, checking for SPG, but not so much for the right way to tale or the elegance of foreshadowing. I’m sure every writer remembers the
brilliance utter rubbish of that first novel. Agnetha was maybe not as Mary Sue from the outside as she could have become, but both my poor MC and the tale that unfolded were Mary Sue-ish in their reflection of everything I’d repressed.
I’m sad to say that it took me good time to realise. To even know what a Mary Sue is and that aggressive, selfish, self-depreciative, and dare-I-say-wise Agnetha represented a good part of me.
And I cast it aside for a good two years or three, partly in total fear of having to scrape through the mess I’d made of the prose (by this point, I’d joined a writing site and was starting to realise I was not so much of a genius as a underdog flawed in so many ways), partly because writing every day hadn’t become a task of mine at that point and the kind of stories I focused on were my new drafts and the collaborations in which I found myself. At least this meant I had an acute objective eye for editing by the time I told myself I needed to do a serious rewrite…and beyond the ‘draft three’ I’d tried.
I’ve been going back and forth on the story (I’m not brave enough to call it a ‘manuscript’ yet) throughout this academic year – sometimes out of pure curiosity (because I miss the tale), sometimes to take my mind off WTCB and its might-be-mess. I umed and erred over the shape of the first chapter again this week, but, quite by chance and boredom, I started on a much-less-than-perfect (read: full of telling and indirect writing) chapter. I blinked. And there I was, taking the suck out of the succubus*** and adding secrets that readers would only knew if they read on fully.
It definitely came in dribs and drabs. I can’t remember how, once upon a time (!), I changed from draft 3 to draft 4 – but I guess that’s why I don’t really like to use draft numbers. When I opened the manuscript earlier this week, however – for what better way to procrastinate is there than to lose one’s self in a mirror? – I was starting to marvel at the quality of 54,000-ish words.
I’d lost the drooling 13-year-old’s hilarity of tone. Things were getting serious. And – possibly – my black humour, or some flavour of it, was starting to infect the novel. In a good way. Black humour kind of needs to infect.
And thank goodness the novel is coming together now – five years after I first devised the idea for my own murder mystery. Somehow, I can hope that once I’ve scratched through the layers this time and changed so much more of the draft I currently have, I can call it ‘readable’ for the Betas.
The moral of the tale? Work gets better. It always does.
What’s more – this is the 400th post on the Miss Alexandrina blog! More celebrating to be had!
Oohoo, look what I did for you. I created a Spotify playlist of some sort of ‘soundtrack’ for OJAP‘s birthday, twenty tracks, one for each chapter. Everything from classical to indie rock. There is a point to there being two ABBA tracks, as you’ll get if you’ve been paying attention to detail. I doubt anyone on the blog has read any part of any version of the story, but, just for the record, the tracks aren’t in chronological order. Yes, one per chapter, but I liked the Bach to start – just because. 😉
14-year-old Agnetha fights the police to find her favourite teacher’s murderer, but she might not like his secrets his ex-girlfriend and close-to-death mother reveal on the way.
Oh, and a quick extract. 😉
I don’t deal in missing people cases. I bit into my thumbnail to stop the words spewing out.
“Yeah, I’m…sorry. I see why you kept her from me. But,” I added, pointing an upturned hand her direction, “I promise I won’t write about that in the article. I wanted to focus on Joshu— Mr. Craig’s life, not his death, after all.”
“What? Oh, yes: the reason you came.”
“You’re in this with us now, Miss King,” Ms. Peterson said with a sly sideway glance about the flakes of plaster clinging to my roots. I scooted to face her and the mischief glinting behind the layers of mascara.
Maybe they’d never believed the paper cover story.
I sighed. “Look, I’m sorry.” Mrs. Craig reached for her handkerchief and I avoided her glance as she blew her nose. “How old was Joshua when Elizabeth…disappeared?”
*True story. I lost the story in the corridors and that makes me incredible sad.
**I was later to find out that what I’d crafted wasn’t a novel, but at 25,000, a novella, and a marred one of sorts.
***That’s a Sims2 joke/reference… I’ve started playing Sims again, not hiring she-devils. Sorry. It just wasn’t necessary.