As much as we might like it to be otherwise, being a good writer – even being a great writer – generally isn’t enough to become a successful writer. And in this day and age, when the first instinct of many people is to Google something or someone in order to know more about them, if you aren’t on those first few pages of results, you might as well not exist at all. Unless other people are already talking about you and your writing, having a searchable platform is one of the keys to this.
When I was studying for my master’s degree in writing, each week students were required to write a five hundred word piece on whatever topic was occupying the class at the time. I did eight subjects that were each twelve weeks long, so by the time I graduated, I had ninety-six pieces of writing.
If you’ve read the 2007 writing journal I published on this blog in July, you’ll know that as far back as then I was already thinking about how I could use all those pieces to create a book about writing (with the very unoriginal title “Everything I Know About Writing”). You’ll know I was trying to get out of having to write that writing journal by creating a book about writing. You’ll also know it didn’t work out and I ended up writing the writing journal anyway. But the idea never really went away.
My little sister is obsessed with op shops (charity shops, second-hand shops, whatever you call them in your location). When we recently happened to drive past one in an area she doesn’t usually frequent, she made me stop and go back, then dragged me in. She went straight for the clothing racks. I went straight for the book shelves.
There’s a theory (and it might just be my theory but I’m sure there are others who espouse it, too) that most main characters are simply disguised versions of the author writing them. Sometimes the disguises make that fact virtually unrecognisable. Sometimes the disguises are so thin the authors might as well not have bothered.
A quick glance over the marital, gender, racial and family statuses of my main characters shows that I only write people who are single, female, white and childless. Single because it allows for a bit of romantic tension with a supporting male lead. Female because I always feel like I am doing a disservice when I attempt to write in a male voice, both to men and to my writing abilities. White because I’m white and while I know writers can and should explore racial identity in their writing, it’s not something I focus on. And childless because having to care for and chauffeur children to their mundane everyday activities really gets in the way of the things I like to make my characters do (such as getting kidnapped, travelling at a moment’s notice, evading authorities, living reclusive lives, that sort of thing).
The one thing that has varied over the years is the age of my main characters. And as I get older (closer to my forties now than I am really all that comfortable with – I read a main character in a novel bemoaning the fact that they were forty and middle-aged and realised I need to start thinking of myself that way as well shortly!), it seems a lot of my main characters are getting older, too.
Recently as I was trawling through reams and reams of old writing, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to post some of my really old stuff? I know! I’ll post the first chapter of the novella I wrote when I was seventeen!” I dug out the manuscript, realised I didn’t have an electronic copy anywhere (that’s how long ago I wrote it), and started typing it up in preparation for posting it.