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You have a story, a beginning, a middle, and end. Maybe you have a nice reveal, maybe there is no reveal, and you describe it as a portrait, or a snapshot, a look at something not often explored. You think about writing it down, but resist. Silly. It persists though. It torments you. It will not go away. While you’re trying to sleep, while you’re zoning out in conversation, in front of the television, scenes come to mind, characters, the next line after the opening that has presented itself to you.
So you write it down. Possibly you fill it with beautiful poetic language that goes off on beautiful tangents and paints pictures with beautiful painstakingly selected words. Perhaps you prefer a more stripped back approach. Short, sharp sentences that don’t waste a word. Perhaps there is no premeditation and the words just flow, coming at you from places you didn’t know existed, almost as if someone has tapped you on the shoulder, whispered in your ear and said this is the way to go. You get to the end. Then you walk away, leaving pen resting on paper, or the light fading before blackout on the laptop screen.
After this you fall back into the void you occupied before. You have a story, a beginning, a middle, and end. Maybe you have a nice reveal, maybe there is no reveal, and you describe it as a portrait, or a snapshot, a look at something not often explored. It’s worse though. Now you’ve written it down. It exists. Now there are things that are maybe subject to change, and you are aware of these things, these imperfections, these disfigurements upon the beauty of your creation. These things need to go.
So you go back. You return. This is what everybody does. You should too. So you edit it, proofread it, give it the once over, perhaps taking out those beautiful tangents that don’t exactly work, perhaps taking out those redundant words in your short sharp sentences. You scrutinise your dialogue asking yourself if in fact someone would really say that, and if so would they say it the way you have written it and has it got across the way you planned. You start to question yourself more. Does the story do exactly what you want it to? Does it portray what you hoped it would? Are your characters fully formed? Are they believable?
You walk away again, as if spurned by a lover, rejected, unwanted. You don’t want to think about it, talk about it, it was all folly anyway, how could you have been so stupid. You can’t write, and if you can, so what. But you start zoning out again. The conversations become murky, the television scenes become random. The end that seemed to limp across the finish line, the beginning that does not quite pack a punch, suddenly these seem less objectionable, suddenly you imagine that you may have been being too hard on yourself.
So what did other writers do? What did other writers say? Some of them said write what you know. Some of them said write what you can imagine. Some of them planned every piece of work. Some of them liked to just write, seeing where the story went as they went along. Some of them liked to listen to music. Some of them liked the sound of coffee shops. Most of them talked about the importance of redrafting, of the craft. But others said that redrafting went against what they believed literature to be and that talk of craft was ludicrous. You find yourself lost. It is too late to walk away though
So you go back. You return. Scrutinising without remorse every single word, looking for hints or clues, either for your own failure and hideous self delusions or more secretly, and never audibly, flashes of your undiscovered genius. Both scenarios are played out. One read through leads you to tears of despair; the other leads you to tears of joy, or subtle nods of approval, at this new knowing within the cosmos of the self of your obvious flair, talent, and insight. Then what. Once all is settled, once the story is ready to be read, what next?
You don’t know anyone in publishing, and they won’t take anything from anyone unknown. You don’t know any literary agents or even how you would go about getting one. You trawl the internet, the literary magazines, the bookshops, where websites, articles, and books all exist on how you can get published, how you can market yourself, sell yourself, promote yourself, how you can maximise your potential, all want your attention, your money, your subscription. You read and you read. You make phone calls. You send e-mails. You sit and you wait. You sit and you wonder. You sit and ask yourself if it is all really worth it.
Some say you have talent, some say they liked your work but it is not quite for them. Others ask you about your social media presence, your experience. Others want to know what the story is about, who it is aimed at, where you see it fitting with the current market, and how they would take your work forward. You ask yourself all of this. You ask yourself why you wrote it. Who you wrote it for? What type of person if anyone is going to want to read it? You ask and you ask and you can’t seem to answer. You only wanted to tell a story, but it seems that the world of literature is full.
You see an advert for a Creative Writing course. It’s at a university you have heard of. It’s being taught by an award winning author. Perhaps a qualification will make them see you’re a serious, perhaps a qualification will make them recognise your experience, perhaps a qualification will make them know who you are. So you apply. They want to see some work. You send them some. They like it. They accept you.
You count down the hours, the days. You tell everyone you are going to be a writer. You are going to learn everything you need to learn. The course starts. You get good marks. You make friends with others like you. You discuss all the great things you are going to write. You graduate with high marks. You have a new story, a beginning, a middle, and end. You send it out. Some say you have talent, some say they liked your work but it is not quite for them. Others ask you about your social media presence, your experience. Others want to know what the story is about, who it is aimed at, where you see it fitting with the current market, and how they would take your work forward. You can write yes, but so what.
Reece Choules is represented by our bespoke literary agency, Litro Represents, and will be appearing at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival as part of the Litro Live! event on Sunday 8 June. You can find full details of Litro Live! in Stoke Newington here.