On Writing

I have always wanted to write. My blog is proof of that. But in the last few years, I’ve not written many articles. Maybe, because I felt it was not interesting to anybody, or maybe because I thought it might be too interesting to the wrong people. So rather more than less I quit posting here; I can’t even promise that I’ll continue after writing this one article. But I might. Because I have a new topic. I am going meta. I want to write about writing, because supposedly it does a writer good to write about her writing.

How did I get to wanting to write in the first place? I have always read a lot. I had a library card when I was young and never left the library with less than the 10 books I was allowed to check out at once. Today I have an ebook reader and a goodreads account. My yearly challenge is to read 1 book every week, 52 a year. And the more I read the more I also want to create stories.

For the past 16 years – give or take a few – I kept telling myself that some of the best authors did not start writing until they were much older than 20. I think of Max Frisch when I say that. But one day, everyone has to start. So a few years ago, I started looking for ideas again. Within a short time, I had created two different settings. Then, however, I got bogged down deciding what to do about them. I was still procrastinating about this and other choices when – about 2 years ago – a former colleague of mine started writing a novel and he wrote about writing it. He self-published Cubuyata about a month ago. But long before he was finished, I had decided I would not wait longer.

The final problem was the choice of language. English is not my first language; while I feel I am quite proficient in it, I am not and will never be a native speaker. Only yesterday I had to read up on punctuation rules and was quite surprised by more than half of the comma rules. I have trouble with the placement of adverbs in the sentence structure; and sometimes I simply misuse or abuse a word. But I could not write in German for some reason. I tried. I never got beyond a paragraph. When I think of writing something – especially fiction – my thoughts are in English unless I concentrate very hard on German. Finally a friend, whose native language is spoken by only half a million people, suggested, I stop worrying and write in English.

And that’s what I started doing last July. As a kind of birthday present I gave myself the time to start writing fiction. To keep it simple and answer a few key questions (Does the setting work? Is my English sufficient? Can I write more than a blog article? Can I create and finish a story ark?), I decided to start with a short story set in one of the worlds I had already prepared.

The beginning of the story was hard. But after the first few paragraphs, suddenly, the story took on a life of its own. Characters did things I never expected them to do, and the story took twists and turns, I had not planned. I planned too little, I realize that now. It was not long and I hit the 5.000 word mark that I had set myself as goal. The story was not finished yet. Words kept coming, more scenes were needed and the story grew to 10.000 words. It stopped being a short story around 15.000 words. I was not happy with my ending. The ending I had planned did not seem to be working as an ending. So another chapter was added. Around 18.000 I started calling the project a novella. I finished the first draft with around 20.000 words. After editing and revising, the story is now about 25.000 words long. That is about 45 pdf pages.

Around the second week of December my first draft was finished and I gave it to my two first readers. One was chosen because she is an avid reader of many of the same books that inspired my writing and, also very important, a native speaker. The other kindly offered to do me the favor of reviewing my story, because I reviewed his novel in the summer.

So far I have told next to nobody about this project. But I spent a lot of my free time on it. It’s kind of hard not to be able to talk about the thing that takes up so much of my thoughts and time. Especially, because I fully intend to continue doing this thing.

By Yashima

Writer of code and stories