The Reason I Write, and Who I Write For

Why do I write? Who am I writing for?

These are two of the most important questions any aspiring writer/artist must ask themselves. And, I believe, you cannot be truly successful, or know fully who or what you are, until you have answered them both honestly. Why are you doing it, and who are you doing it for? In this blog post I shall give my answers to both of these questions. Your own answers may very well be different (I would hope they are, should we all be the same).

Why Do I Write?

I believe it is possible to put every person who calls themselves a writer into one of two categories. There are those who write because they like the idea of being a writer. They see the likes of JK Rowling and George R R Martin, scooping up tens, if not hundreds of millions of pounds/dollars for their work and think: I can do that. How hard can it be? They think, and yes, most even go as far as creating a synopsis, either on paper or just in their heads (usually just in their heads). These people then gloat to their peers about how they are going to be the next big thing. They talk about how well they will do, how unique their ideas are, how no one has ever done anything like them before and the world will bow down and collectively drops their slackened jaws in sheer awe at the magnificence of their work. They are, for want of a better word, deluded. These people talk more about their writing then they do actually writing. On Twitter, they tweet famous writers and then brag to their friends about re-tweets, they go to writers talks or creative writing classes and act like they know it all, and, because most people do not know any different, they believe them, further ensnaring said writer in their own delusion. And through it all – through all the dreaming and bragging – they fail to see that these writers whom they hold in such high esteem (Rowling, Gaiman, King, Martin etc) did not write their novels because they hoped to be stupidly rich and famous and successful. They wrote them because they were, in fact, members of the second category of people. The true category.

Members of this category write not because they desire fame and fortune, but because they have to write. These people, myself included, write because it is a part of them. I write stories because when I walk or have a few brief moments of solitude, my brain goes to other places. For some reason, when I think, I do not think about bills to pay, the mortgage, work, my friends, my life. I think instead about other worlds, and deals with the devil, and castles in the imagination. I do not think. I imagine. This is a blessing, and, at times, a curse (excuse the dramatic cliché). When I imagine, I build stories, and if I do not get those stories out of my head and onto paper I grow anxious, fidgety, and on occasions, depressed. If I do not write I feel clogged. These stories, these voices in my mind, they beg to be told, and if I do not tell them those characters begin taking pickaxes to my memories and start dislodging my every day thoughts. The less I write, the less I remember. It is as simple as that. It is like these voices – these stories – that appear in my head are the voices of real people, somewhere in the world. Perhaps when people pray, those prayers are not heard by God, but by writers? It certainly feels that way sometimes, that if I don’t tell their stories I am somehow doing them a disservice.

So that is why I write. I write, because I have to. I believe that if you ask any successful writer/artist/actor/singer why they do what they do, they will tell you the same. This also comes hand in hand with success. To be a good writer, you must practise. I am still practising. I always will be, I think. But those writers who write because they want to will fall short in the end, because they lack the stamina, the will to put in all those novels. They lack the patience to persevere through the mountains of rejections, the bad books, the crap short stories, the mind-numbingly dull poetry, and so they give up. However, we writers who write because we have to, will always put in those hours. We will write novel, after novel, after novel, not because we are seeking fame and fortune, but because we must. And through those years of solitary story-telling our craft improves. With every story – with every 100,000 words – we get better, and in the end, after five years, ten years, fifteen, twenty, we arrive at a standard that is good enough to be shared. 

Who Do I Write For?

This is harder to answer than the first question, because since deciding that I wanted to take this journey, that I would attempt to turn these voices into a career, my target audience has changed, time and time again. At first I wrote for myself. As I said before, I wrote because I had to. I needed to. But now that I am being mentored and working on a book with an industry professional, I can no longer think purely for myself. I have to consider: who else will read this? Children, is the answer, but it is not the full answer.

My novel, The Miracle of Harrow Falls, is an upper-middle grade novel. For those who don’t know, that is for children aged 9-12. I teach that age range. I know it well. I know it very well. This gives me an advantage. If you were to look at the children’s book market at the moment, you will see it dominated by the likes of David Walliams, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Jeremy Strong. These contain the usual – the expected. There is a story, not too complex, light, humorous, and a whole load of toilet humour. I have nothing against this. This sells. It is big business, and children lap it up. But not all children. Being a teacher I see the darker side of children’s lives. I see children who are neglected, abused, bullied, at school and at home. I see children struggle to cope as their parents divorce, get ill . . . even die.

These children are not interested in fart jokes. 

At first, before I became a teacher, I would have said: “No! These funny books are good. They cheer them up! They take them out of their misery and make them smile.” But I am a teacher. A child came back after the last half term and informed me that her mother has lung cancer. She was confused, devastated. I can tell you, no amount of toilet humour was going to put a smile on her face. She didn’t need to smile. She needed to understand. She was in a dark place, and she needed to talk to other people who were also in dark places so she could figure out how they escaped back into the light. These children are after escape. They are desperate for it, and from what I see, they are seeking it in YA fiction. Children as young as nine read dark, disturbing YA novels, most of which contain content (Sex, drugs, violence) that they should not be exposed to. And yet they still read them. They read because they are in a dark place, and only characters also in dark places can help.

Who do I write for? I write for them. I write for the children who are going through things that no child should go through. I take characters and I put them through hell, not because I want to be dark and edgy, but because I want to show that no matter how deep you go, there is always a light at the end. I am not interested in books about underpants or smelly tramps or toilet-roll billionaires. That limits my market, and I will not get rich writing the books I do, but I’m not in this to get rich. I’m in this to show those who are so down they fear they may never get up, that it’s okay, that they’re not alone, and that if they fight -and I mean really fight- they have a chance at happiness once again.

So there it is. The reason I write, and who I write for.

If you are a writer, what are your answers? What are your reasons?

I.M.

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A New Chapter

Hello all!

I created this blog a couple of years ago, with no clear idea of what it was going to be or where I wanted to take it. Well, now I do. I suppose I should explain . . .

 So, last year I accidentally sold my sister’s soul to the devil. Now before you freak out, you’ve got to understand, she totally deserved it.

Last year in August, when the summer holidays were in full swing, I was out walking in the Mausoleum Woods in the Lincolnshire Wolds when I thought up those words. I don’t know exactly where they came from. I didn’t know who was saying them, why they were saying them, or even if they were true, but for the remaining two hours I spent walking, and then the next half an hour driving home, they were all I thought about. When I did finally get a chance to sit down, alone, at my laptop, I typed them out and found that there were other sentences lurking beyond. I spent the next two months linking those sentences, following that trail of imaginative crumbs, and ended up with a book. I called it, The Miracle of Harrow FallsAnd I was proud of it. I mean really proud of it.

Yes, okay, I’ll admit, there were holes in it (gaping caverns, in fact) and character’s were sometimes doing things they probably shouldn’t have been doing, and saying things they should very well have kept to themselves! It was rough. By heck it was rough, but it was there. A book. A brand new, finished, diamond in a great big pile of rough.

I spent the next few months polishing that diamond, chiselling away the pointy edges and smoothing over all the bits that hurt when you read them. By March of this year (2015) I was ready to send it off. To agents. Literary folk. The gatekeepers to the kingdom longed after by so many dreamers. I have written four novels since beginning this quest nine years ago, and each was better than the last. This showed in the quality of rejection I received after wrapping them warm and sending them out into the world. My first novel, which I completed while at University, was bad. Hence, not even a letter of “sorry not for me” came after it. Just . . . nothing. And I deserved it. I knew nothing of the world and naively thought myself a master (ha, how fickle we are). Next, when I was 22, I tried again. At 23 I sent off my next novel. This was also bad. Not as bad as the first, but still bad. Deep down I knew it. But I received letters back. They still said no, but they were letters. Someone had taken the time to respond. It was progress.

Around this time I read a quote by Neil Gaiman saying: “All writers have one million bad words inside of them. In order to get to the good stuff, you must first extinguish those million words.” Or something to that effect. So, between the ages of 23 and 25, I wrote every day (near enough) and tried my best to extinguish those million words. In that time I wrote 3 books. None of these will ever see the light of day. They were mine. I called them, The Dark Ones. But then, at 25, I had an idea. I knew this was not going to be another Dark One. This was going to be something else. Something real. It was called The Witching Circle. I loved it. It wasn’t perfect (at this point I accepted that I’d never see any of my works as perfect) but it was good. I sent it off, again, for the first time in a long time, and again it got rejected. But these rejections were different. The agents didn’t send copy-and-paste replies, or ignore me completely. They were personal. Complementary. They said things like “You can clearly write well, but it’s not for us” and “I don’t think I can sell this, but this is a subjective business . . .” etc etc etc.

When I received the final rejection (rejection 7 I believe) I went for a walk to clear my head. On that walk I imagined those words, wrote The Miracle of Harrow Falls  and sent it off.

Two days ago I got a reply from an agent. This said she liked my book and wanted to discuss it further. I was at work at the time, just about to log off my computer and start marking my books (I’m a teacher now, believe it or not!), and when I read them, my legs gave way. I slumped into my chair, re-read the email half a dozen times, and then called Helen. I said: “I’ve done it. Someone hasn’t said no.” They hadn’t said yes either, but they hadn’t said no. THAT was new. That had never happened before.

I have since spoken to said agent over the phone and await a Skype call over the weekend. Still, they haven’t said that they want to rep me, but they are taking the time out of their lives to help me with my book. When I look back, I see a pattern. Book one: no reply. Book two: standard rejection. Book three: personalised rejection (and a few complements). Book four: A one to one discussion.

I am not deluded. I know that this may amount to nothing, but I have hope. I have determination. I have the guts to push forward. I have the courage to pursue my dream, beyond the ends of the Earth if I must.

This blog will chronicle my journey. The names will be hidden. Including my own.

I am the Imagination Man, and this is my journey.