martin white | author

The Personal Pile of Slush

The Personal Pile of Slush

Here’s a photograph no writer wants to see. Ever.

I began writing – sort of properly – about twenty odd years ago now. It started with longhand written short stories which from memory were so bad that they were binned as soon as they were written. I do hope I didn’t accidentally keep any in case my kids find them when I croak…

Before long I discovered that longhand wasn’t for me as I’m a lazy ass and it was too much effort – so I splashed out on a word processor – not a computer, as they were still things of the future back in those days. I toiled for months with that WP – the way it worked was by typing text into a sort of short term memory where it was stored, then when you hit ‘print’ it spewed everything out in a oner. As far as editing went you could only see about four or five lines at a time on a green LCD display, so you had to move a very small blinky cursor around til you found what you were looking for.

Despite the WP being a pain in the arse I did manage to write a couple of drafts of a novel on it – but it ended up abandoned due to a whole load of real life stuff which unfortunately had more drama in it than the actual novel. Less vampires though. Well, maybe not when I think about it…

So I eventually got my first PC in the very late 90s – a colossal 1gb hard drive as I remember – but it had Word, so for the first time it was possible to write without spending more time fannying about with hardware than actually telling stories.

The first massive project I embarked on was a book of short stories bookended by a large two part story that loosely connected them all together. A sort of anthology book just like the old Amicus Movies, the sort that usually had Peter Cushing and Ingrid Pitt in them. Its actually called ‘Portmanteau’ but seriously, dont use that word on anyone you want to impress. It took me about three years to complete, battering away at it on it in all my spare time, days off and fits of insomnia.

When I thought it was finished I did everything I should have done at the time – letters to publishers and agents, spoke to everyone I knew about it to get a bit of interest going. I even bent Clive Barkers ear about it when I met him at a signing – lovely bloke, gave me some good advice. Still following it too, it’s just that I’m not quite there yet Clive…

So, about two years later I had enough rejection letters to wallpaper a small room with and was wondering why no one was ‘getting’ my visionary take on real and metaphoric monsters – cos there was no way my book was pants.

Then followed a long break where I sorted out my humanly existence as best I could, managed to have a bit of a life, did numerous music projects, had a bizarre spell of taking my day job seriously and then came children – which admittedly knocked everything for six…

Fast forward many years later to 2019 – following a very early retirement and, thanks to the music work, not having to immediately rush out and get a proper job, I decided it was time to see if I could get some of this writing thing back on course – and where better to start than that awesome first novel that no one else seemed to understand.

But then when I started reading it, I realised it was in fact, not very good at all. In fact, it was mostly extremely shit. Ahem – whoops, how many friends did I let read this..? Damn…

Okay, in my defence there were some good ideas, some decent moments and some characters I liked – but ultimately out of the entire novel there were only two sections I thought had any potential. The first and shortest story and another tale that my wife always would make a good movie survived – but even then they would need expanded, rewritten and brought up to date. And I mean up to date – when I originally wrote these no one had mobile phones and the guy who invented Facebook was probably still at Primary School flicking bogies at folk.

So, the photograph. Basically the large pile on the right is the material that wasn’t any good – the small pile on the left is the stuff that showed enough potential to survive. Not a lot considering all the effort that went into it, but hey, at least I had fun writing it. I think. Well, more fun than it was to read it anyway.

Boys and girls, the moral of this story is this: Im not sure who said it (maybe Stephen King?) but I read an interview once where the author said you should wholeheartedly pour yourself into your first novel with wild abandon – then once you’ve finished it, put it in a drawer and keep it there forever. Then go work on a second one, which will be much better.

I’ve decided on reflection that this is good advice.




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