Today marks the third day that I have been working on a new novel. I didn’t want to start bragging about it too soon, because I wasn’t sure if it was going to last this time, but things are moving along at a good pace and I don’t see them fading off, so I’m making the announcement at last: I’m writing!
I’m going to try and explain this all at once in order to get it all out there in one chunk, together, so it makes sense. Bear with me as I explain, because this is going to go back a few years.
I’ve mentioned before that the novel I wrote last November was actually my third attempt at a novel that got about halfway, except this one I managed to finish, the first time I ever completed a project of anything near that magnitude. I spoke of two previous attempts, one the Aza story which was based on the history of a role-playing character I had, another I’d begun in junior high. Well, this novel is that first attempt in junior high, the first story of any significant length I ever attempted to write, and it started out as a pile of crap otherwise known as a rewrite of the popular fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty.” (The inspiration to rewrite a fairy tale came from Beauty, the first of two adaptations of “Beauty and the Beast” by Robin McKinley, who I idolized at the time.)
I didn’t plan it this way. In fact, I didn’t plan any of it in the beginning; all I did was sat down one day in May of 1997, put my pencil to the paper, decided I was tired of ranting about my ex-boyfriend so would write a story, and scribbled out the words, “All Queen Amelia and King Charles wanted was a child.” Those words were followed by others, then suddenly I had a main character — named Rowan, after the tree — who was joined by three more over the course of several pages . . . and then the notebook, already filled with a dozen other aborted story attempts, ran out of space.
I stopped in surprise, counted, and realized that over a few weeks I’d written more than thirty pages on one story, which was the longest I’d ever done. I read over what I’d written and saw that it was nowhere near to being resolved. So I bought myself a blank notebook and decided to see where this story would take me.
I filled up the second notebook as well, and had to get another new notebook. Over a year and a half, I wrote 256 handwritten pages of this story, and learned a lot about writing along the way. For example, I finally began incorporating the once-elusive concept of paragraphs into my stories, and discovered the technique of dialogue and description. My characters and plot grew in complexity. Then I took a look at the beginning and saw how much my concept of the story had changed from the original Sleeping Beauty idea.
I decided that the beginning of the story needed some work. And then I did the thing I would learn, later, a writer should never ever do: I started over in the middle of the first draft.
Well, I never got very far with the story after that. I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to do, telling myself that I had to work things out before I could write again. A few times I actually did start writing but those attempts never got more than a couple pages long. I was growing too quickly as a writer and I started to get frustrated. I worked on other things, declaring the story of Rowan and her friends an idea from my youth that I’d grown past and couldn’t really use. It was a draft that I’d used as an exploration and learning experience, nothing more.
It’s always been there at the back of my mind, however, and now I want to try again. This story has been begging to be written and interferes with other ideas that I’ve got. It’s become a symbol, in a way, of the message that I want to put out into the world, just as Death said nothing of real importance to me; it’s the story I’ve been trying to write not just for the past five years, but for my entire life. I’ve recognized the earliest roots of it in scribblings I wrote at the age of ten, eleven, stemming from daydreams I thought up as early as five. It’s grown into something vastly different as I’ve grown, but the main character is the same and so is my intent. Even if nothing comes of this, I need to write it in order to get it out of my system.
The story is beginning and now for the first time since junior high, it’s continuing, all starting with the first words, “A girl had once sat at this seat at the window, looking past the well-groomed gardens below and over their shining white walls . . .”