08 October 2012

Mea Culpa! -- An author's dark secret

Almost every writer is guilty of it though many will deny and even fabricate long and complex stories to cover up the fact—after all we are writers famed for a high dosage of imagination. Sometimes we’re so clever we actually convince ourselves of our innocence.
The truth and bitter reality will eventually reassert itself and force us to face the facts and neither denial nor sheer bloody bullheaded self-induced amnesia (for which I am not guilty of, no sirree) will ever get us away from the shocking reality.
Almost every writer; and that includes you Mrs. J.C. from Hammersmith, VA. (Aha, you didn’t think I’d notice that little burp on the Quillsquatters page did you?) I repeat, every writer from the icicle-dipped-in-heated-ink-on-sheets-of-ice Inuit to the scratch-with-a-nail-on-a-stone-block Falkland’s sheep herder is guilty of this one thing.
We all have at least one skeleton in our laptops.
Shamefully I admit I am as guilty as the rest of them and I’ve attempted for longer than most to keep this affair secret. Since I was eighteen years old when I was a mere uneducated and easily corrupted teen I’ve gone out of my way to divert any attempt to pry this secret out of my wonderfully electric pink and fluffy closet. After all isn’t it much cozier huddled up with the cheap Walmart parka’s and worn out wellingtons than it would be bouncing around bare-naked in the full light of day?
Did I say bare-naked?
Uhm, please excuse me. I didn’t mean to put it quite like that, after all it’s not anything to do with baring…, well..., baring one’s soul perhaps.
Okay; dammit, I’ll confess to being guilty of having something I am truly ashamed of. Although in this case it’s not so much a skeleton in the laptop since such things didn’t exist at the time of my deed (laptops that is—skeletons have been around a little longer I’ve been told.) So it’s more like an apparition in a typewriter; a cadaver in the keys or a revenant in the ribbon. An act so heinous even a liberal apologist such as myself still cringes at the memory.
Perhaps this acknowledgement and an act of contrition will bring about a cleansing of my soul and free the overburdening weight of guilt which has hung over me for the last thirty-two years.
And so I announce now…
Ah, a glass of water please.
Thank you, So, that’s it…right?
I didn’t say anything—
Oh dear, well…

Here goes…

I just want to say…

iwrotethisfirstnovelanditiscompleteandutterlyembarrassingtrash .

Okay! There, now you know and the first one to laugh gets…gets…gets a free copy of it. Hah! So there.
I don’t mean the first “it’s the first I’ve published first novel”. Cyberius III was my first published novel and was actually my fifth written novel though it is currently “out of print” and unavailable from the publisher; a somewhat odd state of affairs for an electronic publication but hey, what do I know, I’m only the author.
Poseidon VII was actually my seventh completed novel and Dante I my tenth. (Novels two to four are either still being edited or are difficult sales to shrinking markets.) I’m talking about the foremost, truly mind-numbing first ever typed words on paper kind of story. (Trust me I’m not even going to include the cringe, curl up and die stories I had to write for English class. My adolescent stories can be most easily equated to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Vogon’s Poetry.
The thing is; it is true isn’t it? All writers have first writtens or experimentals which we keep locked in the bottom drawer of the file cabinet, stuffed under the bed, hidden in an old shoebox crammed into the bottom of the bathroom cleaning products under-the-sink storage. Yellowed copy for which we’d die if it was espied and read by even our nearest and dearest; yet somehow is too precious to offload into the nearest furnace or shredder. (Throwing it in a trashcan is out of the question, some one may pull it out to read.)
My no-title masterpiece was a glowing example of a Marty Stu. One shy little nobody (with brown hair, glasses and a wicked smile) building a worldwide secret force for good and saving the entire world from nuclear destruction while simultaneously re-educating the world leaders in the ways of peace and harmonious living.
Think about it. Would you really buy a book which started with the sentence:

White edged sky edged toward sleepy Houndston as dawn chased away the lingering shadows of another sleepless night.

It’s okay to scream, I understand. If you haven’t clawed your eyes out by now it’s safe to open them again.
With a twisted and totally unrealistic plot this amazing science fiction/action thriller suffered from multiple name changes and physical characteristics of the secondary characters; superhuman capabilities of a main character who could fix anything and never made a mistake; randomly moving body parts; intensely yucky pseudo romancey scenes and probably every single mistake it was possible to make in all its literary forms. With camels regularly coming to a sweet end in the roving dunes of the Arabian desserts the Novel with No Title was my very own Eye of Argon simply waiting for the chance to entertain myriad SF convention attendees along with three pints of beer and a brandy—triple shot on ice with some white fluffy cream and a bagel.
Fortunately this two-hundred and forty-three page; single spaced; yellow aged; typewritten monstrosity is the only embarrassing attempt I’ll admit to. Having learned enough from the one failed attempt to edit, re-edit and edit again up to the tenth generation edit. Yet, I find I’m still unable to completely give up on no-title and every eighth year I pull it out from the cobwebs and add another gallon of red ink or two to the edits I’ve already added to the impossible.
Truthfully, in spite of the terror of seeing what my original writing skills amounted to I am still quite proud of that piece of work. I know it will never be published. Even after massive edits and rewrites it would be simpler just to write a completely different book with a similar story idea.
The important thing is I did write it. I managed a ninety-seven thousand word typescript, plotted, planned, researched and completed it. And you know what? It’s not something which a lot of people can do. Completing even a cringe-worthy manuscript which has no chance of being published brought me a great sense of satisfaction—not to mention the boost it gave to my writer esteem. Once I knew I could complete a novel it became easier to do the next, and the next.
Also there is a certain amount of self-teaching to be found within the historical first time. Like the highly embarrassing first time sex, reviewing the fumbling and bumblings of my first typescript reminds me that I wasn’t always as proficient a writer as I am now and helps me relate more easily to today’s beginning authors.
It is a very humbling experience to look back and see how little I knew then compared to how much I know now. Encouraging too since it’s similar to looking back over your baby and childhood photos and seeing how you grew and developed. My one major regret in life is how in a fit of teenaged pique I threw away dozens of notebooks containing over nine years of childhood poetry—I’d turned into an adult, see, and didn’t need their constant reminders of how silly and childish I’d been.
How many authors have closets like mine (minus the electric pink) and their secret not to be discovered first writtens? I don’t know, after all some skeletons may look better in a closet with a big red bow tie holding them firmly into place—with the occasional, locked in the bedroom airing.
What do you think?

S.J. Willing
Proud Author of the PIACT undercover agent series.

S.J. Willing's Forum
Dante I
Poseidon VII

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