Do you remember the story which sparked your imagination and prompted you to write? Do you remember the very first story you wrote? I’m not sure I remember the exact first story I produced, but I do recall the book which, as a young teen, made me stop and think – I could write a book.
The book in question was Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and no, I didn’t immediately end up writing a book as a result of reading it, but at the time, I did write a chapter, and that was one of the longest stories I’d written up until that point. It was an assignment for my English class, as we’d been reading the book at school. I was lucky enough to have had (in my opinion) the best teacher for the job, who taught me English from first year right up to fifth year and would have kept on teaching me, except I decided my one main act of rebellion as a teenager should be not to choose my best subject for A-Level… (But I got here in the end!)
Anyway… the point is – the assignment was to write a continuation chapter to follow on with the story after the book ended and I thought I’d never be able to do that. At all. There were a lot of characters in the book. All rats and woodland animals and by the end of the story, a lot of tales (pardon the pun) had been spun… How was I to keep that going in a believable way and have it all make sense? And there’d be dialogue.
Up until that point, when I wrote stories, I’m pretty sure I didn’t include much dialogue. I was more of a descriptive fan (still kinda am…) and the thought of speech punctuating my lovely flowery paragraphs filled me with trepidation.
However, I wrote it (because I had to – it was homework after all!) and as I began to write, I realised I was writing in a completely different way than any other time I’d written before. I was writing with heightened intent. I was working with a whole cast of characters as opposed to one or two and I had dialogue. I also had something which was meant to be part of a proper book, albeit a make-believe add-on chapter. But it was a chapter nonetheless. A chapter, not just a story.
It made me think… if I can write one chapter, maybe I could write a few more and maybe even…. an entire book!
I got an A grade in the assignment and I was inspired. I may have, later on in my school career, decided to drop English and wander in the scientific wilderness for a few years, but I made it back to writing in the end and the experience of Mrs Frisby and those lab rats stayed with me. It was a piece of the puzzle which made me a writer.
- My teacher was everything an English teacher should be – inspiring, passionate, encouraging, talented and with a great reading aloud voice
- The book itself was great – adventurous, well-written, engaging
- The assignment made me realise I could write in a different, more serious way – like an author
Stephen King, in his On Writing book, recounts his early experiences and how they shaped him as a writer – indeed, led him to become a writer – and this is true of us all. I’ve now written one full-length children’s novel, chopped down to around 100,000 words (from a heck of a lot more!) and I hope to self-publish at some point in the future, but the point is that I wrote it, and while some may like it (great!) and some may not…. it’s another puzzle piece and another accomplishment in making me a better writer.
I’m currently writing short stories for adults, and that was inspired by other experiences, but that initial spark which made me think I could try my hand at writing prose in a serious way, was sparked most definitely by Mrs Frisby.
My point in all of this? Honestly – I’m in the in-between stage of editing one story and thinking of the next, and when doubt creeps in sometimes, it’s good to remember the excitement and the feeling of accomplishment you felt during one of those inspirational moments which made you realise you wanted to write.
More importantly – one of those moments when you thought – I can write and some of it may be good and some may be less good, but I know now I can do it, so – what’s stopping me from getting some more practice in?