Here I am at work, writing on the sly. Bad girl. Anyways, while I’m waiting for our training class to resume I might as well do something productive.
(Not quite so true anymore. I started the entry at work and then, surprisingly, got busy.)
Today’s Question: What Have I Done So Far?
Write, of course. The great, big, ephemeral want/need. Too big, perhaps. Too overwhelming?
It’s an urge I’ve had since I was a little kid. Picked up a pen, started scribbling, then writing. I tried writing my first novel when I was eleven and didn’t know any better. Made all my friends characters. Together, we were trapped in a barren tundra wasteland hunted by an Ice Queen. You can imagine how that ended. Hint: poorly. As I wrote it, flush in the joy of creation, I let them read it. They liked it well enough at first, but then they started to complain, asking, “why did I say this?” or “why would I do that?” I had been so excited, had been having such fun – and all their nagging questions clammed me right up. Story unfinished.
The first of many unfinished stories.
Not that I didn’t keep trying. I wrote short stories for school and would, here and there, write down snippets or pieces of dreams. In high school, I recall being more focused on stories. I read what I could get my hands on and wanted to write the sorts of stories that I read. In Grade 9 or 10 I started another unfinished novel, using typing class to quickly write whatever it was that came to mind with the idea I had. Beginnings. I always had beginnings, and characters to go with them, but no where to go. A long-running ElfQuest fan-fiction slipped in there, at a time when I didn’t know what fan fiction even was. I wrote one short story for a local local contest, and then, after an especially encouraging grade on a short story in my Writer’s Craft class in Grade 11, I submitted to publication. Not that I researched the magazine or anything. Not even sure how I came across the information to submit. A polite, generic ‘no’ followed. Clammed up again.
Sparrow King peeks in sometime around here, starting first with sketches, broken images – how most of my stories form. Back when I could still draw, I would start a drawing and then a story fragment would build up around it. I managed to create a bare skeleton of a plot, started writing, then got stuck/frustrated/fearful. Not that it stopped me from doing up a little mock-up of what the book would look like if printed. The words didn’t look like my words anymore – they were alien and strange and full of possibility. Maybe that’s when I got scared.
At the beginning of university, my next big story came – the unimaginatively named Reborne: The Book of Erin. (I suck at titles. We’ve covered this.) It was a modern fantasy and like the others, built around drawings and ideas that gelled into a plot line. I’d write a couple chapters, get stuck, then wait and fret and freak out and go back to the beginning and start all over. I must have re-written Chapter 1 four times. Farthest I got was 30,000 words, and then I stopped on that altogether.
I turned to free-writing, thinking I had writing block. I have all my old exercises and there are some in there I have to double check, ask myself, “Did I really write that? It’s not half bad.” Sometimes it is bad, but I am so far removed from the writing that if it’s bad it’s not an ego hit. I also started Wolf Killer, another modern fantasy (and a re-work of a story idea I’d had for about 10 years), around 2001-2002. Each time it felt like the ideas, the plots, the characters – all of it – were fresher, brighter, to my minds eye than the stories that came before. But that never helped me finish them. In fact, Wolf Killer was the story that stopped me writing altogether for about, what, four years? For my birthday, Todd sent me to a bed and breakfast, where I took all my notes and planned on hammering out an outline over my three-day personal writing retreat.
I sat at the antique desk that overlooked the woodland property. I lay in the over-stuffed feather bed. I watched the snow start to melt on pine trees and garden paths. I called after the resident cat to keep me company. I ate wonderful food by the gracious host with his uncomfortable yet innocent questions.
And I wrote nothing.
I came home, bundled up almost all of my writing books into boxes, dropped them off at the local library and swore I’d never write again.
I started getting ideas again, unbidden and, at first, unwelcome. They sang, they cajoled, they danced, they teased. I wrote them down in an old sketch book I’d received as a gift and never used. One idea spawned another, and another, and another. Sparrow King came back to me but changed, keeping only the largest of pieces and rearranging all the rest. I forget how I came across NaNoWriMo, but I only wrote and finished the thing thanks to being off work and having NaNo to push me forward through the 50,000. Once I had 50,000 words there was no question I would finish it. Momentum moved me forward.
Since then, I have finished one short story, The Butcher, but when I re-read it the writing feels flat and tepid and half-hearted. I never got through editing Sparrow King but I am stupidly proud that I finished it. Sadly, I have finished nothing else since. Tried Wolf Killer last year for NaNoWriMo – the third incarnation of the original, much better articulated and developed than the second incarnation. It failed for a lot of reasons, yet I set it aside with every intention of returning to it. Spirit Cat came about as just-for-fun, and it came out like a fountain – at first. Now, not so much. It’s become real, thus able to be ruined. In between all the big projects I happily scribble down all sorts of unrelated idea fragments. They mean what they say – ideas are cheap. But it’s stringing together the right ideas, making the connections, and then finishing the damn thing. That’s where I get stuck.
And here were are.
That’s enough for today. Tomorrow’s topic: What Little Have I Learned? (Emphasis on the Little.)