As I’ve started on this adventure into the land of NaNoWriMo, I’m discovering some new things about myself and my creative process.
One is that my mind scatters into a billion tiny story-lines whenever I set my pencil down to paper. It’s like my mind is a fish tank and the stories are these delicious looking fish that dart away when I tap on the glass trying to get started.
And now that I think of it, that tends to happen when I draw too, except when I draw, half of my brain can stay focused on details while the other half swims around floating in in the wake of each fluttering thought.
Now that I’m writing I find my mind is doing exactly what I’ve trained it to do, it gets dizzying. And I found myself asking
How on earth am I supposed to write a single story without it being a complete mess?
He had some great advice, like allowing the random thoughts to pop in, but just writing them down on the side to revisit whenever you hit a dead end.
I’ve found this particularly helpful because the characters and the plot keep twisting out into these weird tangents I wasn’t expecting, and sure enough, I’ve already written myself into and out of a corner several times.
He has an episode on the 9th Story Podcast that I found incredibly helpful. It’s an interview with the author Jane Yolen, and they talk about some techniques they use to deal with some of these issues that come up while you write.
So if you’re like me and are giving novel writing the old college try but are also discovering some hyperactive thoughts getting in the way, I definitely recommend you give it a listen. It’s really helped me get past my newbie hurdles.
So, the novel I’m writing this month is based on a short story I wrote in high school that has been in the back of my mind ever since whispering about how I need write it.
The short story itself was this gruesome transformation of a girl turning into a raven and I’ve always wanted to figure how and why she got to that point. Because it feels like the end of something to me.
But as I’ve stared writing, the story kind of twists and slides into different directions every time. I thought I knew what author’s meant when they said that stories can take on a mind of their own before, but I didn’t really understand until I started focusing on this one. This story has already gone from a revenge plot to something more magical to averting the apocalypse. I really thought I knew where this story was going, but it just keeps shifting thanks to those darting thought-fish.
At this point I’m just kind of seeing where this story will take me, with the 50,000 word count being a motivation, but not necessarily the end goal. If this story ends up being a 25,000 word novella instead of a big bad Novel, so be it.
I’m terrified to share
Yep. Sharing my fiction writing terrifies me. Which seems ridiculous given how much I write every week, but opinion motivated pieces seem so much less… sacred than fiction in a way.
I think it’s because I hold stories in such high regard. I love them. They fuel everything I do, but when it comes to sharing my own, they always feel like a weak little angry Gollum who has his head on backwards and knitting needles instead of hands because I haven’t put him together correctly just yet…
But I won’t let that stop me from sharing. Because if I allow myself to remain frozen by this I’ll never be able to move forward.
So here it is, for better or worse:
Rose is sitting in the cool glow of the morning autumn sun in the kitchen, retying the ribbon at the end of her braid and watching her mother as she finishes packing up the pies and bread they had spent the last few days preparing for their trip.
With a giggle Rose says, “Mother, you’d think that Uncle didn’t have any food what so ever. I know that town of his is dreary and all, but I’m sure they still have a proper baker. Unwich, the dreariest of dreary where everything must be expressed in shades of black.”
Her mother, Abigail, smiles at her, tucking a pie into a basket and covering it with a cloth. “The poor man’s a widower dear, he probably hasn’t had a proper meal in a while. Whether there’s a baker in that town or not. Besides it’s only polite to bring gifts to your host when one visits.”
Rose slouches a little in her chair, “I’m sorry Mother, that was rude of me to say.”
Her mother taps her on the nose and then lifts her chin up, “Do not spend too much time thinking on it my love. Your humor will be just the lift Thomas needs after this whole sordid affair.” She closes the lid to the basket shaking her head, “besides, you really aren’t very far off on your description of Unwich. Terrible place to settle down if you ask me.”
Rose twirls her braid around in her finger, studying it intently, “Mamma, I know you’ve told me not to ask, but… what happened to Aunt Olivia?”
Her mother lets out a huff and Rose looks up into her eyes quickly saying, “I just want to know so I can… try to avoid bringing up things that might make Uncle sad, you know…”
Abigail studies her daughter’s open expression and sighs. “My dear, it is too gruesome to tell you exactly what happened.” Rose’s eyes open up even bigger, pleading silently with her mother. “However… I will tell you this much. Your Aunt Olivia had an accident in the forest outside of the village. An animal attack it seems.”
Rose gasps. “Now,” continued Abigail pointing at her, “Do not bring this up again.”
Rose nods fervently.
“Now be a dear and bring these baskets out to the carriage. Make sure they get tucked away safely”
Rose nods again, “Yes Mother.”
She lifts the large basket up with a huff of effort and heads out the door to where her father is finishing packing the carriage for their trip.
“Pappa, Mother says this is the last of it,” Rose said lifting the heavy basket up to him.
He smiles and takes it from her, “That is good news. I’m not sure we could fit much more in here and still have the horses handle it.” He chuckles, “Do you have everything you need?”
He taps his head, “Think you may be forgetting one little detail?”
Rose touches her hair, “Oh! The hat Uncle gave me.”
Her father winks and Rose runs back inside, to where her little yellow hat sits perched on the table in the entryway.
She coils her hair up and slides one of the pearl topped pins through the hat, securing it to her hair.
She studies herself in the mirror, a few fly-aways of golden hair whisp around her round face, and she licks her finger to smooth them down. Wrinkling her nose at her reflection, she picks up the second pin, taking a moment to admire the odd swirling symbol carved into the pearl..
She slides the pin into the hat, “Ow!” She brings her left hand forward and watches as a tiny dot of blood wells up on her fingertip. Rose pops it into her mouth to make it stop.
After a moment she frowns down at her finger, then satisfied it won’t make a mess, she winks at her reflected pale blue eyes and scampers back out the front door.
Her father helps his wife up into the carriage and turns to do the same for his daughter. “I got it!” she calls. He holds his hands up as if to say, “ok, miss independent” and waits for her to climb into the carriage on her own.
Once she’s seated, her father gently latches the door shut and climbs up into the front to get them moving.
He calls out a goodbye to the few servants who are waiting by the front door, Rose calls out a delighted goodbye and waves as well.
As their carriage makes it’s way down the cobbled street Rose looks out the window of the back to their home, admiring how the wind makes the red leaves from the trees look like they are pouring into the cobbled street.
A movement from the roof catches her eye and she sees a black bird fly up and over the carriage, heading towards the woods where her little family was headed as well.
She snuggles down next to her mother who is already working on her current needlepoint and humming a song.
Rose stares up at the blue sky, thinking how they couldn’t have asked for a better day to make the 8 hour journey to Unwhich.
Yawning, she leans her head against the side of the door and begins to drift off to sleep.
Rose awakes to a violent lurch in the motion of the carriage.
Her Mother grabs hold of her, instinctively tying to protect her. Rose can barely see out of the window, which is splattered with rain and mud.
Her father cries out and a loud crack shudders through the carriage. Terrified whinnies of the horses mix with the howling wind. The carriage shakes dangerously to one side and then flips over. Glass shatters and sprays over the two passengers as the carriage slides to a stop.
Rose shakes her head trying to clear the bursts of light dancing across her vision and struggles to move. She’s pinned under her mother’s unmoving form. “Mother? Mother, are you ok?” Warm liquid rolls down the side of Rose’s face trickling into her eyes. She wipes it away with the back of a hand, it comes away as a streak of red.
Her breath shudders in her lungs and she squirms her way just a bit closer to the door. Shoving it open with her eyes shut tight, a tumble of the remaining glass sprinkles her hair. With the extra room she is able to crawl out from under her mother.
Cold rain soaks into her hair and her body sinks into the thick mud. Rose turns around calling out to her mother, who remains motionless.
She crawls back in a bit, wiping the thick stream of blood from her mother’s face, finding that her forehead had been sliced open in the crash. “Mamma, please, please can you hear me?”
As if in response, her mother wheezes in a breath and coughs out a spattering of blood.
Fighting back terrified tears Rose crawls back out into the downpour, “Pappa! Help! Mamma is hurt!” She stumbles through the sucking mud to the front of the carriage only to discover that everything from the driver’s seat up is gone. There’s a wreck of wood splintering the mud in front of the carriage, but there is no sign of her father or the horses.
Rose crawls back into the carriage and once again wipes the blood from her mother’s frighteningly pale face. “Mamma, what should I do?” Rose bites on her bottom lip and tries to pull her mother forward. But she can’t be budged, her waist is pinned under the bench seat.
Rose pulls once more, but this causes a new coughing fit from her mother, so she stops.
Frightened tears pour down Rose’s cheeks, mixing with the mud and blood streaked over them. She looks down and starts tearing a relatively clean part of her skirt off. She sets the chunk of fabric aside and then rips the hat off of her head, untying the ribbon from the bottom of her braid. She presses the fabric to her mother’s wound and ties it down with the ribbon. “I will find help Mamma, please, please stay with me.” She kisses her mother’s cheek and backs into the rain once more.
Rose looks both ways down the road, “Which way?”
Not knowing how far into the journey they were, but guessing that they might be close to the next town based on how dark it is, she lifts her heavy, sodden skirts up and heads down the hill towards where the horses probably fled to, and hopefully Unwich.
The wind and rain relax just a little as the greyness of the sky spills into inky darkness. Rose continues fighting with the thick mud of the road, slipping every few steps, exhausted, but determined.
She holds her arms tight, shivering in the growing cold, her feet feeling like leaden blocks.
In the growing darkness ahead Rose hears a branch snap, and can see a slightly darker patch of shadow move out onto the road, “H-h-hello?” She calls out through chattering teeth. “M-m-my family had a terrible accident, can you help?”