The Decadal Book

This blog started off has a way to document my daily adventures abroad in university, but it was also very much a place where I wrote about writing. It was such a part of this blog in fact that I didn’t even have a category for all the posts about my book and instead I eventually created a whole other blog for all that stuff: precariousreader.wordpress.com. But I still post about it here, and now is as important as ever because I’ve reached a special…horrible…milestone.

I can’t say I’ve been writing SC for ten years—more like I’ve been working on it for ten years. The draft I’m on feels more like a first draft than a tenth. (Not actually sure if it’s the tenth. There’ve been many: partial, full, and whatnot.) Still, ten years ago, give or take a few days, I sat down at my desk on a warm and sunny day in early November, 2009. I’d read all of my books at least twice each, and I was bored. All I had was some lined loose-leaf, one of the best black pens I’ve ever owned, and the urge to write. What about? I’d had no idea. But I wanted that feeling of making marks with a great pen onto a stack of perfect paper and ruining it all. So I just started.

And stopped. I got out a coil notebook, only 50 pages or so, and the first few pages had been used by someone for something irrelevant, and I started again. And stopped.

When I started again, I wrote for ten or eleven months solid and only stopped when I finished the first draft. I immediately started writing the next book (SC used to be four books) and rinsed and repeated for a few years. At some point in university when I realized the first book—which by then I’d rewritten (or attempted to rewrite) a few times by then had diverged so dramatically from the original story that the entirety of the fourth book which I was still writing no longer made sense with all the changes I’d made. The first draft of that fourth book was never completed—the only first draft of an SC book to be incomplete.

Screenshot 2016-10-08 20.24.50

In university I studied a combined major of Creative Writing and Film Studies. Unfortunately, Film Studies did not end up being what I’d hoped and so after my first year I switched to full-time Creative Writing, focusing on fiction and screenwriting. The version of SC I worked on in my last year was my thesis, and it got the equivalent of a B+. At the time it was disheartening to think that at that point I’d been working on a version of the same story for over six years and it was still at a B+ level. Looking back now, though, I see all the mistakes I was making and opportunities I was missing in my writing. The B+ was deserved, even if I couldn’t fathom then how I could possibly make it better.

After graduating, I worked in retail until I quit an unfortunate boss, then, with some money saved and lots of time on my hands, I decided to go at the acting thing. And between the auditions and filming days (fun as they were, they took up only a fraction of my time), I wrote SC. That summer, I took a short story I’d written in university, turned it into a script, and shot my first short film, SIV, which, despite some technical difficulties and my lack of experience, was finished and made it into two film festivals the next year.

And now? My newest short film is only a couple of months into its festival run and has already won an award at one festival and been long-listed in another. I’ve pitched a web series, and am now working on a documentary idea (but that’s still a secret). On that side of my life, it feels like I’ve come a long way.

My strides on the book front are a little more invisible. To friends and family, the biggest difference they’ll have noticed is that I’ve gone from writing longhand to working on a laptop. I’m the only person in the world who knows how far I’ve really come, and it’s so easy for me to forget sometimes, too. It’s the tenth anniversary of the day I started writing SC. It almost feels like I have nothing to show for it.

All the parties spent in a quiet corner writing instead of socializing, all the classes ignored while I worked on my book, all the trouble I’ve gotten in because of it. Not to mention the things that I’ve heard. My book is “an impossible sell” or “an overdone genre” or “gimmicky” or “irrelevant”. And you know what? Maybe it is. I mean, a bored fourteen year old came up with the idea so how good can it really be? But the writing is better, the characters more developed, the plot more logical, the prose more palatable. I’ve improved. At the very least, these ten years of writing SC have changed me.

The current draft of my book, the one I said earlier feels more like a first draft? It surpassed 40 000 words the other day, which should be about halfway through. We’ll see where I’m at for the 11th anniversary, eh?

 

Another version of this post exists on Precarious Reader and guest-stars Stephen Chbosky. Read it by clicking here.

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