I am here on campus writing and it should be a dream of mine. It's 6:30 AM and I am not working, not sleeping in, not doing homework (but still, somewhere in the back of my brain, thinking about it). Just listening to the ventilation fan above me breathe heavily overhead. The building is comfortable and mostly quiet save for random students roaming in through the front doors. I snagged the best parking spot on campus because no one goes to school at 6:30 AM when their first class doesn’t start until 10:30 AM. I have a unique situation, however, a void in my schedule where writing once was, then a terrible job, and now – writing is all that should be left, but it isn’t. Education, it seems, may be the death of my writing. Now I can no longer write, ignorant of the power that my words potentially have. My lackadaisical (notice I didn’t say lazy) nature is tempered with the knowledge that I am capable of so much more. Like a blood mage with fire running through my veins that I am unaware of, a sickness that will consume me if not released. I can make a choice—to just write or to write something that matters. I am paralyzed by this choice, frozen with fear and wish only to resume writing. I just want to pick up and hold characters close whom I once loved. Now, I look into their eyes and I see my own and I am forced to ask myself:
“Whose story is this? What am I writing?” Once, it was my story and I was writing about a girl who would someday have the power to see her lost family, to see beyond our faded lives to somewhere beyond. Then demons showed up in the shadows and purple crystal shards of glass spread like ice across the plains. A man named Nox introduced himself to Malisyn and Allyn and now I cannot forget him no matter how hard I try.
This isn’t my story anymore. It belongs to them as much as it does to me and I need to know how to continue—
Am I writing an action, adventure, swords and romance, blood and demons type story? What scale am I trying to cross? Is it a story about a young girl’s journey or about the end of the world? Is this a trial by blood or by time? Is this the insecurity of an unpublished (mostly) writer, of a fledgling student or of someone who has lost their way? The truth is that I feel so lost and I don’t want to be. I want to relax and just write and let my story dredge up the answers in the sediment of my mind. I want it to be clear to me, the path that was once bright is now clouded with doubt. Is this what “difficult” looks like? Is it shadows and cobwebs and strange noises ahead, smiles that once warmed are now cold? I will steel myself and continue to fight to find the story I once wished to tell. I know it rests within me somewhere.
- I know this story is about Malisyn and her relationship with her brother. I also want it to be about Malisyn and a friendship she develops with another woman—a best friend, a sister she never had. Whether to replace Allyn (although he may not need replacing depending on how I re-write this draft), or to complement him, I do not yet know.
- I know I want Malisyn and Nox to find love over a long period of time, and for the readers to know (if they don’t already) that it is OK to wait, OK to not get it right the first dozen times, OK to have problems, OK to falter and fall. I want to set an example, not a perfect one, but a broken one that can be worked hard for.
My teacher warns against starting a story with an “idea” or a philosophy. Do not begin the story with a message, as it were. That is for later, if at all. The difficulty is that some people see genre fiction only as a means to escape (how do you feel about reading?), a pleasure read, they may not be looking to build empathy. Fantasy is meant to be filled with swords and beautiful princesses and handsome, sweaty men who know how to use their sword (heh heh). I should not look to infuse my plotline with subtext or subliminal messages like empathy!
The truth is, the world is a fucked up place. I dislike guns, violence and Type A personalities. I dislike sexism and unequal pay scales (yes, I voluntarily gave up my job, I realize I don’t meet these requirements I hate about other people). And all these concepts are because of modern day society. Is it any wonder that I want to write about something else? So what kind of story can I write that does all that? That lifts up the filthy veil of reality, reveals the cards, kicks over the table, watches the princesses rescue themselves and does it all with blood magic and demons instead of guns?
The story I already am writing…
- I have some questions to answer before I can really continue to write. Mechanics, some world building (OK a lot of that), mostly magical questions but also questions of scale and what I want to accomplish. Where do I want my characters to be after Ingifted, after the first novel? Is that something I an answer based on my first draft? I’d say yes. Obviously I wanted most of them broken, like real people.
- I wanted them broken and hungry for answers and justice, simple human devices, denied to them.
- I think, perhaps, I want the story (at least the first one) to be less wide in what is altered and more personally focused inward on transforming the characters through personal trials. I think once I know who they are on the page—after I have introduced them and broken their backs—only then will they really be ready to face what else I have planned for them (I have a vague idea of what that might be).
- That all seems very vague, but really, if I keep with the same general outline it is not too broad. I’ve come to agree that my antagonist was the weakest force and that by removing a large and unmotivated force (Tas’kara and Ubel), I can replace them with a more personal, smaller antagonist. A more localized threat.
- I can reduce or deepen existing characters—there are not many I am willing to give up or combine. That is my right as the creator until an editor gets ahold of the story. Until then I will write as if—just this once—everybody lives.
- I can begin with small scale issues that will ripple outwards, hinting at larger, darker forces at play (because of course there are!)
- I can still work in my personal ideas for an empathetic society and ideal treatment of humanity through the actions and thoughts of a few good women and men (and the undefinable).
The important detail is, really, that I don’t give up. I just have to keep writing and not get discouraged. If I lose hope, then I fall and I’ll be cut down. I don’t have time for that. So I’m working to gather my strength and my allies and try again. My hope is to continue to write each morning, whether it is a blog post like this that looks deep inside myself, or takes a critical eye to my manuscript or characters. Every. Single. Day. Well, during the week. My focus is awful at the best of times, and I just can’t handle the weekends unless I am alone. Otherwise everything is shiny and I know myself better than to make that promise!
Something I started doing just today to help motivate myself is keeping a time card. I logged the times I wrote and the time spent blogging (6:30 AM to 7:30 AM, then 7:45 to 8:00 writing then 8:15 to 9:00 blogging). My plan is to make an invoice and present it to the boyfriend so I can get paid. Yeah, well, whatever I can do to "feel" like I'm getting paid to write until it actually happens. Thankfully for both of us--I work for peanuts.