I want to tell you what I’ve done. This is going to be horrible and narcissistic. I’m uncomfortable writing this, unsure of how much to tell you, how exactly I should phrase it in a way that doesn’t sound conceited. But, the reason I want to talk about it is because it’s probably something I have a right to be arrogant about, something that, even though I’m uncomfortable with acclaim, I think I deserve attention for. You see, I’m a writer. But I’m not just any writer. I’m doing something bizarre and strange here. To paraphrase a line from Pulp Fiction, I’m not simply in another league: I may in fact be playing a completely different sport.
Let me tell you the story of how I got here. I’ll try to be brief. I’ve always been a writer, since I was very young. It took me a while to figure out that it was what I really wanted to do, but when I began to connect the times in my life when I was happiest with when I was regularly writing, I realised I had a calling. I wrote a novel – it wasn’t very good. Well, I mean, it was fine. It worked. It was clever, it had good characters, it was interesting and the people who read it enjoyed it. But it took me about two years of stop-start work and it’s the epitome of a first novel. You know how first novels are always the story of Christ or Faust? This piece of crap is both. So I tried to shop it around a bit, got a couple of quick, curt rejections, got disheartened, decided I needed something else to show. Why not short stories? I have an artist friend who has a portfolio site. Why don’t writers do that? Why not a short story blog? This doesn’t seem to be a thing people do that much, strangely enough. I guess it’s too much pressure to keep it updated, writing a story every week or whatever.
I made this blog: The Serial Writist (as in ‘serial monogamist’, see?) on 9th October 2012. I wrote one little thing to start off, a bit of throwaway drivel about Jesus and Satan again, because that’s what brought me to the dance. Then I had a better idea a couple of days later. And another one the day after that. And the again the next day. I wrote a story a day for the next four days. I wrote two more a couple of days after that. Then I got a really good idea and, over the next ten days, I wrote a 37,000 word novella. That’s when I figured I’d better start keeping count, because I realised that that wasn’t a normal thing to be able to do.
I have a spreadsheet, to hold my vanity. I count the words, the days, the months, the average per story, the average per day and month. I hit 50,000 words in the first month, easily (and that’s with a nine day handicap). I didn’t think I could possibly keep it up, but I did. I have done, for a year. Some months I did quite a bit less (normally because of other writing projects not connected to the blog), but I made up and my average is consistent. Last week, I’d run the blog for a year and I’d surpassed 610,000 words. By any measure, this is an impressive feat. In amongst all that, I had a couple of days when I wrote about 10,000 words. And I wrote an entire novel. In a month.
Understand, please, that I have a full-time job. A marriage, friends, a life. This is not killing me. This is something I’m doing in my spare time. One night, I came home from work on a Friday and, in amongst the usual evening activities, wrote over 9,000 words. And, here’s the really important thing: we’re not talking about rough drafts. We’re not talking, hey, just get the words out and then massage them into something coherent after. These are complete, functional stories. Finished works. I’m not saying they couldn’t use an edit but, in principle, they’re good, readable stories. I don’t draft, I don’t edit, I just write. And I don’t do it like you do it.
When you catch a ball, your brain is carrying out thousands of mathematical calculations, tracking the speed, acceleration, direction of the projectile. An entire branch of mechanics, ballistics, is devoted to working out the stuff your mind does automatically. You’re just evolved to not need to do the sums. That’s how I write. I’ve asked around, tried to figure out what makes me different. I think that the rest of you have to actually plan out what you write for it to make sense. Is that accurate? Probably not. All I know is, since I was a kid, my thoughts went straight from conception to expression without any steps in between. When I write, it takes as long to get on the page as the physical time it takes for my fingers to move on the keyboard. I don’t have to stop and work out character motivations, to think through plots, to decide on twists, to grasp a ‘narrative voice’. It just happens. On instinct, like catching a ball. And what comes out…works. It’s not perfect. I’m not claiming that. But, given my methods, what I’m producing shouldn’t even be coherent, should it? I’ll be the first to admit that my prose is utilitarian, almost brutalist. I don’t go in for much artifice, and I reuse a lot of the same stock phrases because, for me, this is more like performance art and sometimes I have to fall back on the imaginative language I know. But it all unfolds in my head like a movie, which is why I always describe how characters move around their environments, what they’re doing with their hands. Because I see them, and it’s like I’m a director. I think I have a sort of writing version of synaesthesia.
Okay, so, why am I telling you all this? Because, first, I’ve written forty-nine separate short stories, seven novellas and one complete novel in a year. This is a colossal achievement. I seriously believe it may be almost unique. I want you to pay attention to that. I want you to look at what I’ve written and, if necessary, burst my bubble. But, if you are impressed, if you read just one of my stand-alones and you enjoy it, remember that, whatever it is, chances are I wrote it in just a few hours and never drafted or edited a word. I’m asking you, as a favour, to tell people about me. I’m trying to get published properly, sending that novel I knocked out in a month to agents and publishers, but the whole process makes me anxious and depressed. I hate publishing, but I love writing. For me, it’s easier to write than to not write.
Listen: this is what I’ve done while working 37.5 hours a week most of the year round. This is what I’ve done while my brain is being turned into mush by a boring day job. Imagine what I might be capable of if I could get paid for this. I know the world is full of aspiring writers, and they’re cluttering up your twitter timeline and spamming you with links, just like me, but none of them are doing this. None of them wrote seven novels worth of material in a year, I guarantee it. I’m not asking for you to take pity on me; I’m asking for you to see this as an opportunity. Because I want to work with other writers, and I want to change the industry. Hell, I want to change the world. If I make it, I’ll drag everyone that helped along the way up with me. I have dreams of vast collaborative endeavours, of crowd-funded models of creativity, of works that will make a difference to people’s lives. I’m not 30 yet. I still have a lot to learn, a lot of things I know I can do better. Think what that might involve. If I can do this for eight hours a day, I can achieve almost anything. And I want you along for the ride. I have something here. This is not normal.
If you’re a writer, I want to work with you. I want to bounce ideas around and workshop. I have the energy and the creativity for every project you can think of. If you’re an artist, I’ll give you stories for graphic novels, illustrated books, whatever. Whatever you do, whatever you make, I can write stories for it. I don’t even want your money: I just want you to spread the word.
Don’t just take my word for all this though. Read anything on this blog. It won’t all be to your taste – there’s a lot of genre fiction here – but I think you’ll be surprised at what I’m turning out, consistently. I have an English Literature degree, so I know junk when I read it. I don’t think that’s what this is. But, as I say, see for yourself. And tell people what’s happening here.
My name’s Thomas Heasman-Hunt and, god help me, I’m the Serial Writist.
PS. The “novel in a month” I mentioned can be read in its entirety here. It’s the thing I’ve done that I’m most happy with.