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Amy Gallow
June 3rd, 2010, 11:51 PM
Thirty years ago, for reasons that had nothing to do with sanity, I decided to write a book.
The next decision was harder. What to write about? Something that I knew something about, seemed logical, so I considered my areas of knowledge and measured what interest they might have to a broader public.
I was a seafarer at the time and the total ignorance of modern seafaring life was a frequent source of of irritation at social gatherings and the offerings of popular fiction did little to address the problem. With almost twenty years of experience behind me, it seemed a logical subject.
Facts first. I trolled through my knowledge, selecting incidents that could provide the basis of a story and listed them in an interesting sequence, tying them to one person rather than the dozen or so who really experienced them.
Satisfied with my fictional linking of real incidents, I began to write...only to find there were gaps in my knowledge. Things I thought I knew, but didn't know well enough.
This led to three foolscap pages of handwritten questions, and, in the days before the INTERNET, a task that occupied much of my next spell ashore. A task, incidentally, that produced a further three pages of questions.
I finished the first draft and read it with satisfaction before allowing another seafarer to read it--a friend, I thought--and was presented with further questions to answer.
In the end, I wrote that story ten times, averaging around 110,000 words, typing it on a portable typewriter perched on my knees at spare moments while I was on watch in the engine room. It went the rounds of the publishers without success and has languished since in my pile of unpublished manuscripts, waiting for the day I felt competent enough to do it justice.
My career moved on, gaining seniority and responsibility until it had become a 24/7 obsession and I discovered the need to provide myself with a private space I could escape to and regain my sanity. So I started writing again.
The INTERNET had arrived and research became a pleasurable past time, ambushing my attention from the task at hand.
It still is.