As part of my NaNoWriMo Halo Giveaway, I offered all of the folks who signed up a chance to write a guest post for How Not To Write. I think you’ll be amazed as I was at the variety of people who have submitted posts. I know I am. I’m also proud to share their words here and I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a comment. — Jamie
Today’s post comes from F.R.R. Mallory…
“Go goddess!” ~ Mallory
F.R.R. Mallory is currently a Junior at the University of California at Berkeley working toward an upper degree in Neuro Psychology. She writes both nonfiction and fiction with work appearing in many diverse markets. Recent articles and short stories have appeared in such publications as: FATE Magazine, Fishnet Magazine, Lucrezia Magazine, On The Premises, Doorway Magazine, Women’s Voices, Freya’s Bower, Wilde Child Publishing and others. Her work will also be featured in the upcoming anthology Back to Luna, by Hadley-Rille Press. She can be found at: http://www.mallorywrites.com
The First Three Million Words
The First 3 Million Words…
I didn’t intend to be a writer. In fact I grew up with certain prejudices against that very thing. When there are writers (crazy bastards) in your family you (as a child) get a front row seat on all of their neuroses, it ain’t pretty. They are always lousy poor, whiny and muttering about this character or that damn plot thing they forgot about and generally they have nefarious habits like getting sloshy drunk and being continuously distracted from the real world. The other problem (as I saw it) was that one, in particular, had the rotten habit of inflicting her English expertise on me. We would be having a perfectly reasonable argument and she would interrupt me to say something like, “enunciate your words correctly.”
So, in order to make sure that I would never fall into the becoming-a-writer trap I decided in high school to spend most or nearly most of my English class time shooting spitwads at the teachers, in lieu of learning junk like grammar and composition and predicates. I was successful too.
Then one day my husband was killed and in the aftermath a publisher (who knew a few of my relatives) approached me and wanted me to write about what happened. After all, (the publisher reasoned), with a family like mine I MUST be a writer. They offered good money so I thought to myself, well, I could put aside my disdain for writers long enough to make some bank and in the process redeem myself in the eyes of (or better yet flaunt my success in the eyes of) those very same family writers. Hah. How hard could it be? So I bought a computer. This was back in the day of boat anchor computers with dial-up modems, the Blue Wave of death and Bulletin Boards (3 days for a message to go round the world). It was scary. The thing sat on my desk like a looming monster, daring me to have the temerity to hit the power button.
Eventually I did. After all that publisher wasn’t going to wait forever so about 9 months after the computer showed up I decided I could do this. So up pops Word Perfect and a blank page. Uh huh. I stared at it. It stared back. I fidgeted. It stared back. I went and got a Coke and poked at my brain – “brain, type something…” My brain a year after he died wasn’t much interested in thinking about his death – imagine that. My brain said, “No.” I figured I could sneak in the back door — see, my problem (I figured) was that I was rusty, I just needed something easier to get me started. Now I had been dreaming about an SF story for a few years…
Four days later I had a 50,000 word novel. It was gobsmackingly BAD. I mean, I couldn’t remember how to use quotation marks and I ran afoul of pretty much every rule there is to novel crafting. But, it had a rather nifty story and better than nifty plot. What I need to say about those 4 days is that it was a kind of ecstasy. It was orgasmic. I didn’t eat or sleep or leave the room for anything but the potty. After the first 5-10 words I KNEW what I was – I was a writer.
Now it is important for me to say here that I wasn’t a very good writer. I knew by the end of 2 weeks (3 books completed at that point) that I wasn’t going to be writing that book about my husband’s death. I was too raw in that part of my consciousness. And…there were all these OTHER books I actually wanted to write.
But, it is important for me to say here that I KNEW I wasn’t a very good writer and I have an ego. I lamented my wasted education and all those damn spitballs and I knew what parallel karma was. I wasn’t going to be flaunting anything until I undid 25 years of crap for English and taught myself how to do this thing properly.
Now – the writing world will tell you that it takes you writing a million words before you will not embarrass yourself completely. Let me revise that – I’m about 3 million words in and yes I got readable around a million words but I wasn’t any good. I don’t care what you write – you have to write and you have to be consciously passionate about improving if you want to be good. It isn’t a gift from god. It is hard work and a tremendous amount of practice. So, at 3 million words I think I’m becoming interesting. I’ve found the basement and I’m not leery of my family members reading me even when they see themselves in print.
I’ve critiqued about 3-3,500 short stories. I’ve facilitated writing workshops. I fought to comprehend things – to find my invisible elephants. I ended up returning to college and I’m now a junior at Berkeley – all on my path to unearthing my own potential. I write copiously. I write about everything and about nothing. It’s bliss. It’s agony. But, it’s my agony.