A Complete History of My Writing Failures

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hey, Teenager of the Year is now number 75 of Australia’s top writer blogs. I’ve climbed five places in the last month! (The way I say ‘climbed’ I can imagine crawling up a cliff face and slapping other bloggers out of the way, crying “Die, writer, die! Mwahaha!” Pure eeevil.)

The very first novel-length story I ever attempted was called The Merryhem’s First Adventure. It was written in third person, past tense. The main female protagonist was named Rose Merryhem. She had an older sister who was named after a Bratz doll and an older brother whose name evades me. They went to heaven on an escalator in their backyard, met this guy with white hair who turned out to be evil, met a fat woman called Tabitha at the beach, and the story eventually concluded when they all walked into the kitchen and passed out at the dramatic sight that was there.

The story ended at this point because I couldn’t figure out what could make them pass out, so I just gave up. I think it reached about 1000 words in length by the end of it.

I wrote The Merryhem’s First Adventure when I was seven. It has not resurfaced since. It’s a shame, because I think it would have been a cult classic, had it been made into a movie. It always seemed more like a script than a novel.

After that, I fell into a bit of a funk. I thought, ‘I’ll never be able to write a novel, make millions, and buy a pony and a very large house for my family.’ I was an awfully morose eight-year-old.

I can’t remember the years between eight and eleven. I think something very unpleasant must have happened for me to erase three years of my life. Perhaps this was when the alien abduction occurred.

When I was eleven I started writing Upper YA. I think it’s important to note here, that between eleven and thirteen I felt at least five years older than I looked. And then when I was fourteen I regressed to the maturity level of a five-year-old.

My first YA novel was called Darling. That was the main character’s name. She was sixteen. She lived in a trailer park. She had white trash friends with hyphenated first names like Chardonnay-Mercedes and Honey-Boo. Everyone in the story was based on a real person. There was very little plot. I spent several days working on the cover, though, one holidays.

I realised Darling was crap, and moved on.

At the end of Grade Six I wrote a story for my class in which everyone starred, and they were all ten years older and rich and glamorous, and someone in our class stopped global warming, and my best friend threw a party on a private jet, and another friend of mine was Prime Minister. My best friend at the time had worked on the ideas with me all year. Everyone said it was an incredibly good story when they got a copy at graduation. I got the ‘Creative Writing’ award at the end of the year, which was special in spite of the fact that they invented it for me. Perhaps that made it even more special.

In year seven I started a story called The Daytime Drama That Is My Life (or sometimes, My Life Is A Daytime Drama), that featured a trio of friends. The main character had parents who had had a lot of plastic surgery.

There was no plot to speak of, but it was very funny.

Then came a story called The People’s Republic of Steve (I worked more on novelty titles and pretty mock-up covers at this point than the actual stories). The main character’s name was Steve. His father had an affair with his French teacher. He had a nerdy friend called Scott. He played Monopoly.

Then came A Girl Called Fred.

It had everything. Eating disorders. Abusive parents. Gay parents. Romance. Death.

I read the ten thousand words that make up A Girl Called Fred today, and all I can do is cringe and throw more pages into the fire.

I can’t believe I wrote that two years ago. It doesn’t really seem like I wrote it at all. It reads like a bad fan fiction. Though characters from A Girl Called Fred did resurface in my later stories – their names and ages changed, though.

At the beginning of 2008 I wrote a novel. It was called Gracie’s List, and you can read it on this blog and formulate your own opinion.

I’m still trying to figure out why it took me so long to realise that novels need plots, as opposed to funny strings of events.

This is the point at which I am visited by a divine being.

Okay, there was no divine being. I kind of wish there was, though. It would make for a more interesting blog post.

I decided in May of 2008 that I was going to change my name and dye my hair red. I invented Reason Mercury – the most fabulous, glamorous, dangerous girl ever.

Then I realised she wasn’t me at all, and other characters arrived and announced themselves, and several times they woke me up in the middle of the night and wouldn’t get out of my room until I started writing a story about them - which sounds weird, I know, but compared to a certain bestselling author’s creepy toy boy vampire fantasy it’s quite normal.

So I wrote that novel. And the title has since changed and it’s been rewritten. And I really like it, though I’m a terrible judge of my own work. I don’t think this novel belongs in the ‘failure’ category. I’m going to slot it in under ‘almost-success’.

Then, I invented more supremely awesome characters. I created a post-apocalyptic Melbourne. I created evil masterminds, and characters that couldn’t die. Emo Nightfire, super-powered psychopath. Sacha DeLovely, reanimated corpse.

Then I started giving non-Japanese characters Japanese names. I knew, at that point, that I had to stop.

It was called The Experimentals and it did not work out.

There were a couple after that which didn’t get past the idea and outline stage, before I started work on my current project. Which I’m still shrouding in secrecy, which is entirely unnecessary, since no one is really interested anyway.

Every story I failed – and believe me, there were a lot I didn’t mention – taught me a little bit more. The Experimentals taught me I should never, ever try to write urban fantasy EVER again. Darling taught me I shouldn’t write about characters five years older than me. My writing slowly got better the more I wrote. I realised that, as entertaining as funny titles and witty characters are, plot takes precedence.

Sometimes, I like to try and figure out how many words I’ve written in stories in my entire life. I think it’s somewhere up near 150,000 words. Which is only ten thousand words a year, but if you take into account that I couldn’t write for the first five of those years, it’s not bad at all.

Feel free to comment below with your Brief History of Writing Failures. And, perhaps, successes.
Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground