For as long as I can remember, I have always been creatively oriented. I have memories of making my own “picture books” by folding over pieces of paper together and making stories which were complete rip-offs of other picture books I’d read and loved. However, I feel like 2004 was the year I “became” a writer, because that was the year that I started going onto Microsoft Word, going to a blank document and then writing out stories. So that’s 14 years’ worth of writing experience that I have by now.
And in that time, what was the most rewarding experience? Well, it wasn’t any of the obvious choices. It wasn’t my first published article, it wasn’t my first published piece of fiction, it wasn’t graduating from my Creative Writing course at Bath Spa University, it wasn’t successfully completing NaNoWriMo and it wasn’t getting my first full time writing job. No, my most rewarding experience as a writer, was writing my 100th story in 2008.
The story was titled, get this, “100th Story” and, to be quite honest with you, it wasn’t that great. Basically, I tried to tie together all of the characters from my previous 99 stories into one big story revolving around the Earth being infested with evil aliens called Soulsuckers (they sucked out your soul! Kind of.)
At 16,000 words, it was the longest thing I had ever written at the time, but looking back now, I know that it could never really be published. It wasn’t just reaching this milestone that got me excited though – what made this such a rewarding experience, is that it was a communal one.
As I was writing it, a lot of my friends started to take an interest in it. I’d asked several of them to read my stories every now and then, so most of them were familiar with at least some of my characters. People kept asking me how the story was coming along and it felt really good to know that my work meant something to people other than me.
To repay my friends for their support, I incorporated many of them into the stories as characters. When doing this, I tried to capture the dynamics we shared back then and looking back now, it’s nice to read a fictionalised version of my relationships with my old friends Ben, Davey, George, Sarah and “a really strange looking kid.” In reality, relationships always evolve and it’s nice to have this sort of snapshot of how things were ten years ago.
One thread of the story involved a school trip, which inadvertently brought my friends into the heart of the alien invasion. I remember killing at least one of them off actually, which seems a bit weird in retrospect – but I also killed off ‘myself’ in it, so I guess that makes it less bad.
When I finally finished it, I printed out copies for all my friends who were interested and I remember getting positive feedback from all of them. Some even said that they had given it to their parents to read – and they’d loved it as well! Having an audience who loved my work felt fantastic and I couldn’t have been happier if it were distributed and sold to thousands, because that small and dedicated following was infinitely valuable to me. I hope one day I will be able to captivate people like that again – and that every writer will get to experience that feeling at least once.