What Holding My Pen Taught Me About Writing
I wouldn’t say I was a well-behaved kid in primary school.
Sure, I was brainy and proud of it at that stage of my education, but I was also eager to be liked and that got me doing some daft things. In fact both of these elements got me into trouble.
For example, one of my teachers was so frustrated with me reading ahead in the books we were going through as a class that she told me to stop. Which made me bored. But teacher knows best and all that.
On the other side of the coin, I’m guessing I didn’t endear mysef to the teachers by trying to jump out of a bathroom window with two friends for a dare. They did it; I chickened out; we all got into trouble anyway.
One thing I didn’t really see their point on, though, was the fact I was “holding my pen wrong”. It made it into literally every school report when I was in primary school, as if the way I was holding my pen was more important than how much I enjoyed learning. Perhaps it was. I mean, if you look at it from their perspective, they’d “failed” on one of the fundamentals of school.
But - here’s the thing - I held my pen between my thumb and a different finger because it felt more comfortable. I was more able to write quickly like that, and it’s not like I was holding it in my fist like a monkey trying to gouge letters into a tree trunk. It was just slightly outside the school’s insistence on the right way to hold your pen.
The reason this sprang to mind is because I idly read another tranche of “write to market” articles, insisting that the only way an author can be successful is if they write exactly what readers are looking for right now.
You know, I don’t inherently disagree with the idea that writers should consider what people want to read. But if I was writing to market, I’d either be writing straight fiction (urgh) or focusing on lesbian romance because that’s what sells the best.
If you’ve read any of my novels, you’ll know that romance is a key element of my lesbian fiction. However, it’s not the only important element. The rest of the plot is “a situation” that needs resolving, and the romance plays out alongside that.
Take Such Crooked Wood as an example. Part of the story is about furniture restorer Lily’s relationship with mysterious stranger Bridget. But it’s as much about the external forces that are pressing on Lily in her business and social life. Does that make the love story any less potent? I don’t think so but, then, I wrote the novel. One could say I’m biased!
At the end of the day, I write to a market that includes me. These are the stories I want to read, so I did what I needed to - I wrote them.
And I still hold my pen the “wrong” way.