The most happiest day of my life? When I received a proof-copy of my third novel via CreateSpace. I didn’t cry –I’ve never cried tears of joy– but I felt close to tears.
Looking back, it wasn’t that great. It was back when I wrote lengthy, hard-to-understand sentences, awful two-dimensional characters and had no sort of outline to guide me through a clear, concise part for the reader to follow.
But you know what? I was happy. I was so, so, so happy. If there’s one thing I have worked hard in my life for, more than anything else, it’s writing. And I’ve realised that I never quite explained my journey through the written word.
It all started when I moved schools. We were in an isolated place without much hope. Our house was awful: lizards scampering around, cannot see sunlight at all, bars on the doors, every window translucent, etc. It was a dark time of my life.
Before I came to this dreadful place, I had began writing a book. By “writing a book,” I mean like the hobby definition: writing when you’re bored, but not holding any particular commitment or dedication to the project. You go around telling everybody, “Hey, guess what? I’m writing a book.” And they’re all impressed. Sometimes.
After getting there, however, I had no internet connection. I spent all my time writing, until I finished approximately 20,000 words of my first ever manuscript (actually, that’s untrue: I had this other book I finished 10,000 words of, never finished, about a really weird detective girl… it’s awful) and I was so proud.
Then the pride faded, Thump. Think: an elephant accidentally walking over an entire rug of grapes, individually piercing each one. Thump. I was knocked down.
I uploaded my books on a site you may never have heard of: inkpop.com. It was my life. I used to visit everyday, read books, write my own stories, and all that jazz. Every month, there was a “Top 5,” determined by popularity. Those books get across to the Harper Collins desk, and they provide a review of your book.
Then I had this crazy thought: what if I got into the Top 5? On Inkpop, it wasn’t a popularity contest; you had to work for it. You had to do swaps, where you read somebody else’s stories and they read yours. It wasn’t difficult; you just needed to be patient, determined and ready to handle whatever criticism you received.
Believe me, I got a lot. I was twelve years old at that time, the youngest on the site (13 was the minimum age) and therefore got knocked down. My stories were awfully written, had incorrect grammar, and I used to hate reading back then (!). Imagine, the worst book you’ve ever read times three.
And I had people point it out. Sometimes, a little too harshly than needed. I changed things, rewritten the first chapter at least seven times (completely) and the other chapters a minimum of two times. I went through four incomplete drafts before I finally went, “Okay, I don’t mind this plot-line” and thus started my fifth.
It was crazy, because while I balanced writing and rewriting these chapters, I also gave full critiques to all these older people. What was more insane was how some of them found my advice helpful. I put a lot of effort in my comments, and all my critiques were a minimum of 300 words. But they took up so much time.
Being twelve-years-old is the best, though. No schoolwork. None. I could do absolutely nothing for school (I did do nothing for school) and still managed to be one of the top students. It was that simple. Life was that easy.
When I finished my first manuscript (13 years old), everything changed. There. I’ve done it. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t proud, I wasn’t anything. I just put it aside, uploaded it online for my readers to embrace the characters one last time, and continued on my next book.
But something was different: I knew I could do it. I’ve completed a novel once, I can do it again. t
With that attitude, I finished 5 novels in 2011. Balancing the first year of high-school and writing was simple, especially when your form of procrastination is writing. Then, when I’m procrastinating on my writing, I’d move back to studying. A legendarily devised plan.
All throughout writing those novels, through characters, words, strung-along sentences, I felt like I wasn’t a writer. Something was missing. I had a fan-base, readers who loved my books, and yet, I didn’t feel like a writer. I felt like a counterfeit, a fake, somebody who’s pretending to be someone else.
One day, I got a coupon in my email for a free CreateSpace manuscript print-out. Without much convincing, I uploaded my typo-filled third book, slapped on some vector image, added some text and printed it out. I didn’t expect it to come, for some reason. Perhaps I was overly pessimistic back then.
But it did. I came home one day and Mum was holding my book in her hands, a big smile on her face. I could replay that moment over again. Over and over again. For the first time, I felt genuine. Like a real writer. Like what I should’ve.
This current moment, as I write this, I’ve lost that feeling. The moment is over. I feel like a fake again, trapped in some sort of person who likes giving themselves a title. I don’t feel like I’m worthy of being a writer, of deserving that title. I refer to myself as one. That’s how I describe myself, but sometimes I don’t feel it. Maybe that’s normal. Who knows?
That’s not something I can ever get rid of. But that tiny moment, when I held a 280-paged novel in my hands, illustrated with a beautiful cover picture, infinite typos and a novel I’d cringe at the sight of one year later, I felt it:
I felt what a writer feels like.