Welcome back to another Open Book Blog Hop!
Today’s topic is: Do you remember the worst thing you have ever written? Will you share?
And remember to pay a visit to my fellow writers to see what they have come up with. You can find their works here!
This week’s topic is a touch personal for me. Not in a serious, worrying or troubling fashion. But it struck a chord all the same. I think at some point in time every single writer has a moment of doubt. Or in some cases, more than one. You see, a great many of us suffer from something known as ‘imposter syndrome. Quite simply it is that voice that tells you that you’ve no right to publish a book, to hope for success or to expect people to keep buying your work.
I have a suspicion its become more prevalent with the rise of self-publishing. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s always existed and been something even the greats have been afflicted by. I know Stephen King has spoken on it at times. But they have still managed to gain considerable popularity and sign book deals with some of the biggest publishers in the world. Those of us who self-publish may suffer it a little more, simply put, because we don’t need that deal. Amazon (other outlets are available) allows us to put our work out there for all and sundry without the need for a deal filled with so much legalese a lawyer would blush.
So what I am saying is, I think we may be more prone to thinking badly of our own work more often. I know I am guilty of it. Chasing Shadows did well enough amongst friends, family, and supportive members in a number of social media groups. It did pretty well through a blog tour I had done for it. But its progress beyond this in terms of sales and reviews has been glacial. Reviews are few and far between. Sales are non-existant. And I know there is something of a connection – not many reviews, fewer people buy the book, fewer people buy the book means fewer people to review the book. I know my marketing is abysmal and thus hurting it, but that’s a conversation for another day.
But on to the topic at hand. My worst piece of writing. Now I am going to caveat this by saying that I think worst is possibly a harsh phrase. As someone with not too many pieces to his name, I will go with – most difficult for me as a writer. Our Boy Jack was my first ever effort at writing. It was intended to be a piece of historic fiction based upon the legend of Jack the Ripper, and how he got away with such horrific crimes, never to be caught. What made it so difficult? Well, let me start by saying there were parts I had written that I loved. I wrote a scene involving an underground, bare-knuckle fight in a seedier part of Victorian London. Not to blow my own horn, but I loved that scene. I had packed it with ambience, sights, sounds, smell, and the visceral blood lust of the baying crowds desperate to win the bets they’d placed. It wasn’t just me, a good friend and fellow author who read it also loved that scene.
But it was a problematic project for me. I have always been fascinated by Jack the Ripper. Though his real identity remains a mystery, there is a lot that is known. The murders, the victims, the rough timings, those infamous letters sent to various people, the locations and so forth. I ploughed immense time and energy into my research. I took a Jack the Ripper tour in London, making extensive notes. I visited the official museum to get more of a feel for Whitechapel at that time. Purchased reference books. I even got hold of some Ordinance Survey maps from as close to the time as possible. Two of them in fact, one from either side of the crimes, just so I could get the most accurate lay of the land at that time.
And herein lies the difficulty. I wanted to get the facts right. I obsessed over them. I was constantly looking things up. If not related directly to the case, it was things relevant to the time period. I became mired in the minutiae of detail. Every. Little. Thing. Were the street lamps gas or oil? What did the police wear at the time? What were the relevant jurisdictions of the Met and City of London police forces at that time? I researched the murders, the wounds and injuries and the likely weapons in a troubling amount of detail.
Why? It was only for a fiction book. Simply put, I worried. I worried about being called out for having gotten one little thing wrong. “The Met officers had brass buttons on their coats, not silver…”. “Jack the Ripper couldn’t have fled down such-and-such Street as it didn’t exist until 1946…” and so on. I didn’t want to give people ammunition to tear my work down. So I stopped. It languishes, saved in a folder, collecting dust. But I am not going to share any part of it here. Not yet.
Why not? If it’s not that bad, why worry? Because I am not yet ready to lay it fully to rest. I feel like there is potential in there for a story I might still work with. Will it be exactly as I planned it? I don’t know. Maybe it will evolve and reside in the Edison Crow universe. After all, what is steampunk but a variation on a Victorian world dominated by steam? Watch this space.