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I learned to play piano so long ago that I don’t really remember struggling to match black dots on lines to white keys on the instrument. Same with riding a bicycle – although I DO remember a particular wattle tree at the turn of the street I got a little too friendly with on one of my very first expeditions.
I don’t remember being an only child, even though I was four and a half when the next sibling was born. I don’t remember learning to read, and I DO clearly remember correcting the reading of students in the year above me when I was in year three (and yes, I was a miniature Hermione in primary school, which in Australia is Kindy to year six).
I don’t remember learning to hold a pencil and form letters.
I DO, however, remember very clearly learning how to write. Mostly because I’m still learning :P but also because in comparison to these other things, it’s more recent. And while on the one hand it’s frustrating to look at authors who are REALLY good and go – oh my gosh, I’ll never be that good, why am I even bothering? – on the other hand, it’s also kind of cool to be able to look back on how far I’ve travelled in the last few years.
And believe me, I have TRAVELLED, and thank goodness. Cause you know, some of that early stuff was really, genuinely terrible.
I have a subfolder in my writing folder called ‘The Graveyard’, where ideas go to die. I actually tend to use it as more of a flexible dead zone, though, because things can always be resurrected as zombies >:) So in actual fact, it’s all the stories I’m not working on right now (because if I have all the folders out and visible, the Brain panics because OH NOES, ALL THE OPTIONS!!! *dies of indecision*).
BUT. In The Graveyard, I have another subfolder: Beyond Resurrection. And this, my friendlies, is where the true horrors of the graveyard lie. Sure, in other graves there are part-bodies and bodies with heads where their legs should be and bodies that never made it off the operating table and bodies that have been in train wrecks and bodies that lack hearts and all manner of other gruesome story stuff, but they’re not the horrors. The horrors are the one that are so truly DREADFUL that you don’t ever actually WANT them to come back to life.
Like the story I wrote as part of my masters degree for an archaeology course, which made it blatantly clear that I ought never, ever, EVER try to write historical fiction again. Or the story that was essentially just me in character form, angsting that I didn’t know what to write. Or the flash fic that was just a bad excuse to tell a joke that’s funny in real life, but from which I learned that stories and jokes are actually (shock!) different genres.
Look, honestly? Some of them are so bad that I don’t even have them on my USB stick which is my LIFE when it comes to writing when I’m not on my home laptop (as now), so I can’t even post excerpts for you to be amused at.
But the funny thing is, even if I wanted to, there isn’t a good excerpt to post, because the problem wasn’t that I didn’t know how to write sentences. I could write sentences, and pretty good ones at that; I did have university training in both law and English, after all. No, it was the STORY I had problems with – creating conflict without melodrama, allowing room for the reader and not overwriting, avoiding forced-march plotting (something I still lapse into sometimes), creating a satisfying story arc.
Which makes it all the sweeter when stories come to me now, like two have in the last ten days, complete with beautiful story arcs and pacing and character motivation. And it helps me to have patience through the drudgery of marking – because I used to be that awful too ;)