I was never one of those writers who was shy about sharing my work. I knew I was a good writer, and I wanted other people to know it, too. Perhaps it was because fantasy was the first genre I wrote in seriously; you can write about yourself via fantasy as well as you can write about yourself in any genre, but it’s much easier to disguise. My first novel was completely about me not fitting in at school, although I didn’t consciously realize that at the time. I just thought I was writing a novel about a girl who was kidnapped and taken far from everything she loved. This subconscious use of metaphor has kept me from that vulnerable feeling a lot of writers get when they share their work, that feeling that they’re “putting their soul” out there.
But the more I wrote, the closer I got to exploring what was really close to my heart. Until last month, it finally happened: I ended up writing an “autobiographical” novel.
I used to always wonder about authors who did that. I could understand using your own life as material, but it had never seemed to work for me. Nothing in my life seemed interesting enough, and with your own life, you have SO much material that I didn’t know how you’d decide where the memories ended and the fiction began. When I first got the idea for the novel I just ‘finished’ in November, I didn’t know how much it would be about me. It’s still speculative fiction, so metaphor still figures prominently, and the parts of the story that came to me first were the parts that are not autobiographical. But as I continued to chip away at the story, looking for the proper catalyst for the events I wanted to write about, I realized that my memories were enough. I was going to go for it.
I meet with my writers’ group this Thursday, which means I sent the beginning of this draft to them last Thursday. There have been times in the past when I’ve felt nervous about whatever I was submitting for the month, but never have I felt the kind of fear I felt last Thursday. It’s a good thing I’ve been with this group for years, because when I hit ‘send’, I knew I wasn’t just trusting them with my words; I was trusting them with my soul. (But I still anticipate an honest critique — this will be the first, very necessary, chance for someone to take the crowbar and pry me away from the story, so that the REAL work can begin.)