It’s been half term this past week and having three kids with me full-time has not been conducive to getting any writing done. I did manage a silly limerick and a ghost story on the blog, but not much else.
Rather than try and extend this un-exiting news into an entire blog post though, I thought I would do something different for this week’s ‘What I’m Writing’. Get ready to cringe!
You see, the other day while scrabbling through a huge pile of papers that I haven’t looked at in years, I found this:
Yes, it’s the title page of an old manuscript of mine. As a teenager I harboured dreams of being a romantic novelist and, as luck would have it, so did a friend of mine. So together we created the
genius flouncy pen name ‘Hebe Laroche’ and set about writing our first novel. We must have been about 13 or 14 when we began and were very much influenced by the American ‘Sweet Valley High‘ series (remember those? All 152 (!!!) of them?) We wrote it on and off for a couple of years before it stalled at Chapter Six, although I do have a plot synopsis for most of the rest of the book.
Our central character Andi (who introduced herself by spelling out her name and then simpering “I dot my ‘I’s with hearts” – what were we thinking?!) was a rather drippy girl who met Chad, a gorgeous, rugged, rich-boy and was swept away by his charms. Here’s the not-at-all cheesey *cough* description of when she first lays eyes on him:
‘Penetrate her very soul’ Ha! And there was much more of such guff to come. In fact many of the scenes were laced with overly-romantic, flowery prose:
Classic soppy teenage writing-style, yes? We did however, manage to create a likeable best friend and a lovely family for Andi to be part of. So it’s not all bad. Well… ok, it kind of is but there’s maybe something there amidst the flouncy-words.
Reading it now, what I’ve enjoyed most is the fact that we clearly came back to it a fair few years later – late teens maybe – with more life experience. There is then a clear conflict between how we think we should be writing – dreamy and romantic – and how we actually want to write, so later bits of the manuscript are littered with sentences where we are clearly taking the piss out of our own writing style. The best part of this is, the sentences appear at random, slap bang in the middle of a romantically-written passage. Since I’ve completely forgotten writing them, they take me by surprise and make me laugh every time.
For example, Andi receives a romantic parcel to her family home on Christmas morning. Imagine the typical clichéd romantic build-up to this moment. Think what beloved, dreamy Chad might write on a red, heart-shaped label floating atop an array of silver ribbon spirals on an exquisitely-wrapped festive gift…
That’s actually the least risque example I could find (I didn’t want to have to put a warning on this post). Honestly, in places I am quite shocked by our late-teenaged selves!
Our later edit also includes a lot of scrawled notes in the margins: “More fun, less shit”, “This is just jiz” and the quite straightforward “PANTS”.
Anyway, I’ve now thoroughly embarrassed myself so that’s quite enough of all that.
You know what’s really embarrassing though? That somewhere, deep down in my heart-of-hearts, I’d love to finish our book. Ok, the title would have to go, and Andi would have to buck up her ideas and well, yes it would need to be totally different in every way but imagine if our teenage dream could come true? Never mind your chiseled-jawed hunk, there’s something worth getting all misty-eyed over.