by Wendy Burgess
Another week passes by and it’s my turn to write the blog post. Going off the posts that have gone before it’s a tough act to follow. I’ve spent quite a few hours this week trying to think about what I would write. Not easy, for me. I’d rather write volumes of made up stuff than something factual but that’s just the way my little brain cell works.
Thinking about my poor little brain cell and what to write made me think about why I started writing. To try and figure that out we have to go back into the dark and dusty shadows of the past, dodging the curtains of cobwebs along the way.
I’m a person that I think people would possibly describe as a reclusive introvert. My mother was very protective of me growing up, possibly because she and my stepfather owned a sub-post office and they saw lots of information that today would be classified as private with a big red stamp.
Anyway, as a result I didn’t have the freedoms that other children my age had – no playing out dawn ‘til dusk, no sleepovers at a friend’s house or going anywhere, really. If I wasn’t at school I was either in the back room of the post office playing with my impressive collection of farm animals or I was in my bedroom reading. This lack of interaction with others led to me becoming a person happy to sit in the corner or on the edge of a group, an observer rather than a participant (unless there’s a dog involved but that’s another story).
For as long as I can remember I have been a bookworm. As addicted to the printed word as an addict is to their poison of choice. One of my earliest memories is being allowed a Mister Man book from Woolworths if I was good. Childhood favourites were Famous Five, Secret Seven, Five Go On An Adventure and the Black Stallion series. At Junior School, one favourite book that had to be taken from the library every year was Ivanhoe. Every time the film was on television I read the book and that was my graduation from kid books to adult ones.
I read tv books of my favourite shows, Airwolf, Knight Rider and the A-Team and discovered the love of reading about the Old West with Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey after watching John Wayne and Randolph Scott on television.
By the time I left junior school to start senior school childhood books were just sitting on a shelf taking up space. Action and adventure called to me and I quickly tumbled down their trails. Robert E Howard introduced me to Conan the Barbarian and the realms of fantasy. Alexander Kent taught me about magnificent sailing ships when England ruled the waves. My mind soaked it all up but I wanted more.
One of the highlights of my childhood was our annual holiday to Morecambe (yes, Morecambe holiday mecca of the north west!). Morecambe may be Blackpool’s poor relation but they had lots of newsagents that sold books cheaper than bookshops and some were American. I discovered romance (which was okay) but also the bodice ripper with knights in shining armour, fast shooting gunfighters, ruthless pirates and savage Vikings. Dragons soared the skies whilst spaceships travelled the galaxies. Johanna Lindsey and Shirlee Busbee were my new best friends and I would disappear for hours in those new worlds.
The more my brain absorbed those printed words the more my mind imagined scenes played out in the locations introduced to me. When I was 11 I got my first typewriter and I was soon pounding the keys with two fingered enthusiasm as I typed out what my mind played in my head. I remember feeling rather pleased that I’d managed to write a 3000 word story back then.
Westerns, Pirate, Medieval or Fantasy. There was no set genre that I wrote about. The only raw ingredients were adventure, action and a happy ever after. My typing skills improved to two fingers on each hand instead of one and I built up quite a bit of speed. Story after story poured out until I was starting to reach the 10000 plus mark. Not bad considering I was still at school.
After leaving school I got a job and then got married. The urge to read and write faded away as other tasks filled my time but they never truly disappeared. Soon the shelves were filling with books, something my then husband could not understand as he liked to get his books from the library rather than buy and keep them. As my mind filled with their words my imagination fired to life and soon it was a computer screen recording my creations rather than pages and pages of typed print.
Using a computer also opened up new worlds to me – writing sites and online book stores. The former led me to wonderful sites like NaNoWriMo and writing groups such as Oldham Writing Café whilst the latter introduced me to new authors with new worlds to tempt me. Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan, JR Ward, Rebecca Zanetti and Dianne Duvall introduced me to vampires, werewolves, demons and the magic of ancient mythology. New worlds to explore and create.
Going to writing groups encouraged me to look at sharing my work and pushing myself even further. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) was the perfect challenge for me – a 50000 word novel in 30 days. Bring it on!
Of course, it does help if your novel stays around the 50000 word mark so you can actually say that you have something finished to look into publishing. Mine just grew and grew until, after my tenth year of participating, I actually had one finished. I did it over two sessions of Nano rather than writing a new story and spent long hours staring at my computer screen as words filled page after page. Over 140000 of them, words that is not pages. Think I’d keel over in shock if it was pages. As it was, it was still a surprise to see that total when I typed The End.
Now the hard work starts as I try and learn the craft of editing. Writing the stories was so much more fun than editing but I found myself learning even more as I attempted to turn my rambling text into something that people might want to read, maybe. It also started the voices in my head as I really dug into my story. Those other characters who wanted a book of their own. That plot in the background that was spreading into book 2 and 3 and so on. But that’s for another day.
Why do I write? Initially I would have said it was to provide an outlet for the voices that sprung up when I read. However, writing creates more voices so it doesn’t really solve that problem. It does, however, give me a chance of creating my own worlds to explore and get lost in. To try out different character types, new environments or even made up words of some alien language. It allows me to escape my isolated existence and immerse myself for hours in worlds and periods that will never be experienced in real life. That’s why I write.