Knowing there is very little room in the market for an unknown not-very-good writer of mild poo, I devised a clever and cunning plan…
The clever and cunning plan was simple – if I was going to stand a chance of writing anything worth reading, I was going to have to stop trying.
So, instead of aspiring to be as good as (insert someone good here), or write a book as impressive as (insert something impressive here), I decided to just write. And when I say I had to ‘stop trying’, that’s really what I did. I didn’t let myself get hung up on plot, or pacing, or even grammar! I just wrote something that felt right at the time, something that felt enjoyable to me. That way there was no possible way of losing. If it ends up being publishable – brilliant! If not, then at least I’ve really enjoyed the process, and not wasted days, possibly weeks of time going over it with a fine tooth comb.
To say I just jumped into it totally unprepared would be a bit of an exaggeration. The core concept of what I wanted to do (write something that encapsulated my memories of school) was something I had been thinking about since I actually was at school. In the past fifteen years I had even made a couple of false starts at writing it as a screenplay, albeit a totally different story, with totally different characters, and more of a drama than a comedy (probably more akin to The Virgin Suicides than One Seriously Messed-Up Week). But the inspiration remained identical – one single image of a group of teens chilling out on a school playing field. That was the only thing that I was certain would be included in the book.
I then spent weeks rummaging through my head, sending my brain back in time for every possible memory of what it was like to be a teenager, making notes on key themes, universal issues, and everything that I know now that I wish I’d known then.
And finally, before I put pen to paper, I needed to decide on a style of writing. A lot of what is in the book just grew organically, without/despite planning, especially Jack’s voice and personality. I didn’t want to limit myself by choosing one definite style that I had to stick to, but one thing I did know about the style was that I wanted it to be fun.
Strangely enough, I had no intention for O.S.M.U.W. to be a comedy. The idea of trying to create something that would make people laugh would have been so daunting that I would have probably ran away and hid. Who am I to assume I’m a funny guy? I have no qualifications in funny! I didn’t go to funny school! I just wanted to book to have a sense of humour, purely so that it had a sense of fun. For this, I had three very firm influences:
- Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. The dialogue in this book just bubbles with energy and makes me smile every time I even think of it.
- The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. Easily the most fun, enjoyable, and imaginitive book I have ever read.
- A Christmas Story, by Jean Shepherd. A nostalgic glance back on childhood, full of dry wit and perfectly orchestrated humour.
The only thing that remained was to actually sit down and write the thing.
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