The 2012 Advent Calender: For the 25 days of Christmas, I will be blogging each day about a miscellaneous thing I love. Not necessarily a big thing, not necessarily a small thing and not in any order.
Alongside the devouring of books, writing is almost certainly a product of a TV-less upbringing. Writing stories goes as far back as I can remember. I remember proudly declaring to a dinner lady when I was in my third year of school—so seven years old—that my dad had bought me a typewriter, and I’m pretty sure that was the second typewriter he bought me. I’d been writing stories for a long time before that.
There are a few notable moments that stick in my memory. I remember a stapled together story that involved a secret passage from below Flamborough Cliffs to France through which smugglers were stealing… erm… Tutankhamun’s treasure. Logic was not a strong point—I grew up on the Secret Seven, Three Investigators and Hardy Boys. I had a floppy disc (remember them?) full of Chapter Ones of stories, most of them involving the Secret Service (not the government, but the secret gang of friends from when I was eight years old. And when I say gang… there were two of us.) Somewhere at secondary school I began to write an epic fantasy novel, Emissary to the Dragon. That one carried on much longer than anything else I’d written with a degree of technical proficiency that I can actually re-read with too much embarrassment. I promised at the time that whenever I eventually published a novel I would thank three people for reading that book as I wrote it: Joanne Allen (correcting typos), Sam Dunn and Kat Wilson (for generally reading an encouraging.)
In college all sorts of things changed in my life, and in my second year I wrote something a little different: a script for a TV show, called Exorcist. It was essentially literary revenge/tribute to a group of people I knew and involved a Buffy-type group running around the streets of Whitby battling ghosts and demons and the like. I put heart and soul into it—I have a folder in which every episode of a 24-episode series is planned; I filmed the opening credits and did real, proper research. More impressive of all, I actually built a scale model of the main set in the script. I re-read the script towards the end of university… which is why you should never re-read the things you created in your youth. Despite that, I do always have, gestating in the back of my mind, a plan to rewrite the project as a novel.
And then I went off to university, and studied Creative Writing, which took my ability and passion for writing to whole new levels. I got to spend my time with people with just as much dedication for it, and I’ve always treasured the working relationship that I developed with some of them, especially Chris Black with whom I produced Between the Lines, a novella that I’m eternally proud of. The course benefited from great lecturers and a great cohort, and without it I’d have never felt the pride of my first published short story, or the adrenaline of performing my work. I still write, increasingly more now that I’ve realized how easy it is to let it all slide.
But looking back at my life, I realize exactly how important writing is to me. It’s always allowed me to escape what might have often felt like a restrictive life, create new people, places, and transform overwhelming personal experience into fiction. My ability to write is something I treasure, and desperately hope that I never squander.