Tuesday, 1 November 2011


There's nothing quite like finishing a story.  Whether it be a first draft or a first final draft (I see the final draft as the anti-Highlander: there will, inevitably, be more than one), writing those last few words and checking the word count can lead to a little rush, a surge of pleasure, and a sigh of relief.  I just finished a first draft of a story whose idea had been rattling around the back of my mind for about a year, and it feels good to knock that off the To Do list.  I wonder if I should light a cigarette, or would that be crass?

My aim for the story was a word-count of around 3000.  I went about 10% over, but I am quite confident I can shave that away with some strict editing.  I remember as I began learning the craft, after years of just going with the flow and letting my stories surge onto the page; I came across so much advice that revolved around editing, editing, editing.  Trimming lines, cutting the word-count down, even gutting out entire scenes seemed to be among the most strenuously offered advice for aspiring writers.  I always found this a bit of a turn-off, to be honest: I am not overly verbose (not in my stories, at least) and feel I can by and large say what needs to be said with minimum of fluff.  In high school and college I usually had to do a little creative padding to pip past the minimum word-count for essays, not out of laziness but because I had succinctly said what I wanted to.  And I always received high marks, so it was not as if the essays were sorely lacking.  To read the likes of Stephen King labour the point on trimming the fat could be a little troubling, not to mention confusing when you consider the source of that kind of advice.

Editing is of course required - you cannot publish an unfiltered stream of consciousness, unless you are an already famous avant-garde style artiste who can get away with that sort of thing and pretend it equates with bold talent.  Sometimes I do wonder how artists who make their living selling toilets, paint spatters or three line poems ever got taken seriously enough to get away with it.  But getting taken seriously is something that is always a concern to a writer, or any artist, early in their career.  It usually starts with a Presence: appearing where people may see you and becoming known to them.  I began my writing journey with a built-in and very exclusive audience, namely teachers.  Anyone who set my class a creative writing task enjoyed what I would come up with, and sometimes would even share it with my fellow pupils, but naturally they was not enough.  Writers are (very shy) attention-seekers.

So I looked for attention from a wider audience, and no audience could get wider, or more comfortably remote, than the Internet.  I first got online in the late 1990s and with Star Wars fever in full swing and captivating a boy my age (admittedly more due to this than this, at least at first), I had not only an audience but an outlet for my writing.  I began to write Fan Fiction.

No, don't go.  It's not really that bad.  At least, it was not at the time, though perhaps our particular forum was insulated or my own sheltered, naive mind just never came across the rather rank cesspool that fan fiction has become known for in more recent years.  Where I wrote, slash was not at all a sexually suggestive phrase, but simply something you did with a lightsaber.  Hang on a minute...

Anyway, next time I will discuss and share a little Star Wars fan fiction.  Yes, it's silly, it'll never be published and never make a penny, but for a young writer it was a great way to just write.  With characters and scenarios ready to be posed and played with like puppets, it allowed a writer finding their voice to paint a picture with some of the lines already drawn out for them.  It's not Shakespeare, but it is a place a lot of young and enthusiastic writers find their outlet these days, and have done for a decade or more.  It is also a nice, safe proving ground before going out into the big wide world of creating your own characters and settings to be judged by a public that probably has seen it all before by this point.

So, if you're still reading, you have that to look forward to.  I enjoyed it at the time.  I enjoyed the writing, I enjoyed the feedback, and I particularly enjoyed the forum gushing and occasional accusation of writing literature.  Until next time, here it is, your moment of zen:

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