Last night, as I was lying in bed, trying to go to sleep with a headache that made it almost impossible to put my head on the pillow I got to thinking about the 1960’s TV show Gilligan’s Island, or more accurately, why Mrs Thurston Howell the 3rd went on a 3 hour trip with a wardrobe that rivalled the mythical samples closet at Vogue.
These are the important and life changing thoughts that plague me at 2:30 in the morning when sleep is elusive and my eyes are watching the darkened ceiling of my bedroom. I also got to wondering how Gilligan and the Skipper managed to live in the same clothes for ever and not get them dirty or torn, but that is a pondering for another day.
There are times at the moment where I’m feeling as though I’ve gone on a 3 hour tour that unexpectedly turned into being marooned on a deserted tropical island. When life throws you a curve ball, do you spend your time inventing coconut bicycles and generators, or do you simply patch up the teeny tiny hole in the bottom of your ship and head on home?
I’ve been working on a romance novel. A gay love story about first loves and coming out. It’s a well trodden path, done by many authors over the years. Being the King of Second Guessing, I started the story with no intention of it being anything other than a distraction from my novel, and somehow ended up with a story forming in the vein of Stephen Kings recommendation in “On Writing”.
Let the story tell itself, worry about the rest of it when it’s done
I think that’s what he said. The gist of it is correct.
The novel idea was born as a short story. I had another novel in mind and the character was a bit of a mess. So I wanted to know why he was the way the was. I got the idea of writing a short story about that characters “First Love” in an attempt to better understand what went into making him the wreck he was today.
In the midst of all of this a rather dramatic love story came into being. With first love, first betrayal, a 3rd point to the love triangle. Witty friends and a nemesis in the shape of a single teenage mother looking for a husband. Throw in a good liberal dose of sexual confusion, fear of coming out, and two young men in a different positions in life and I ended up with a rather juicy story.
I wrote. And I let it flow. I gave it no intention beyond following along in the wake of the journey and seeing where it took me. After several thousand words, I decided to get some feedback and posted it in the Gay Stories section of a website I’m a member of. Not all at once. Just a portion, where the story naturally moved from one scene to the other.
Yesterday I posted the last section I’ve actually written. The story is so different from the ones already on the site I knew it ran the risk of being ignored. It wasn’t erotica or porn, as most of them are. I refuse to be anatomically incorrect and I wanted to show the fears and the lusts, the joys and the heart aches. What had initially been conceived as a short story was turning into a novel in my hands I was unprepared for.
I got a couple of people commenting on the story. Not what I was expecting. Basically the comments were along the lines of “this is good” or “this is making me horny, are they ever going to fuck?” But there wasn’t the constructive feedback I was after. Frankly I’d decided against posting any more of it except one particular poster on the forum kept commenting me privately, wanting the next bit, telling me how much he loved the story and how much he wanted to read the rest, to know what else was going to happen.
So yesterday I posted the last section I’d written. The first time the two main characters have sex. It was only half the sex scene, I lost my job the day I wrote that and I’ve not written since.
And something strange happened. Someone who had never read any of it opened it yesterday and began to read from the beginning. There are 7 or 8 sections I’ve posted. He left a comment that said words to the affect of “Just came across this story and had to read it from the beginning. I couldn’t stop. It’s awesome, keep going, when is the next section coming up?”
Between the two people who commented yesterday I thought “maybe this does have legs. It’s different. It’s Danielle Steel meets Judith Krantz if both were gay and writing about a gay love story rather than a straight one.” Maybe there is a market for this tale of mine. Maybe there’s a market for more stories like this. Perhaps, not everyone wants to read drivel that makes the readers eyes water and their legs clench shut.
In yesterday’s post I linked a YouTube video that talked about creativity as being outside the author, not an inherent skill but an ability to hear the muse and let the Genie in the Wall help you along the way. I wrote about turning up and doing my bit and letting the muse do the rest. In the process – as I find usually happens – the universe listened and showed me there are people who are looking for the story I’m writing.
Several years ago now, I bought a book called Writing Fast. It talks about self imposed deadlines, and it also talks about how as writers the worst thing we can do is take a life time to finish a story. Get in there, know where you’re going, write it, edit it, get it out there. Set a deadline and force yourself to stick to it.
Make the deadline public. In the case of the author of Writing Fast, he put out newspaper adds and released a newsletter promoting it to past students. He pushed and developed as he went along and eventually released the book a fortnight later than planned. I don’t know if the book sold a billion copies or not, but I know I bought it. On pre-order before it was actually finished (not that I knew that at the time).
When I wrote my first screenplay “Putting on Gracies” I wrote it on the train. I wrote to and from work, in long hand in a notebook, coming home each night to type up the new pages. For the first week I wrote like the wind. Then I stopped. I hated it. I was stupid. It wasn’t working. For a fortnight I bought magazines to read on the train and then when that failed to distract me I people watched, or read a novel.
After about four weeks I had nothing to do on the train and so began the next scene. A week later, I’d written the full 120 page script, in long hand, typed up nightly. I had a feature script in my hand. I remember standing on Hornsby Station, waiting for my connecting train home, in the freezing cold June night and feeling tears well up in my eyes. I was holding that note book like it was a gift from heaven. I’d actually finished a draft.
I know that’s not a massive deal for some people but for me it was a major accomplishment. I’d actually finished a draft. A whole draft. History was to show that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to the editing phase and frankly by the time I’d spent 2 years editing it, changing it, fiddling with it, I had gutted it. I still have a copy of it somewhere in a drawer. The fact I kind of murdered it isn’t the point though. The point is I finished the draft and in finishing the draft I felt a massive joy.
I had a similar experience writing my second feature “Careful the Things You Say”. That one was very different to the first. It was a melodrama about a man bullied through out school who comes face to face with his tormentors. It the story of his revenge on each of them, ending in what I thought was a rather dramatic scene where the main hero leaps from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Again I wrote like a demon for a week or so, then stopped for about a month. When I picked it up again I became consumed by it and the finished draft sat hot and heavy in my hand in a little over a fortnight later.
I write fast. I always have. The speed with which I write is a major stumbling block for me. I write like there is no world but the one I’m consumed by and yet feel the world I create is not good enough and will never find an audience.
I guess the point to this post is when I let myself just have fun, the words and the worlds flow. It doesn’t matter – at least it never has before – what happens once the draft is complete. Getting to that point is just the beginning. The courses I’ve done over the past few years have given me tools I didn’t have during my earlier attempts. I know not to edit the story into oblivion, and as I get older I’m beginning to trust my voice a bit more each day.
Over the past few weeks I’ve blogged in here pretty much every day. Rain, hail, headache or exhaustion. Every day I’ve sat down and stared at the blank screen, letting whatever words flow. I don’t know if my posts in here are good or bad or indifferent. What I do know is, that doesn’t matter. What matters is I turn up and do my part, and trust the “muse” or the “genie in the wall” will bring me the right words at the right time.
As I mentioned yesterday I joined an online workshopping group run through the Australian Writers’ Centre. Yesterday, another member of the group posted a quote about perfectionism. It made me laugh. Then it made me think. I conclude with it here now. I like it. I’m thinking of painting it across the wall opposite my desk as a reminder that being perfect isn’t really the intention.
“Perfectionism may look good in his shiny shoes, but he’s a bit of an asshole and no one invites him to their pool parties.”
– Ze Frank, from his video An Invocation for Beginnings