Author Topic: My journey as a writer - tell your story  (Read 103 times)

Offline Mark T

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My journey as a writer - tell your story
« on: December 06, 2018, 04:22:47 PM »

I guess my journey as a writer began, like all other writers, by first becoming a reader. The family story goes that I, as a precocious brat, would constantly harass my elder siblings with demands to read to me from a book, any book. Hitting me over the head with the book apparently didn’t serve as much of a deterrent so my practical brothers solved the problem by teaching me to read.

I don’t remember any of that but I do recall starting school a year early and being allowed to quietly read whatever I wanted from the classroom library while the rest of the kids were learning to spell C-A-T.
If there had been a combined scholastic prize for reading and trouble-making during the following twelve years, I would have triumphed.
Writing, however, I considered to be something of a drag, preferring to sketch for creative fun. I always did well in English as a subject though and usually came first in essay writing. I wrote and lost a few poems about surfing.

After high school came conscription into the South African military machine. On the Border, I wrote charming letters with zany cartoons to a potential harem of impressionable girls. This served me well for pleasant assignations on bush leave while my unlettered brethren threw up on nightclub pavements in their futile quest for idle nymphomaniacs.

The years rolled by. A decade or two. Stuff happened. Other than business writing, there was just the odd poem. I knew I was a competent writer but that skill was just another tool for commerce.
Around about 9/11 my little business edifice began to crumble. I blamed affirmative action. The sheriff claimed my house. At last gasp, I secretly bought a derelict semi-rural property, went off the grid and felt a little bad that various bank managers had no address to send me financial advice on surviving as a hillbilly.

One night on patrol with the local FarmWatch, I read a clumsy draft of a fund-raising appeal. As a favour, I rewrote it. A week later, some guy in a BMW parks on my driveway and asks me to write a technical report:
“Forget it. I’ve got giant boulders to roll down this hill. I’m in landscaping supply.” 
“I read what you did for the FarmWatch. It was quite good.”
“I don’t really care. Move your car unless you want a rock on the roof.”
“I’ll pay you.”
“Oh."... "How much?”

So I gradually became the local scribe. I wrote letters of demand and replied to letters of demand, luckily none of my own. I sparred with lawyers and jousted with bureaucracies. I drafted quotations and contracts. I penned marketing messages and business proposals. I tackled anything that the clank of the cowbell at the gate brought me. Hey, I was getting paid for it ― although admittedly more than once with live poultry. Without realizing it, I was becoming a useful wordsmith. I composed a few more poems. I wrote a short story about science-fiction surfing and an ultra-violent 1000 word story without any punctuation.

Property boom. The yuppies were arriving ― attracted by low crime rates and country living which their presence then negated. Golf estates, subdivisions and traffic jams. Get real. Sell on the back of the boom, relax for a year and take a one-way road trip to somewhere distant.

An outsider in a parochial Afrikaner town, I found little demand for my scribing services and hustled a living as a driver, handyman, landscaper and stonemason before settling as a farm manager.
Happy in the mountains, I decided to reinvent myself as an actual writer and wrote a 100 000 word novel during 2010. Somebody once said the problem with writing a book is that there’s an awful lot of typing involved ― which my keeeeeyboard eventually confirmed.
I sometimes enjoyed the creative process and even experienced the epiphenomenon of unruly characters marching off at tangents. After a year of revision my manuscript is now in passable shape. The only advice I offer to anyone contemplating a similar effort is to write the first three chapters last.
I don’t know if the manuscript is destined to ever be anything more than an email attachment ― but it exists. At the beginning of this year I made a start of 30 000 words on a sequel before pulling the plug. Despite everything I’d learned since then, the original seemed superior.

Perhaps short-story writing would be a better kick-start option. I followed a link to a short-story competition with tidy prizes. Hmm. Previous winning entries. Hmm.
So I wrote my entry. Clever people I didn’t know were going to actually read my words ― I’d better make this equally clever. I used the spelling of the theme to randomly generate the first thirteen sentences and found myself in a strange urban fantasy of messiah complex meets butterfly effect with intersecting layers of false realities. The clever people would have to pause and analyze all the ambiguities.

“What do you think?” I asked my wife.
“You’ve never written anything like this before.”
“I know that. I’m the frickin’ writer. So what do you think?”
“Um. It’s, ah, rather dense. Why so many big words?”
“There ’re only two thousand available. I’ve used them all. If I use smaller words, there ’ll be too many. So, what do you think?”
“I think I have some chores to do now.”
“You know I’m going to win this stupid competition!”

I didn’t win. I placed somewhere below 25th. My story-line was judged to be incomprehensible. Lesson? Apply the purple prose of poetry in small doses ― and strive for clarity, not effect. I haven’t really tapped out anything since, other than this piece, but this poet’s journey with an unknown destination will continue. 

Everybody’s got a story. What is imaginative language but the pale echo of sounds and symbols vibrating upon a page of the human condition, shadowed by the mirrored ink of the humble aspirant, the storyteller. 

Mark Thomas ~ 2012 

Offline ysobelblack

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Re: My journey as a writer - tell your story
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2018, 10:38:09 AM »
I'm writing the fantasy/adventure series I am now because of my world travels. I've been to over 150 countries and had some crazy adventures. A lot of people tell me I should write a book (no one has actually said they would buy it after I wrote it) so I started writing a memoir of sorts about all the times I almost died, but found I was uncomfortable writing about myself.

I ended up giving my adventures to my main character Zax, and using the places I have been as backdrops and scenery for her. Her first story takes place in Bachviet, which you know as Vietnam. I went to the cave she goes to, slogged in the river and trekked through the jungle, so I know exactly how miserable it was. :)

I still toy with the memoir, but my heart isn't really in it. Zax, on the other hand, has eighteen books already, and I'm working on some novellas to round out some of the characters in the series other than her.

Offline Mark T

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Re: My journey as a writer - tell your story
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2018, 01:31:26 PM »

Cool. Alter ego stuff with the freedom to rewrite the bad bits. My partner's a professional travel writer - she sailed down the Mekong from Cambodia to Vietnam a few years back. She loves Cambodia.