Simon Page

New columnist SIMON PAGE has officially finished his first novel. And you can read it here.

creative writing for who the bell tolls hemingway monthly prize novel short story Simon Page sms Texting txtlit

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There comes a point in everyone’s life where they become aware that they will never be able to write a novel. This sad realisation dawned upon me the other day.

For this revelation to be utterly soul-crushing, which it was, I’d have to be actually trying to write a novel, which I am. So far, it’s only two and a bit chapters long. This is not long enough to constitute a novel. Besides, it’s awful. The plot flows about as freely as porridge in a super soaker, and the characters are as one-dimensional as… um… a line?

How, you may ask, did this realisation hit me?

Well, firstly I realised that my attention span is sub-standard at best. The fact of the matter is that you have to concentrate for a really long time to write a proper book. Hours, probably. I am incapable of this.

Secondly, I did some statistics. Turns out, I’m not statistically likely to become a novelist. You see, at any given point in time, some people are having a bash at writing some novels. Admittedly, some of these people are already novelists. They don’t count. Other novel writing attemptees include: amateurs: dilettantes, the truly inspired, the woefully quixotic, and those with too much spare time on their hands. These people are all trying their hand at the literary art. But, very few of these people ever actually finish their books, and get them published.

It was upon contemplating this attrition rate that I realised I’m not going to become a novelist.

In many ways, I already knew that I would never be able to write a good novel. As soon as I read the opening chapter of For Whom the Bell Tolls, I realised I was never quite going to reach Hemingway’s mastery. Indeed, my greatest literary achievement to date is earning a merit for a piece of creative writing  I did in year five. The closing line of my masterpiece was:

“And then I woke up and it was all a TV programme.”

What does that even mean? Was I asleep? Was I watching television? It’s not clear. Either way, years before my time, I was attempting to blur the boundaries between the real world and the dream world, and simultaneously fixing my position in life as someone who would never be any good at creative writing.

Anyway, in an attempt to console myself, I decided that there’s more than one way to skin a cat (wow, what a horrible phrase) and many novelists became famous for writing novellas and short stories. I reckoned I could have a bash at them.

But when I started looking into short stories, I found something even better: TxtLit.

The idea is to write a story the length of a standard SMS, i.e. 160 characters. Other peoples’ entries included:

His wife arranged a surprise for his birthday. He found lacy panties where the ripcord belonged. It took the rest of his life to remember whose they were.

As the cash-filled envelope dropped to the mat so did her hope. She had been praying he would want them both. ‘Sorry’ she wept, gently touching her belly.

Amazing! This is the novelistic lifeline I’ve been grasping for! I mean, even I have the perseverance to write a text-length novella, and according to the website, there’s a monthly prize awarded.

Anyway, I submitted:

Revenge is so very sweet. Hiring a hot air balloon had cost a fortune. So had a thousand water bombs. “Totally worth it,” he mused, dusting flour off his hands.

Job done. Fingers crossed for the prize!