I’d be lying if I said I have distinct memory of falling in love with writing. Honestly, I have no idea how it all started, but I know that it had something to do with my love for reading. For me, reading always came first. I collected books from Daisy Meadows’ Rainbow Magic series, devoured Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers (then dreamed of going to boarding school), and sunk my teeth into JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. I distinctly remember sitting on the stairs in our old place in London and reading ‘Kate the Royal Wedding Fairy.’ I thought I was a right genius for associating the book to Kate Middleton. Essentially, all my ideas came from reading.
I first attempted to write a book when I was eight. I sat in front my grandfather’s computer and opened a blank Word doc, then started typing (very slowly). Thirteen pages later, the ‘book’ was done. I had called it ‘Sparkle Beach’ (before I’d even started writing, because the title was the most crucial part and I could not start the story without it.) It made absolutely zero sense, but I thought it was the best thing ever written. My mum told me to add in illustrations which I happily did. I printed it out and stuck the illustrations in, then came home from school one day to find it laminated and bound together. I was ecstatic. Thanks, Mum. I brought ‘Sparkle Beach’ to school and showed it to my teacher, and she read it to the class. Honestly my proudest moment. That was my first taste of being an ‘author’.
I wrote a short story in Year Five – something about a girl who lost her car keys, I can’t really remember – and also showed that to my English teacher. Yes, I was a teacher’s pet. And a suck up. This time, my teacher made the class analyse the story, figure out the turning points, the climax, etc. Back then, I felt like a star. Now, I’d be mortified. I’m surprised the class didn’t hate me. They probably did (silently). During that time, I’d also been experimenting with Wattpad. I wrote fanfiction for a Disney TV show (which I shall never let anyone EVER read), and gave it my heart and soul.
I didn’t really write anything after that unless it was for school. There was a time when essays took over Fiction, and I fell out of love with writing for fun. I did gain a sudden burst of motivation when I was fourteen. I attempted to write a murder mystery and got to 8k words before realising that murder mysteries need to be meticulously planned. I’m a pantser, so the thought of outlining a whole novel was a big no. Also, heroin will never be found in a bag marked ‘HEROIN’ in all caps. I had some learning to do before writing about drugs. And illegal business deals. So I abandoned that piece of work.
I never committed to a story after that. Sure, I’d dip into writing. Tried writing a poem. Wrote a bunch of songs. Wrote essays for school. But nothing of great length. Nothing that required me to sit down every day and commit. I’ve always kept a journal, but that’s just for me. Nothing descriptive. Just thoughts on life and people and myself. So when my mum told me the story that would become my first book, I was joking when I said I could write it. I hadn’t written anything longer than 3k words in four years, and I didn’t even know if I still liked writing as much as I used to. Being an author wasn’t something I dreamed of anymore. I was so focused on exams, on getting into a good university, on the next steps of my life. The thought of writing a book was silly. Something only younger me would think of doing.
But my mum took me seriously. She spoke to her friend whom the story is inspired by, and it was done. I’d opened my mouth, and now I was expected to stick to my word. Before starting anything, I wrote one scene from the story just to see if I could still write. At first, I had to think hard before any words appeared on the page, but once I got into the rhythm, it all came back. I sent it to my mum, she gave me her motherly approval, and I felt a bit better.
So I started researching, starting with the obvious ‘How to Write a Book’. Countless of articles later, I realised that there’s no one size fits all. I tried so hard to plan the book to its finest detail, but ended up retreating to my true ‘pantser’ nature. I can’t plan. In life, I make ‘to do’ lists and have some structure, but with writing, I prefer to get lost in the moment, see where my mind takes me, let my fingers fly over the keyboard and watch as the words write themselves. But this was a true story. I had to have some sort of structure.
When my mum’s friend told me her story, I took notes, mentally organised the story into parts, which would later be broken down into chapters. I built a timeline of events. I highlighted what was crucial to the story and what wasn’t as relevant. I bullet pointed the main ideas. And then that same night, out of excitement, I sat down and wrote the first two chapters while the story was still fresh in my mind. I was writing until one a.m. I couldn’t stop. I’d always loved writing, but writing this book got me back into it, made me realise how much I love it. It made me question how I’d gone so long without writing stories for fun. I was fully immersed, and that feeling is what helped me stick to the goals I’d set for myself (most of the time). I finished my first draft in four months, then rewrote it again and again, until it was ready for in depth editing. Only when I started getting good feedback on my work did I feel like a writer. And now I can’t look back.