Absolute beginners

Cat scratching her itchWell, absolute beginner really, but I wasn’t sure about a title for this so thought I’d pinch someone else’s (I hope this isn’t infringing copyright? Perhaps if you know about these things and it is, you’ll be good enough to get in touch and tell me before Mr Bowie’s lawyers do.)

Well that’s me, the absolute beginner that is.  Seems a bit odd, at 37, to be absolutely beginning anything, but I thank Mrs Holder for that.  To be fair, the advice she gave my clueless 17-year old self set me on my path to a job in the civil service that, for the most part of the last thirteen years or so, I’ve enjoyed. And, as I’m sure any private sector reader (oh God, please let there be some readers!) will tell me, I should be suitably grateful for the opportunity to stay in any organisation for that length of time, with a nice amount of annual leave and a reasonable pension to boot.

Well I am grateful, honest.  The thing is… I’ve got this itch to tell a story. I’m not sure where it’s come from or quite how to get rid of it.  I’ve tried to ignore it. I’ve kept myself busy: I’ve reorganised my CD collection (showing my age, I know) and cleared out my wardrobe and tried to teach my cats to sit up and beg. I’ve even cleaned my skirting boards. Nothing’s worked. After a while The Itch developed into The Idea and now I’m lost: I’ve got a story to tell people, goddammit, and they need to read it!

Turns out, this is an itch shared by a goodly proportion of the English-speaking world.  Maybe if you’ve found your way to this, you’re a bit itchy too? Maybe you’ve already scratched, and you’re among that hallowed group, the Published Writers?  If so, I envy you with an envy unsurpassed since Dannii got her gig on the X Factor and everyone started saying maybe she was better looking than Kylie after all.

My question for you, fellow pilgrims, is this: where the bloody hell do you start?

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – I have actually written something.  After two years of plotting and planning and reading other people’s stories about how they did it I’m at the stage of just having completed my first draft. I’m fairly sure it’s not very good.  There are lots of square brackets with notes to myself (sample: “NB: Naff!”).  I’m not entirely sure it all makes sense.

So I’m writing with a plea for your help: what should I do to make it better? Who have you read that’s inspired you to whip your own work into publishable shape? And how on earth do you know when it’s good enough to approach an agent or publisher?

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