Ask me when I started writing stories and, although I can’t give you the actual date, I would say when I was about twelve years old and my English teacher said “Write a story about…”
My pen hit the paper and I haven’t stopped writing since.
I can’t remember learning a great deal during my English lessons. I must have learnt something because I seem to have the ability to edit and know where words belong. My school days were a long time ago when we were still taught things like – “never end a sentence with a preposition”, “never start a sentence with a conjunction”. I sometimes sit and wonder “What did they teach us that for?” But never mind, I just get on with what I’m doing.
The best thing about English lessons was the homework. After sitting through all the dross of English grammar, or the painful reading aloud of some set text, we would be set some homework and I would wait eagerly for the first words of the instructions. If the teacher, Mr Williams was his name, he is either dead or in his nineties by now, started by saying : “Write a story …” it didn’t matter what came after that. It might be a story to illustrate a particular point we had been discussing, alliteration or onomatopoeia (I love that word). The words would flow. I went from writing huge letters as I was taught at primary school to writing as small as I could to get more onto a page. Then when the homework was marked I was nearly always asked to read out my story to the class. I felt great.
The words I dreaded hearing were “Write an essay…” That meant something factual, something real. For ages I didn’t even really understand what the word ‘essay’ meant. I did know, however, that I couldn’t let my imagination fly. Sometimes it meant doing research, which I hated because it takes me ages to read anything, especially if it is boring facts!So imagine my horror when, after writing four novels, I was asked to write something more factual. I won’t say what in case it never comes off. I’m trying, honest I am, but the words just don’t flow the same way they do when I write fiction. This is why I wanted to be a writer not a journalist. Words are the province of both professions but they are used differently. For me facts are conveyed in short sharp bursts while stories can run on for ever. Give me fiction every time.