Partly inspired by the talent of a good friend, I suddenly had an urge the other day to try writing a short story. I used to write a lot as a kid, and my favourite part of my favourite lesson at school was when we had to write ‘compositions’ in English. I read a lot too, loads more than I do now, and got so captivated and obsessed by these books that I always wanted to create my own version – be it of Watership Down (with foxes instead of rabbits) or Anne of Green Gables (set in Cornwall) or Stig Of The Dump (‘Dick of the Den’). I never finished any.
This time a basic plot came into my head, (and I’m not quite sure where from but it’s none of the above) as did the names of the key characters and their backgrounds. It’s a long while since I’ve written anything straight from the imagination but I thought I’d give it a go. It’s not that I want to do anything with it, in fact I might never show it to another soul – I’m under no illusion that anyone else would want to read it. I just wanted to see what would happen. I knew it would have to be something a little dark, and definitely something quite adult, to contrast with the light-hearted, child-friendly illustrations I work on the rest of the time.
I didn’t know that, once I finally got started (and that was the hardest part…), it would become so all-consuming. I began yesterday lunchtime and worked on it sporadically throughout the rest of the day. Then I carried on into the evening, and again into the night, only running out of steam some time past midnight. I lay in bed, so so tired but unable to sleep, as my brain continued to re-write paragraphs and come up with new ones. I couldn’t wait to get up and continue with it today, as I have done. Not that I’ve got very far - I keep going back, changing bits, retracing my steps, being taken down routes I didn't even realise were there, getting stuck, and re-reading, re-reading, re-reading. It’s starting to drive me slightly mad and it’s not even a good story. I’m already feeling completely spaced out by putting myself into this imaginary world, and into the heads of my made-up characters, and I’m only six pages in. It’s as if the fictional domain has become my actual one, and my real life feels less so! How the hell do authors do it?
A page from an early (unfinished) 'novel', circa 1975.
A bit angsty.