Friday, 23 October 2015

Why you need to write rubbish books in order to get published.

It took me over twenty years to write The Damned.

I'm not saying it took twenty years to actually pen it, but twenty years to find my voice, discover what I wanted to write about and work out how to write. The late great Iain Banks once said you need to write a million words before you can think about getting published, and I think he was spot on.

You're either born to be someone who will write, or you're not. Writing takes time, commitment and passion. If the idea of sitting for weeks, months, even years, at a desk getting the ideas in your head onto paper fills you with dread, then you're probably best doing something else.

I've always loved writing, even though it's taken me years to get good enough at it to get published - and you still need a big slice of luck there, too. Just like anything creative, every new thing you do gets a little better - but not always easier. Sometimes you do get lucky, you're hit with insight and imagination, the planets align, and you get a corker of an idea that just pours itself onto the page. But usually you have to work hard on your craft to get anywhere, grinding out the ideas like valuable ore from a stone.

I first started writing properly when I was eighteen, banging away on my typewriter for hours on end. I believed I was going to be the next Tolkien. (Well, I always did have a fanciful imagination.) For a bit of fun, here are some ideas I've had, and tried to turn into novels, over the years since I started writing. They're rubbish, but if you want to take them and try and do something with them, be my guest!

1. An huge fantasy adventure based on a Dungeons and Dragons game I was running for mates at the time. It involved two towers and an evil wizard in the East. Sound familiar? The first chapter was 40,000 words alone. It was epic. It was endless. I was channelling Tolkien and ended up with a complicated aimless mess. Everything I had within me went into that book. I learnt my craft through it. I spent years and years on it. It was my literary paintbox. It was utter rubbish.

2. A children's fantasy book, 50,000 words long, where a child is sent away to stay with an evil lonely uncle in a giant mansion (as you do), who turns out in fact to be a good hero in an alterative fantasy world, accessed through a secret door in the manor house. The child finds it, goes through and rescues the evil uncle from various trouble he's got himself into, courtesy of fantastical friends the young boy finds, and everyone goes home happy. Dire.

3. Harry Potter meets Star Wars via computer games. In this novel, life, it turned out, was in fact one great big computer game and brilliant computer game players from across the galaxies were recruited to help to keep order, as well as playing out their fantasies, by playing games on a great big spaceship in deep space, the outcomes of which affected real outcomes on planets. A computer games playing genius of a young boy from Earth is recruited into the ranks and discovers an evil plot to insert viruses into the system and so destroy the universe. Got half way through, tied myself in knots and gave up.

4. A keen jogger inadvertently discovers top secret notes left in a bin in a park and takes them home, after which he is pursued by the government and evil terrorists for the next 300 pages. Exhausting.

5. A billionaire Russian buys a failing village football team and they win the Champions League. Jeez....

There were others, false starts and doodles on pads, but for the life of me I can't remember them at the moment - probably good thing too! But within these terrible terrible novels the ground was laid and the skills were learned for more accomplished work to come afterwards.

So, the message of this blog is don't for a minute discount or regret anything you are writing now. Because what you write today might be the springboard for worldwide success for you tomorrow.

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