All Writers Have A ‘Secret Unsalvageable Story’

I should think that all writers have a story in their skeleton cupboard. A tale they are either fond of or hide it in the attic somewhere because they can’t bring themselves to burn it. This novel tends to be either the first one they ever wrote or riddled with obvious personal parodies to their own lives.

My ‘secret story’ is both of these things and is about to be unleashed on the world. Good luck.

As all well-told retrospective stories go, it was the year 2003 and I was 11 years old. Having grown up as an avid Buffy the Vampire fan and in the company of Buffy fans, it was a shock for tiny Willow to move to another part of the country where no one shared her fan-girl-joy. For the next two years she spent her life mostly on the phone to her best friend, Natasha, discussing how life was awful without each other.

But there was salvation on the horizon. One day, a wonderful realisation struck Willow like a doe prancing through the African planes… She could immerse herself in fiction.

Abandoning the third person complex, I went on to unwittingly write my first piece of fan-fiction. I did not find out what fan fiction was until I was 16. Mitch and I were scared of each other when we were younger, which is a sad thing indeed. So, this awful first novel was written bit-by-bit and after each chapter I would call Natasha and read it to her.

Here is where the punch line comes. The main characters of this little ‘novel’ are Natasha and myself (using my middle name, because there couldn’t be two Willows). We became the heroes of the world of Buffy.

I hand wrote 50 pages of the thing but I cannot bring myself to re-read it! Despite this need to cringe as soon as I look the first page, the plot is reasonably sensible. Natasha ends up falling in love with Spike and I get Angel, possibly our only dispute about the series – who is the better man? And the ending is a quick war in the Hellmouth that suspiciously resembles Lord of the Rings: Return or the king, and lar-dee-dar, we save the world.

I even drew a front cover for it:

Because I’m a brave soul, I’ll include a scanning of one of the pages – both pages didn’t fit, I’m sorry.

It’s painful reading. The spelling makes Oxford babies cry at night and the constant jumping from place to place within the space of two sentences confuses even me.

At the age of 14 I rediscovered this story, lost in the mists of dust and socks. The first chapter is the good part. I read it and thought, ‘this isn’t so bad. I could rewrite it.’ So I did. Kind of. I lost interest half way through the chapter and it stayed incomplete for another year until again, it was rediscovered.

At the time, I was living with my mother, step-father and four younger siblings in Marnhull, which is a beautiful little area in the south of England. Chickens and horses plodded in the field outside my window and I had a window seat (exaggeration: it was just a giant window sill) to doze on. One sunny summer day, I decided to explore my characters. They could no longer be the ‘Willow’ and ‘Natasha’ I’d started with. 

So, I made my own note book out of ripped-in-half A4 sheets of paper, bound them together with a pipe-cleaner (and a paper flower for aesthetic reasons), and proceeded to write a brief background about them. As their back stories evolved, so did their friends, their family, their fears, their enemies until I had fifteen new characters, a new religion, gods and a creation story. With the help of my sister Melodi (we shared a room together) we thought up names, places and character details. Baklava Mountain was a joke between us because I’m a dork and she found it funny, and now it will forever stay. A baklava is a super yummy Turkish sweet.

For some reason I wrote my notes increasingly smaller until no one could read it but me. I have to hold the paper really close to my face to read it. I think if you zoom in enough you can read it too (not that you’d want to).

Every night I read what I had written to Melodi and during the time before she became a teenager, she was just as invested in the characters as I was, which is nice. When we lived in the Turkish mountains, she and I sat in grape trees and discussed character developments and justified plot points. Although she’s grown older now and doesn’t like to talk to me any more (because I’d kill her street credibility, el-oh-el) I have a lot to thank her for. She was a wonderful sound board, an engaged listener and put up with my obsessive talk about writing.

After three years of planning, drawing and writing I have a third draft of the story in the works. From ‘Natasha and Hannah, the Vampire Slayers’ it has become Scars in the System. An epic three part fantasy novel with original characters, intricate politics, a messed up religion, racial messages and six invented worlds. I hand wrote 400 A4 pages (still in multi-coloured ink, might I add).

Given the origins of this novel it is heavily broken and still badly written, especially towards the beginning. Sometimes I think Scars in the System will be edited until the end of time, but I’d like to think it could be publishable one day. But also I’m too afraid to tackle the monster it’s become. 

And that’s the evolution of my no longer Secret Story.

The main characters, drawn by moi, in their ridiculous costumes:
Kiyoko Feng and Natasha Dupont

8 thoughts on “All Writers Have A ‘Secret Unsalvageable Story’

  1. Hahaa, oh the handwriting days. I have notebooks filled with all kinds of rubbish, the one I remember most is a dustbin that led to prehistoric times with dinosaurs and everything.

    It’s so great that you’ve kept this going after all of these years! Very brave of you to share it. The story I cherish and love most all I’m not sure I could post online or even talk about the plot to other people. But I guess that’s just me being special. XD The handwriting is adorable in the first one.

    Man, another drawing person! I WISH I COULD DRAW SFM. They look awesome. I love Suko’s happyface and Robynhair. 😀

    I think I’ve heard mention of “Scars in the System” before but I have no idea it was related to the epic Buffy fanfic you told me about on my LJ a few weeks ago. Awesooome. Evolution wins.

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    • Ah yes. I kinda miss handwriting everything, but whenever I try I’m now too lazy to correct my sentences because I know I can do that when I type it up. Plus, I can’t write as fast as I can think, which is a huge bonus about typing.

      Your dustbin portal made me giggle. That’s such an adorable idea! You could probably make that into a kids story. I used to read novels about popcorn pirates as a child. They’d lap up the idea of a prehistoric dustbin.

      Bubble writing ftw! Sharing it helps me feel less embarrassed about it actually and reminds me how far I’ve come since 11 years old. But yesh, sharing your most cherished story can be a vulnerable thing. I can understand why you don’t you think you can share it.

      I WISH I COULD DRAW THEM CONSISTANTLY! Their looks are never quite the same in each picture. LoL Thank you though ^.^ I love Suko’s happyface too. She should smile more often. But unfortunately she’s batshit insane.

      Yeah, “Scars in the System” only ever gets talked about. No one has read it from cover to cover but Mitch. I keep meaning to write a description page about it for my blog, but nngh. I do love the characters and story though, I just wish it was well written XD

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      • I handwrite when I go out to cafés and stuff 1) because I’m scared of chavs lifting my laptop and 2) because laptops can be a pain in the arse to carry around. I don’t mind it so much then because I usually do a shit-ton of correcting and retouching when I type it up and the result is probably a lot more refined than when I just sit down and smash the keys. Still, recently the weather’s been too bad to go to my favourite spot.

        The dustbin portal was odd. The main character was a total childish Sue based on my favourite lego person, Pippin the explorer from the Johnny Thunder set. Oh, happy days.

        I just wish I could draw full stop. Lmao, I’ve done a stick-person comic strip for RaTs which is absolutely ridiculous, I don’t know if I even want to post it but I must admit my attempt looks hilariously bad enough for me to be tempted. XD There are so many amazing draw-ers online that I’ve met, it’s positively a hive of talent on here! I try to improve but it never works. I’m good at drawing robots for some reason, but people end up massively screwed up, lol.

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        • I handwrite in cafés too. Tis a good, J.K.Rowling feeling haha. Plus, yesh, my laptop is a beast to carry around. It is a good way to edit, as you say when you type it up. It feels nice to write it out shit and then see it in a different format. What’s your favourite writing spot?

          All characters should be based off of lego persons called Pippin. That’s an adorable origin. Ideas come from the strangest of places sometimes.

          Oh man, you should totally show the world. RaTs will love it, I’m sure. I suppose because you have an interest in a creative subject, you’re bound to find people with artist qualities on the internet – despite it’s vastness. Besides, you could so be a good drawer if you wanted! It’s just a skill you have to practise and work, work, work on. When I was a child, everytime my parents went out to dinner, I would sit at the table and draw everyone’s portrait to pass the time. Keep drawing your awesome robots! I’d like to see one 😀 You need to share more of your work! *pokepokepoke* ;D

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          • My favourite writing spot is on the Glastonbury Moors. There’s this big ol’ tree that got hit by lightning so it’s leaning over at a weird angle and it’s really cool for just perching on. I’ve got my own little spot and everything, haha. It’s about a half-hour’s walk from where I live. I’m so excited for uni but that tree is one thing I’m going to miss terribly.

            I will put le comic terribles up when I can be bothered, it’s shockingly horrible but it kind of takes the piss of itself so it’s less awkward. XDD I wish I had the time for practising and shit, ughhh A-levels are ruining my life! I took art GCSE and got a good grade for it, but… ya knoew… GCSEs aren’t exactly hard work. XD Plus my end-of-year project wasn’t drawing because that would not have worked out. Fo sho.

            It probably is a lot to do with practise but I have a feeling I couldn’t draw like you have up there if I tried for a billion squillion years. D: My hands just suck? My handwriting looks like someone has been killing spiders with the piece of paper. XD

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            • Ooo, that sounds enchanting. A mystical, slightly wonky, lightning struck tree. I understand this feeling of missing it. Don’t worry, it gives you an excuse to pine poetically (or something). I miss the rocks you could perch atop on Bulderat Mountain where goats wander past every so often. Perhaps take a picture and pin it to your billboard.

              YESH. I look forward to that, baby.

              Aye, A-Levels are a stupid amount of work. Maybe it’s because I’m doing something I enjoy now, but uni feels easier than 6th Form. I never took GCSE art but yeah, I remember getting to 6th Form and thinking, ‘dude, GCSEs were easy!’

              Oh, I’m sure you could. If you can conceive and believe, you can achieve. 😛 My friend used to say that about her handwriting though. “It looks like a spider that’s been dipped in ink and left to run across the page!”

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              • Glastonbury is an enchanting place, I feel sad that I’ve only been living here for four years because it’s so pretty and kinda unique! Also, the festival, WOOOOP. I have a ticket but my English A-level exam is on the Thursday of the festival. What’s a girl to do?

                I’m SO GLAD to hear that once you’re doing something enjoyable at uni, it’s (at least in your case) easier. A-levels are just a pile of WTFery. I’m doing OK in English Lang and English Lit but Biology is beating me to death with frigging azotobacters. I shouldn’t have taken a science, it’s so fascinating but when it gets to the exam… derp.

                Maybe when I have some more time to devote to it, I’ll attempt to become a better drawer. 🙂

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  2. Pingback: 5 Ways for Writers to Procrastinate | Lemon City III

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