Why am I doing this?
I’ve been dreaming up stories since grade school. If the teacher assigned a short story for school, I’d write an extra one for myself. When I was 12, my goal was to become the youngest published author ever. Then I read about a girl who had been published. And she was younger than I. So that dream was dashed upon the rocks of procrastination. If only I’d begun writing at 2 or 3 years of age, I might have accomplished something.
I did begin a story about a girl and her horse, when I was 12. I wrote faithfully every Saturday morning in bed. I’d write on this magnificent work of fiction for hours, stopping only when my hand cramped up and I realized I’d been awake for hours without food. I continued writing the story well into my teens. I loved digging the small orange spiral-bound notebook from under my bed and reading what I’d written. I just knew this book was going to published. So what if it didn’t become a best-seller or a Newberry Award winner? The important thing would be that I had written a book about a girl and her horse for girls (like me) who loved horses and dreamed of owning one someday.
Except that it was never published. And by “never published” I mean “never finished.” The book was awful. It took a few years for maturity to set in so that I could read with grown-up sensibility what a mess I’d created. It turns out that my idea of drama was fighting. I mean near-constant arguing throughout the book, involving every character, including characters I’d made up on the spot just to get a fight going. I couldn’t help but wonder what that said about my childhood.
At the beginning of my foray into writing, my mother asked what the book was about. She then asked how it would end. Really? How the h*ll would I know? I hadn’t written the ending yet. The thing is, my mother was writing her own book at the time, a romance novel. I figured she knew everything there was to know about writing. After all, she had a copy of Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” on the bookshelf. I was certain only a professional writer would have that book. And a professional writer would know that you always know how a story ends before you’ve written it.
Ashamed to admit that I did not, in fact, know how my book would end, I made up some nonsense on the spot. Two seconds after I was finished, I had no idea what words had come out of my mouth. To this day I don’t know. I never asked my mother, either, because then I’d have to admit that I’d made it all up, and wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of the lie to begin with?
In some small way, I blame that scene for being the reason I never ended the book. How could I, without a genuine well-thought-out-in-advance conclusion? In reality, the book was a garbled mess; there were too many problems to resolve through editing. So I took a different approach: a page-one rewrite. Guess how far I got with that? It’s possible the second version was worse than the first, but I haven’t had the nerve to go back and read it.
Someday, I may publish bits and pieces of the original story for your amusement. You can also use it as a barometer: if you’re well over the age of 12 and your story reads like mine, please put down the pen. Seriously.
A year ago, my friend Joanna introduced me to a local writers’ group. Each month, we are given a “homework assignment” to create a written piece based on a particular phrase or idea. The pieces are typically short, so that sharing them in class is feasible. I’ve heard some great works by the members of the group, and I hope to share their websites with you. The support I’ve received from Joanna, Evelyn, Patti, Susan, Sherrie, Karen, and Pam (all members of the group) has been invaluable. Their encouragement is the main reason I’ve decided to publish my stories. I value their feedback, but I’d also like to hear comments from an even wider audience. What do you think of my writing?
Happy reading! ~~ Jennifer