I scared myself trying to write something this week. It's been a little while since I've started something completely new and I'd forgotten how much bad writing has to come before I can write anything useful. As a tutor of mine once said: editing is getting rid of the run up.
I was thinking this recently when I was reading from a folder containing most of the things I tried to write in the ten years before my novel. These are nothing but run ups. I never tried to write at novel length before After the Fire, a Still Small Voice and from what I read, it's easy to see why. They're clearly written by someone desperate to have written a novel, but who loses interest and energy after only a few paces. As a result, these pages are, whilst utterly dreadful, incredibly fun to read. They are full of bolshiness, and unfounded arrogance. I can remember having it in my head that I would be a writer who shocked people, and so what was needed was a really wild plot. I was annoyed about what I felt at the time was the view that most female authors wrote about heartbreak and relationships and feelings and so I was determined that my books would have none of that. As a result, most of what I wrote reads like a disillusioned little oik walking around with his hand down his pants. I was so conscious of not writing about feelings that I wrote lines like 'I was sitting behind the very expensive window pane of what would have been my first restaurant had the banks not bludgeoned me to the floor with their super dicks.' And in case there was any question as to me being a flowery writer, in the next paragraph '…two years planning and love had gone into coaxing my dream out from beneath my dick.' (Although there are plenty of dicks in my novel, there are less than one a paragraph.)
There are the first lines, which I had decided were the most 'important' ones. I don't deny that they are very important, but I must have had the misconception that they were far more important than any other part of the book. If you had a strange enough beginning you needn't worry about the rest- the rest takes care of itself. Perhaps this explains this first line, which starts a long paragraph I clearly had no idea where to go with:
'Several hours later, I felt my guts wash up alongside me on the beach.'
I still don't actually know if it's possible to go anywhere with that.
Then there are the amazing fact-skimming parts when I crowbar in a bit of plot I liked the idea of:
'Through pulling the strings available to me in journalism, I was invited to review a Satanists' party.'
Ah yes, the strings available to me in journalism. No need for me to show you the strings, I think we all know what I mean.
And worst (or best) of all, there are the many images that either make no sense, or that give an image of something so weird you can't imagine what it is that's trying to be said:
'The face of his mother swum in her eyes.'
All in all though, I find myself proud of this folder of terrible writing. Partly because it reminds me how hard I worked on my book, on getting it full of relationships and feelings and even heartbreaks. And partly because it contains this as an opening sentence:
'I have no nipples. At my primary school I used to show all the boys and they'd run screaming away, because I told them the nipples were on the inside feeding a baby pig that grew in my stomach.'