MARC NOBBS WESTMOUTHSHIRE UNIVERSE

I’ve always been a Writer

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Mostly fiction, but some non-fiction too. I enjoy it. I enjoy being able to organise my thoughts and clear my head by writing those thoughts and dreams down (or typing them out).

I remember even as far back as Year 7 (or “1st Year” as it was when I was in secondary school), at the age of eleven and twelve, writing two “long” (long for a twelve-year-old, that is—they both covered several pages in my school workbook) stories that, despite being littered with very poor spelling, were both praised by my English teacher for their imagination, imagery, characterisation and plot. Well, as much as you can praise a twelve-year-old for those things.

One of them was the story of a daring escape to freedom by four pet Guinea pigs, and the other was the tale of four school friends who find a pirate ship filled with treasure in a cove while on holiday together.

I’m pretty sure I’ve still got the old schoolbooks those stories were written in. My mom kept them after I left school some thirty years ago and handed them over to me about ten years ago. They should be in the loft somewhere.

I digress.

I kept on writing throughout secondary school. Not seriously. Not with any regularity. But I kept on writing. I kept a diary from the age of about fifteen until I left school for university. It wasn’t exactly up there with Adrian Mole in the melodrama stakes, but it was something that was important to me. These days we would say it was good for my mental health.

During that period, I also took a stab at writing my first novel. Two stabs, actually, both of which ultimately failed. One featured me and my friends’ “superhero” alter-egos attempting to stop the invasion of our school by a group of aliens. It was pretty much a comic parody, with our superheroes being more incompetent than super and featuring a weapon against the aliens powered by “anti-cool” particles harvested from Ed the Duck (who we had to kidnap).

You remember Ed the Duck, right?

The second one also featured a group of friends trying to prevent an alien invasion, although this one was a more serious, less comedic attempt. The group got their powers from a dying alien they found while on a summer camping trip.

But that was as far as I got with it.

I stopped writing for pleasure while at university—I had far too much else going on. Obviously, the workload was quite high and as a Physics undergraduate most of what we were taught required a lot of study and thought to understand.

And I never understood it all. Not even close.

But I also spent far too much time on beer and girls—well, beer and one particular girl.

I started writing again after university when I entered the workforce, mainly because that was around the time—it was the late nineties—that I first got access to the internet and in particular the old Usenet. Remember that?

The Usenet, which sort of still exists today, is probably best described as a pre-reddit version of reddit. There were numerous groups you could subscribe to which covered all sorts of topics, and the posts in those groups were delivered to whichever program you used to read them—usually the same program you used to get your POP email.

Remember, this was back in the days of “dial-up” internet. 56k at best and no one else in the house could use the phone line if you were online.

Anyway, the usenet had multiple newsgroups where people would share the short stories they had written and other people would comment on them. This was pre-troll days too, so most comments were positive or, at worst, constructive. Back then, most internet users lived by the old maxim that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. At least they did in the groups I subscribed to. I remember that one prominent user of one group I was subscribed to described it as the Blowjob Principle—if you enjoyed what you’d just experienced, then at the very least say thank you and preferably return the favour.

So I got back into writing in my early twenties and I’ve been writing ever since. I started off with short stories. I kept a blog for almost a decade—one of those angry young man blogs that was critical of everything and everyone and tried to find humour everywhere, even when it wasn’t appropriate.

I suppose I could be described as quite “right-wing” at that period of my life. I was exposed to the “manosphere” and read some truly awful stuff that definitely coloured my thinking.

In terms of my writing, the best thing that happened to me in the two-thousands was joining a website called The Fishtank, which sadly no longer exists. It was essentially a bulletin-board style website where people posted drafts of stories they had been working on for comment and criticism—constructive criticism—by other users. One of the great things about it was that in order to post one of your own stories, you first had to have commented on five other stories. This five-to-one ratio forced people to comment on stories, and, honestly, you probably learned as much from reading and commenting on other stories as you did from people commenting on yours.

The website had this great function where if you used the track changes feature in Word and exported this as HTML, you could post that code as your comment and the tracked changes would show up in the posted comment. I couldn’t tell you how many hours I must have spent “editing” someone else’s work to offer them feedback using track changes.

The operators of The Fishtank also ran a subscription-based short story website and invited Fishtank members to submit their stories for publication. It didn’t pay much, I think it was about $25 and a month’s free access to the site per story or something, but I did sell them about a dozen short stories over the years.

Encouraged by that, I set about writing my first novel. And unlike when I was in sixth form, I did it properly. I had a plan. I was disciplined. And that novel was published as an eBook by a small, independent publisher—also, sadly no longer around.

In total, they published four of my novels before I moved to Amazon’s KDP service and began publishing my books myself. I think a lot of their authors did that which is probably what led to their closure.

I use a pseudonym because the books all contain some element of “erotic” content. In total I have seven novels of over fifty-thousand words available on Amazon—the longest one being over one and twenty thousand words. I also have five novellas available of between fifteen and thirty-five thousand words and over a dozen short stories of less than ten thousand words.

Are they massive sellers? No. Have I made tons of money from them? No. Are they any good? Well, they all have pretty good reviews, so you decide if that means anything.

Right now, I’m working on two books, the fourth (and I hope final) book in one series and the third (and also hopefully final) book in a different series.

And that brings me to substack and why I’m starting one. You need two things to be a good writer. First, you need to be a good reader. The more you read and the wider range of things you read, the better writer you will be. And you need to write. Every day. Even if it’s just a few hundred words, you need to write every day. It doesn’t have to be part of the story you’re currently working on, you just need to write. It doesn’t matter if what you write is garbage. You just need to write.

And that’s what my substack is for. For me to write about something—anything—whenever I feel the need to write my couple of hundred words a day, but don’t feel inspired to work on my current projects.

The substack isn’t going to be “about” something. It’s not going to have a particular focus. I will just write about whatever takes my fancy on any given day. I may write about politics. I may write about football. I may write about life or work or food or whatever.

The point is to just write.

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