Thursday, 6 June 2013

What do you keep hidden in your drawers? - Debbie Bennett

Since last month I wrote about my glory box, I thought that this month, I’d delve into my filing cabinet and see what I can find to entertain you with. I got my little grey filing cabinet from the office at work. Really I did – the civil service building I was working in was closing down and they were getting rid of the furniture. Sealed bids for everything and I liberated a filing cabinet, a kitchen table and a large rubber plant.

The bottom drawer is household stuff. Bills, personal documents, insurance and general household paperwork. The top drawer holds all my literary bits and pieces:

1) Copies of various FantasyCon event programs I edited, designed and produced. Some of these had big print budgets from advertising space we sold to the big 6 publishers.

 
2) A copy of Bella magazine circa 1993 containing my very first paid publication - a short story which they completely butchered while "editing". My character was a painter - they turned her into a gardener - why? It had no relevance to the actual plot. The story in question is called Maniac and is the title story in my collection (you can read it for free as it fits into amazon's sample).
 

3) Stacks of old manuscripts. Now here is where it gets interesting! First we have a lovingly hand-written pile of unpublishable poo. In mitigation, I was about fourteen maybe, when I wrote this and it's a thriller of sorts, dripping with teenage angst, cardboard villains and plastic heroines. Things such as plots, points of view and story arcs were completely unnecessary in my little make-believe world. But it kept me amused. Then we have an even-more-lovingly typed (on a manual typewriter) sequel, which is marginally better - I guess I learned something from the handwritten rubbish, as it seems to have a little more structure to it. And finally we have my first foray into genre fiction with an sf novel set on a future post-apocalyptic earth. This one's on computer too, though I doubt I still have the files or if they'd be readable. Again unpublishable but it does have a few redeeming qualities in that there are one or two ideas I may re-use some day and I'm fairly sure some of the characters have been reincarnated into other stories.

So I have maybe quarter of a million words of "apprenticeship" writing, where I learned the skills needed to create something that other people might actually want to read (and pay money to read). It's fascinating looking back on it now and seeing how far I've come. And these days, I write things and immediately discard them - one hit of the <DEL> button and they are gone forever. It's not quite the same, is it?




12 comments:

Reb MacRath said...

Loved the part about your apprenticeship writing. You're fortunate to have saved yours. I envy you that...but I'm not sure I'd want to see the millions of lost words of mine that I once regarded as 'brilliant'--especially after spending two full months already rewriting my first published book, THE SUITING. What had once seemed like an eagle now barks.

Debbie said...

It's funny though, reading it all back and seeing how my mind used to work!

Lee said...

And I'm OK with having made my apprenticeship work available online. Why not? It's not as though I'm not still apprenticing, and since no one has to pay for anything, I'm not cheating anyone either. In fact, there's something rather salutary about knowing that my flaws are visible to all and sundry.

Bill Kirton said...

I did a similar bit of archaeology a few weeks back with the same results and reactions, Debbie. First, I remembered who the writer was and was slightly disturbed to discover that some of his attitudes persist in me. Others, thankfully, have evolved (not completely, but enough). And I don't want to examine your 'unpublishable poo' analogy too closely but, while that's an apt description of most of my youthful stuff, amongst it there were the occasional bits worth ... er ... disinfecting.

Lydia Bennet said...

I've still got my 9year old self's essay book from school, which I featured in one of my AE pieces. interesting to look back and see how you change.

Jan Ruth said...

Interesting post and pictures, Debbie. My drawers also have an untidy section of old typewritten manuscripts which I have pilfered through from time to time. It's odd and a little nostalgic looking back through them, although sometimes I have stolen characters and ideas.

I think I must share this post because I want to title it
'Take a sneaky Peak at Debbie Bennet's Drawers.'
I could allude here to the 'discussion' yesterday regarding a certain office etiquete but since I'm new... I'd better not.)

madwippitt said...

Better perhaps than 'Debbie Bennet's Bottom Drawers' Jan!

Wish I'd hung onto some of my stuff Debbie: but one room accommodation in the past meant I had to be either ruthless or roofless!

Chris Longmuir said...

Great short story, Debbie, and I'm afraid I accumulate stuff too!

Debbie said...

@Jan - they say you only regret the things you didn't do... :-)

Jan Ruth said...

OOh what can she mean...

Maryann Guberman said...

So, did you ever find something you wrote a long time ago, thought it was amazing, then wondered, "Did I really write that?"

Debbie said...

Actual pieces of writing - no. Not early stuff. Most of my teenage scribblings are utter rubbish, although there are ideas, themes and scenes that I can look at with fresh eyes and think yes, I can work with that...

But i do find pieces I've written more recently (as in the last 20 years) that I find and think "wow".