I wasn’t one of those people who knew what they wanted to do. For a while growing up I thought I wanted to be a doctor, then an engineer. It turns out I didn’t want to do either. It took leaving home and getting seriously ill twice for me to find what I really wanted to do. Write stories.
For people who knew me when I was a child, this might seem a bit unlikely. I hated writing. I’m dyslexic, I used to think being made to write was a form of cruel torcher for small girls. But I finally learnt how to get what was in my head down on to paper and somehow, I even started to enjoy it.
Mid-December 2015. I hadn’t slept well. I was fed up. I had spent the past year coming to terms with losing my independence and learning how to live within the prison that was my body. I needed something to focus on, something to take me away from what was happening and give me an escape.
I hadn’t slept well. It was one of those nights where I tossed and turned unable to fall asleep but desperately tired at the same time. In the early hours of the morning (about 7ish) I was in one of those dreams that feels real, almost like a memory real. I was on a ship. A big old fashioned war ship, like the ones in Pirates of the Carribean. And in my dream, I was telling someone about how I had come to be on this ship. The words in my head were still with me when I woke up. And as I regained consciousness a story seemed to fall into my head and I knew at once I had to write it.
It took me seven months to write the first draft. Some days my brain would click into the place and the story would flow from me, others days I could hardly write a paragraph. I got frustrated on the days I couldn’t write. I felt I owed it to my characters to keep their story going and it gave me something to hold on to that wasn’t part of my dull world.
It wasn’t until I was almost a third of the way through the first draft that I realised that I had finally found the thing I wanted to do with my life. It seemed absurd that me, who used to cry when I was made to write as a child, wanted to try to make my living by writing stories as an adult.
Writing the first draft was the easy bit next, I had to have a go at editing, something that I didn’t have any experience of at all. To make things harder, when I read I don’t read every word. If I try to the text quickly becomes single words with no context at all. I have to stop and stutter over the small its, ands, thes, tos and ins. I tend to read enough of the words to get the gist of what had been written, enough to understand but that’s no good for editing a novel.
I realised that I needed to be able to listen to it, this way I would hear anything that didn’t flow and the times that I had confused quite for quiet and things like that. My sister, to begin with, offered to record it for me, she would painstakingly correct the grammar and punctuation and then read it allowed to her computer before sending me the recording.
It worked but she was busy and soon I needed more than she could give me so I switched to a text to speech program. By listening to each paragraph and then pausing and editing it I managed to find away for me to pick up on those things that I would normally miss. But it was hard work.
When I was writing the story I would find myself almost in a trance like state as the words flowed from me onto the page. I would see and feel what was happening and my only job was to try to have my fingers keep up with my brain. Even though I struggled to concentrate I was able to write because the words seemed to come so naturally.
But editing was different I needed to concentrate, to assess each word and sentence to make sure it flowed and had the exact words I wanted. Some days I would be able to do almost an hour but most of the time I struggled to do ten minutes. It was desperately frustrating, I had only got up to chapter 10 by the new year (there are 33 chapters in all). I was in the habit of going all out on the days I could and then doing next to nothing for several days while my brain recovered from the effort, I needed to change the way I approached it. So I started to pass my writing efforts the same way I did my physical ones. No matter what I would only do a set amount each day. Sure some days it was still too much but by working like this I started to make really good progress.
I was in the habit of going all out on the days I could and then doing next to nothing for several days while my brain recovered from the effort, I needed to change the way I approached it. So I started to pass my writing efforts the same way I did my physical ones. No matter what I would only do a set amount each day. Sure some days it was still too much but by working like this I started to make really good progress.
It took another seven months to finally finish the first round of editing. My dad has gone through and corrected the punctuation and grammar so my next task is to put that in. My end goal is to publish. Though goodness knows how long that might take. But in the mean time, I’ll enjoy the whole process.
It’s funny. The thought of me writing a novel used to be absurd, but now I have done it and I can’t think of anything else I want to spend my life doing.
Thanks for reading. Now that the heavy editing is done I’m hoping to post more often.
The girl with the braid in her hair