This morning, as I was getting ready for school, I paused to consider bringing along some reading material. The first place my eyes wandered was (no surprise) my collection of Doctor Who books, specifically the two Eighth Doctor Adventures novels which I have yet to begin (still only read the first two books). From there, my eyes hopped square to my James Bond collection, which sits on the adjoining shelf. I almost plucked down The Man With the Golden Gun and read it for the who knows what number time.
And the other day, as I was working on beginning to clean my closet, I came upon a big bin full of papers. Most of them were just tossed in carelessly; some had clearly been in some semblance of order once. I knew what it was before I even opened it. All of my stories, notes, everything I'd written back in the day, was in there. I took the time to fish out the 160-odd pages of the first draft my first ever novel and set it on my desk. Of course I know everything that happens. Of course I've read all the 32 drafts (many incomplete, but I count each fresh tackle at revision as a draft) numerous times. Of course I know it was very largely shite -- derivative bordering on plagiarism in a few places. But I still sat down and read Part I.
Yesterday, when it was very very warm and I was out relaxing under a peach tree in the front which never bears fruit, I was thinking about the book I wrote last summer. My verdict: Not as bad as I thought it was back then. Yeah, it was still bad, and the writing in places was weak, but in all honesty it was sounding pretty good. Agent on a train running from the Ukraine to Croatia sent on a capture-or-kill of a would-be defector, captures him and arranges for a detail of three of his fellow agents to help him smuggle him aboard a cargo ship from Croatia to Venice, and about halfway there the ship sinks suddenly. From there, it leads into the agent being hunted around Europe as he tries to work out who sunk that ship and why, once it becomes apparent the obvious suspects (the USSR) are out of the question. Oh yeah, everything post-sinking was executed pretty poorly, but the first eight or so chapters I'm now thinking were quite grand.
And then there's the crown jewel. I went digging through my old computer where I wrote my audio dramas, and I stumbled upon something I wrote as blatant, sheer, campy, hamtastic, moronic fun. Never meant for the project to go anywhere, just wrote it. A team of wildly incompetent Gestapo with very basic psychic talents are sent to Sark to recover a British scientist who has been feeding the Nazis advanced technology before the Nazis launch an invasion attempt on the Channel Islands. What ensues is six insane Gestapo vs one badass SAS man, fresh home from the African campaigns. Add to the mix that the scientist's latest invention was a time machine (obviously disguised as a fob watch) and you have a recipe for OTT success.
Why discuss all this stuff? One thing which has been bugging me a lot lately is the thought that I am T E R R I B L E and utterly unpublishable. Bugging me so much it's halted my writing yet again. And so it services as a slight reminder of the fact that I used to be worse (except in the case of that Gestapo script; I don't care what you say, that is definitely the greatest thing I have ever written or ever shall write), and it therefore follows I can only get better with time. It's also just kind of interesting to see exactly what progress I've made.
Ultimately what I've been trying to do is to bear in mind something I've always known, but it kind of has taken an outsider reiterating it for it to really start sinking in. We're all terrible when we begin. You can't expect to write War & Peace on your first effort; that just doesn't happen (whether or not such a book is your first published effort is a different matter entirely). The only place one can go is up.