Over ten years ago, back when I was still at university I wrote a 20-something chapter fan-fiction based on Lord of the Rings.
I created an original character and placed her in that world, giving another view of the events in the books. Actually, come to think of it, I created two original characters and had a lot of fun with them as I re-lived the story through their eyes.
To this day, I still get mails from Fanfiction.net with reviews, favourites or story alerts from readers. Funnily enough, these always seem to come in at times when I’m doubting my ability as a writer. They really pick me up when I see them and I go back to the site, using my ancient login and marvel at the number of people who have bothered their collective arses to follow those 20-something chapters through to the histrionic end.
I loved writing it and to this day it might just be the most fun I’ve ever had at a keyboard.
I want to have that same fun when writing now. Having examined my conscience, I think what I loved back then was writing a story that was already well known. There was no need for tedious exposition and descriptions, everyone already knew the world and the characters. All I had to do was give it a fresh take through new eyes. What security! To be writing in a world familiar to and loved by so many.
And now, I create my own and I fear my imagination and descriptive powers are simply not up to the job. Oh well, that’s every writer’s worry, isn’t it? That one’s words will not live up to the worlds in your head.
Ah those magnificent palaces of the mind, how marvellous they seem as you stroll through them in your day dreams. But try to describe them in the waking world and your descriptions fall far short of the magnificence you know is there. And worse, as you age, you get more cynical with yourself, you look back at earlier work and wonder how you could ever have come up with those ideas. You would never think of them now. Settings and plots that would’ve filled me with enthusiasm and excitement then seem trite and childish to me now.
And yet, look at Middle Earth and its enduring appeal. It’s basically rural England with a few dragons thrown in. LOTR is a tale of good versus evil, the basic plot of countless books and films. But decades after publication there are writers all over the world inspired to write fan-fiction just like I did. And the original books still sell in their droves.
Maybe the earlier plots and settings I devised in my youth were not so silly after all, maybe there is something to be said for simplicity and telling a familiar story well.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself when I look back on earlier efforts.