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I've been interested in reading and writing ever since I was a child - my parents still tell the story of how I went to a friend's 7th birthday party and preferred sitting in the corner reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica to playing pass-the-parcel.

I used to write fiction as a teenager - original and a bit of fanfic. I still have a copy of a truly horrendous novel about a smart-alec squire to a stupid knight somewhere in my office. Fortunately, all written copies of that monstrosity have disappeared and the disc's for an Amstrad computer so hopefully, it should never again see the light of day. The fanfic is probably best not spoken about - I produced one of the most Mary-Sue-est Mary Sues ever to see the ST:TNG fandoms. Unfortunately, written copies of that do still exist. One day I shall have to gather them together and burn them.

During university I wrote for my university newspaper - film reviews that I thought at the time were cutting age but are really spectacularly inane and I had a column that was dedicated to being grumpy. At the time I used to wonder why I wasn't dating more, re-reading those colums, I can now see why.

I pretty much gave up on writing during my last year of university. The reason was lack of time - I went to Law School for a year as part of my legal training and when I was finally let loose in an office environment, I found that I was simply too busy to come home and write.

Ironically, I found my way back into writing via fanfic. A friend of mine introduced me to the Harry Potter books in 2001 and quickly became an addict. Because the series was stuck at Goblet of Fire, my pusher showed me a couple of fanfic sites where I could read more about my favourite characters and from there, it was a slippery slope to writing my own. I was never a Big Name Fan, but my fics were pretty well known and whilst I put fanfic behind me in 2005 to concentrate on my original fiction, I do still get the ocassional request from people for me to email copy. It's comforting to think that they're still known in the fandom and I think there are even a couple of French translations still hanging around in the electronic ether.

I left fandom in 2005 - mostly because I lost interest in Harry Potter as a series (I found Order of the Phoenix a disappointment and felt that the writing and tightness of the story went on a decline) but also because I had the germ of an idea for a novel of my own that I wanted to work on.

The good thing about fanfic is that it gets you used to criticism and teaches you how to maintain character consistency and pace but I found adjusting from fanfic to original fiction very difficult. Many of my ideas seemed to be polluted by the Potter-verse, which made me insecure about my own abilities. I struggled on with trying to come up with a plot around the idea I had for about 6 or 7 months before deciding that the best thing to do if I was serious about writing was to enrol in some evening classes. 

City University offered a range of 10 week writing courses, so I signed up to do a course in Novel Writing and Short Story writing. I enjoyed both courses (and would recommend them to anyone willing to listen) and they helped me to get to grips with what I wanted to write and what I should be thinking about during the writing process. I made progress on my novel (then entitled Abannan) and signed up for two more City University evening courses (the Writer's Workshop and Intermediate Fiction). The novel progressed further until I had about 13,000 words written.

Unfortunately, even though I was making progress, I felt there was something wrong with what I was writing - in particular, I had a nagging feeling that there was something missing and I wasn't particularly drawn to either of my main characters. At that time, I was writing to a series of broad bullet points as to what my novel was intended to cover and what would be happening in my plot. In my head all the elements were there for it to be a great story, but I couldn't seem to translate that onto the page.

At the start of this year, I signed up to do an Arvon Course in Writing for Young Adults. The course was taking place in July and I took along the WIP to (a) work on it some more and (b) maybe get some feedback that would help me work out what wasn't right. Actually, I think I was mostly looking for validation that everything with the manuscript was a-okay and I was obviously a genius in the making. It was therefore something of a shock when things didn't turn out like that.

The first sign that something was wrong with my WIP came when we got told to give a one-page synopsis and the first 10 pages to the tutors (the authors, Lee Weatherley and Malorie Blackman) for the one-on-one tutorials. It was the first time I'd ever tried to write a synopsis for the WIP and I found it almost impossible to do because I didn't know what my story was. I ended up producing a 2-page synopsis that set down what I wanted to happen and even as I handed it over to Lee before the first tutorial, I knew that it wasn't quite right.

Lee Weatherley was great. She told me that whilst she liked the writing, I needed to think about the structure of my story and pointed out where it didn't work. I'd like to say that I took this with good grace and a mature attitude but that would be a lie. I think I sat there feeling a little shell-shocked and devestated, mainly because I could see that she was dead on the money - my WIP did not work. I managed to leave the tutorial without bursting into tears and ended up stomping up a hill, bawling my eyes out and raging at life in general. Virtually hysterical, I called my best mate and told her what happened. She listened more patiently than I deserved, told me that I shouldn't just walk out of the course and come home and offered some suggestions as to what I could do next.

That night, I started turning the problem around in my head and had one of those 'bolt of inspiration' moments when I realised how I needed to change the story. The then WIP had been a mystery set in a remote and dying English seaside town and involving non-human beings. It lacked immediacy or anything for the reader to connect to. What I decided to do instead was to change the setting to London, a city I'm very familiar with and make it more of an action-adventure. 

I've kept my non-human beings, the central hook to my story and a number of other elements from that original WIP but completely stripped the story back to basics. The key difference though is that this time, I haven't written any of the actual novel because I want to make sure it's pretty much mapped out in advance first. 

I started work on the new structure during the course, using the techniques taught by Lee and Malorie and running my provisional ideas them. Thankfully, both of whom were encouraging. I've spent the last month just working on the plot structure - developing an internal logic, working out characters and what scenes would need to do. The structure's almost finished and it's been both an illuminating and useful experience, particularly because I've had to play around with my ideas and work through the implications of the underlying concept in order to produce a (hopefully) interesting plot. The plan is to have the structure finished by the end of this weekend (I'm just working through the final kinks now) so I can start the actual writing on Monday.

I'm starting a part-time MA in Creative Writing (Novels) at City University later this month and will be using that course as the whip to get my novel (now with the working title 'The Oathbreaker') finished. 

This Blog is really for me to record my writing progress and also my progress on that MA so that I have something to look back on when it's all done but I hope that anyone who finds it doesn't find it too dull and sticks around to see what and how I'm doing!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 7th, 2008 08:34 am (UTC)
I chanced upon your livejournal randomly, but I'd like to say I understand a lot of what you're writing about here. I've written fanfiction before and the transition between that and actually writing your own tale is difficult in many ways. However, I know I am thankful to every bit of fanfiction I wrote [no matter how horrendous] because of everything I learned. It's great to see other people out there who are the same and can see the value in fanfics.
Jun. 8th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)
Hullo and thanks for stopping by.

I definitely think that there is value in writing fanfic in that it teaches you consistency in character, plot and world building. However, at some point if you want to try and make it as a writer, you have to put it to one side and put together your own worlds.

Given the increasing numbers of fanficcers who have turned 'pro' over the last few years, I think fanfic is a fertile ground for writers of the future.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )