• Stephanie Hammond

I Am a Writer

For nearly 20 years I’d enjoyed writing in my professional working life. I was writing anything from short notices to long reports. Some required research and interviews or collaboration with others to produce. Most underwent a peer review. The purpose of most of my writing was to be understood by the layperson and to provide enough information for an informed Council decision to be made.

Most of my life I’d dabbled in writing creatively - telling stories and writing the odd poem. And I kept a journal. Over the years I’d accumulated a collection of writings stored in several boxes, promising myself that one day I’d go through it all and make something of all these scribblings.

But it never happened. Except for a couple of poems I kept in a separate folder, all my writing was burned in a fit of pique by the man I was then married to. He saw my writing as a dereliction of my wifely duty.

As was my way in those days, I vented my anger, then swallowed the pain and put my writing desire into a metaphorical filing cabinet and locked the drawer. One day I’d unlock it, but not until I was safe to do so. I believed I’d never revisit that desire to write.

Now it’s 12 years since I opened that drawer to see what was left of my desire to write creatively. I gave myself five weeks, hidden away in an obscure part of New England in the middle of the coldest winter I’d ever experienced, to see if I could write. I learned I could apply myself, set myself daily targets and work to achieve those targets. I treated myself after achieving major milestones. [The photo is during one of those treats, snowshoeing at Goose Lake, Vermont.] At the end of those five weeks, I had produced the draft of a novel.

It was a very rough draft. I had no idea of structure and no idea of how to develop a plot. All I had was a story with a character I’d lived with for nearly 20 years.

I worked with editors and published that novel five years later. It was intended that this would be the first in a series. And it was well received by friends and family and everyone wanted the next book. So, full of fear that I was a one book wonder that no-one besides my loving friends and family wanted to read, I set about to write the sequel.

But I couldn’t do it. Oh, the skeleton of the story was there in my mind, but I just couldn’t get it out. I thought I’d set the first one up to receive the sequel but I hadn’t. And I didn’t realise that then. What I did know was that I didn’t know enough about how to structure the work. I realised that being a ‘pantser’ wasn’t working for me. My professional life required a structure to my writing, not exactly a template, but certainly certain elements to bring out the issues and show ways of resolving those issues.

So I started to look for those elements of story structure. And was so grateful to find that many had tread that path before me. Books, podcasts, interviews, courses,software - I found lots of resources that helped me get a grip on why I failed to structure the first novel adequately.

I’m still writing short stories - for children. And I’m now rewriting that first novel. I’ve outlined the sequel. I realise I have a series of stories that will be bound together by a similar theme yet not necessarily follow the same characters.

I called myself a writer back in the winter of 2005 and even though I have produced little I am still a writer. It’s taking a while. As I learn I’ll get faster at putting the story together. In my mind’s eye I see at least five books in this current series, all based on the Last Days of a particular group of people - civilisation or family.

I’m still excited at the prospect of writing and sharing my stories. Every day I write. Every day I enjoy writing. Every day I learn a little more about my craft. And every day I know myself a little bit more - I am a writer.

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