Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Moving Finger

Dave Turner, I think it was, had a sort of non-accusative meme about "how you got into writing". I've covered bits of this in various places but I thought I'd try to nail it down in one place.

I have always created stories for as long as I can remember, a habit I have to this day is that when I see a situation which looks remotely interesting I will create a story for it, instantly.

For example, woman standing on street corner, dressed to the nines: who is she, why is she there, who's she waiting for, what's going to happen?

But when I was young, pre-teen, when I put anything on paper it was always drawings, mostly space battles which I'd keep adding to until the sheet was full. I never wrote stories.

At grammar school (oh yes) things changed a little, I used to draw space battles with friends - we took sides and took turns adding something. At this time I was reading every SF and Fantasy book I could find, regardless of quality.

My Dad had given me a good start by reading the Lord of the Rings to me at bedtime over three years. (I returned the favour with my children - separately.)

Then there was the time that using a Super 8 (?) film camera a friend and I tried to create an SF animation using spaceships we had made.

At the age of 14 things suddenly changed: I read "Cider with Rosie" by Laurie Lee. Until that point my English language had been so-so, (my English Lit never got good). But with this book I discovered the beauty of language and I wanted to make it myself.

It was my mock 'O' levels at 15 when things really started to move. In the first place I was chastised by my English teacher to produce something less "obscure" in the real exam. I had written the opener for a fantasy opus. And at this time I began to write my first novel - during the time at the end of the exams after I'd finished answering the questions.

It ended up handwritten in exercise books at around 30,000 words. Then I re-wrote it, typing it at home in the evenings and it grew to 50,000 words. Of course it was rubbish. But I didn't care, I sent it to be published anyway - I had typed it in duplicate using carbon paper so I didn't even send the original.

My first rejections.

Then I wrote a sequel. This was bad too, but it was better. And longer.

And I was writing poetry. I wrote a lot of poetry. When we got to the Sixth Form I was taking Maths, More Maths and Physics but our headteacher insisted that the science-oriented pupils had an arts lesson every week. We had a student teacher, she was female, and I was in love :-)

She asked for everyone to write a Haiku, I wrote 18 in less than an hour. They just flowed off my pen.

Then university, studying Computer Science. And I still wrote poetry. I formed my own rock band and with a friend we wrote songs (did I mention music? No? I was pretty good at that too. I'm just so clever.)

But no novels. No screenplays.

"Blake's 7" ended and I was so disgusted with the last episode that I wrote a synopsis of another episode to finish it properly and sent it to the BBC.

I went to an arts festival and wrote poetry, on order, for real money. I made £100 in one day from poems, when £100 was a lot of money.

Then I started work. I still wrote some poetry but mostly the writing ground to a halt for a few years.

Ever since university I'd been playing Role-Playing Games (D&D and the like) in fact I've been playing nearly every week for 30 years - except the last couple where I've been working away from home. I ran some of the games we played and that calls from planning the adventures, plotting them out and so forth. A different type of writing.

I also attended a Live Role-Playing centre called Treasure Trap (dressing up in silly costumes and hitting each other with swords). But it wasn't random - the adventures were written down and had plots and characters. It was completely improvised on the "player" side (the players don't know the plot) and improvised with guidelines on the "monster" side.

In 1987 my wife and I started our own live role-playing games company and ran that for six years and I wrote some of the adventures.

It was around this time that I designed the entire magical back-story and creation mythos of another live role-playing group called The Lorien Trust - though I think they like to forget the fact. But I'm only slightly bitter.

On the work side I had become a magazine editor which I did from 1984 until 2001 or so. In that time I wrote and edited over 5 million words.

I had also done some acting and my poems always worked best read aloud. There is a pattern in that my overall writing, apart from the novels, was visually and physically oriented.

For ten years from the early 90s I worked bit by bit on a new novel (I stopped at one point for 2 years). This was a vast improvement on my earlier attempts and loosely based on the live role-playing stuff. Though it left those far behind.

It was when Buffy the Vampire Slayer finished that I wrote the first "series bible" for Monsters but no script. Then I forgot about it. Then Heroes started and I pulled out Monsters and began working on the script for real.

It turned out that I do seem to have some skill in this area (something which constantly surprises me) but, looking back, it might not have been obvious where I was going to end up but there is a logic to it.


What's on the turntable? Who knows, posted in advance on Saturday morning

1 comment:

Paul McIntyre said...

'Tis interesting the twisty turny ways people get into writing - there isn't really a right or wrong route.

Good post.