Last November I took part in the National Novel Writing Month challenge, where hundreds of thousands of writers - both professional and aspiring - try to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. And believe you me, this is no easy feat.
Some of us are natural story-tellers, and therefore 50,000 words (which amounts to approximately 1667 words a day) isn’t a daunting task. HOWEVER, once you add adulting into the mix - jobs, children, family, extraneous events, etc. - it can get a bit tricky, especially since most of us don’t have the luxury of locking ourselves in a “writing cave” for 12 hours a day. Hence the challenge.
I’ve debated back and forth with myself whether I’m going to participate again this year. I didn’t make it to the 50,000 mark last year (Thanksgiving week whittled it down to a measly 32,000), but at this point I have a pretty clear outline of what I want to write about. However, I'm not convinced that a month-long mad dash to the finish line is a healthy way to birth a creative work. At least not for me. What about the other necessary denominators like creative inspiration and heavy editing/revision?
Even after biting the bullet and committing to just "getting something on the page" rather then over-analyze every sentence I typed, I still ended up writing 20 chapters, then gutting the whole thing and basically starting from scratch again.
So what I've decided is this: I will write when I can. When inspiration hits. When music creates a scene. When I have a free evening. But I won't beat myself up for not making 50,000 words by December 1st. And I won't stop writing through the new year out of disappointment and self-degredation.
Writing takes so much creative energy. And vulnerability. And courage. These are all things that must be motivated internally. Not forced through daily goals.
I posted last year about how hard this process was in my article Writing is Hard: An Ode to Tears. If you want to see a true creative panic attack, go check it out.
So, in the spirit of being vulnerable, I’ve decided to publish a short blurb of my untitled manuscript. It's newly revised, with the same overarching plot and characters, but with a different twist and hopefully a more approachable writing style...I tend to get wordsy VERY fast... I blame Tolkein.
Here we go.
~Part I, Scene 3 ~
Growing up in the Upper Spire lent itself many advantages, to be sure. An especially useful one was knowing the intricacies of the Imperial guard rotations, both within the boundaries of the Eyowen Tower and in the sprawling Kratorian courtyards beyond.
Curfew was strict, and the punishment for breaking it was even stricter.
Ren had been caught only once. Thirteen years ago. She and a friend - a young shifter of considerable talent - had tried to break into the Hall of Records – a massive underground library where mages and scribes worked amongst stacks of dusty tomes, scrolls, and state records.
It was there where – amongst other things – all initiates’ testing results were stored away and locked tight. The results of your test held the secret to your gifts, your heritage, even your family that each one of them ultimately left behind for a lifetime of service to the Emperor.
No one knew their results. It was never revealed, not even when you were deemed worthy of rank. Only the three that led the High Council– the Head of Healing, Head of Elements, and the Head of Paraphysics – were privy to such information.
Ren had wanted to know about her biological parents – who they were, where they came from, if they ever came looking for her after they abandoned her at the city gates. The shifter – Lei – had a much bigger score to settle; to prove she wasn’t a descendant of the Moirai. To prove she was truly Sylvan by blood.
Shifting abilities were not a Sylvan trait, and thus her initiation had been a long and arduous one, with much debate amongst the Elders. It had been almost a century since they had received a shifter initiate, and they were wary of accepting one when the Emperor was a public condemner of Moirain descendants – dark, twisted creatures, considered abominations in the eyes of the mortal world. This was Lei’s only chance, to both secure her place in Kratoria and ensure her protection from the eyes of the Emperor.
Ren rummaged through the large oak chest hidden in a corner of her balcony, just under the rafters. She grunted in spite of herself as she pulled out a massive coil of midnight black rope, the burning in her shoulders chasing away the dark memories of that day.
Stupid, foolish girls.
They never even made it past the iron vault.
Ren and Lei had just slipped past the second wave of guards and were rounding about to the back of the restricted section when they were caught. Snuffing out her power, two guards carried her away, kicking and screaming, while she watched in horror as four guards dragged Lei away. Even with four guards holding her, Lei was still trying to shift out of their grasp. The shifter had always been strong.
Ren was dumped unceremoniously in front of her adopted mother’s apartment door. Before the guards could even knock, Vyvanne had thrown open the door and was scanning Ren, assessing for injuries. One look was all it took to nod curtly to the escort, then pull her ward quickly into the set of lush rooms and lock the door.
Vyvanne fought for a lighter sentence, but the High Council was unified in their decision, outvoting Vyvanne nine to one – Ren was sentenced to a week of wearing bracelets and ankle chains forged from thick iron. Break them, and she would be banned from The Order, all its proceedings. Break into the Hall of Records again, and she would be dropped outside the city gates and forbidden from ever returning.
Nausea roiled her stomach as Ren remembered the iron sickness brought on by her fetters – Sylvani, even demi-descendants, had a hereditary weakness towards anything iron-made. The purer, denser the metal, the worse the sickness took hold.
The fetters had obviously been made with the intent to be worn by her kind.. Ren had never been so sick in her life. Ravaged with fever for the first three days, she was unable to leave her rooms, shaking, sweating, hallucinating, and all the while calling out for Lei.
Seeing Lei’s sweet, gentle face in the midst of her feverish haze.
Seeing Lei whipped and tortured.
Watching as the shifter repeatedly healed herself over and over again, trying to preserve her tiny, delicate limbs as they were broken and bruised and cut…
Remnants from her fever,, but so unbelievably vivid... As if she could feel the crack of air whip past her face as another lash was dealt to Lei's prone form. And the smell the scent of fear, of blood, lingered in the air after the images dissipated, a tepid mix of sour and musky and metallic.
Ren eventually lost her voice from screaming. It took a full month for her to recover from the iron sickness and return to her studies.
Lei was never seen or heard from again.
Twelve years old, and already a forgotten name in a sea of drowning faces.
Approaching the edge of her balcony railing, Ren shook off the memories of the past and dropped the thick coil of rope over the side. She tugged at the knot secured firmly around the base of a concrete pillar. Luckily, her apartments were on the third floor. Not too imposing of a drop, especially since she could now pad her touchdown at the bottom with a release of energy.
Ren paused to twist her wrist into the moonlight, observing the twisted, scarred flesh that revealed itself from under the sleeve of her tunic. Iron made recovery near impossible, acting as a silencer against healing powers. Her wrists were permanently scarred as a result. A perpetual reminder of the invisible chains they all wore.
Releasing a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding, Ren stepped onto the railing of her balcony, rope curled around her forearm and waist, and stared into the vast expanse of darkness covering the cliff sides. She shut her eyes, allowing the salty sea air to wash over her.
And like a phantom, she dropped over the side of the railing and into the night.