Wednesday, November 02, 2011
"Coasting" has an interesting background. I'd returned to sea-going after eight years working ashore for Lloyd's Register of Shipping as a ship and engineer surveyor (the period covered the birth and early years of our three children) and had two short stories published in men's magazines (sadly long defunct now).
Buoyed by this success, a writing life beckoned, but engineers do not make decisions without proof of potential success and I set myself the task of writing a novel length manuscript. Logical as ever, I chose to write about something I knew very well, life at sea on the Australian coastal ships.
My first attempt ran to a little over one hundred thousand words, every one typed on an old portable typewriter perched on my knees on watch in the engine room of various ships. The first draft finished, I reread it carefully, acknowledged its faults, did a little cut and paste, and then started again at the beginning.
I stopped when I had ten complete versions of the story and did some hard thinking. I had three school age children now, a challenging, well-paid career and a nervous wife, so I put thoughts of a writing life away and focused on what I had trained myself to do. My eldest daughter, who'd read the story in its various forms, grumbled (I think she saw a lot of herself in the heroine), but that was all.
Coming back to it, thirty plus years later, was a shock. It was amazing how much of it I'd forgotten. I read the ten versions and started planning the eleventh with the skills I'd developed since 1997 and in eighteen published stories.
I'm seventy-five thousand words into it now and am having a ball.
The photos above were taken on a similar ship to one in the story. (The sea was a little rough that day.)