“Come on, boys, put your swords away.”
“Gladly. Like to be my sheath?”
“Come on, boys, put your swords away.”
“Gladly. Like to be my sheath?”
Celebrating my first 10 years as a writer… Scott Westerfeld- On Rewriting & Growing Up
I recently read this article/pep talk by Scott Westerfeld in my email. Just like his pep during NaNo, this particular one was definitely insight and memorable — he really knows how to string two words together.
But the point was it really reminded me of where I started.
Here are the most important points he made, to start your revision by answering these questions:
For the first point, I’m reminded of the first scenes of the first two chapter in the first book in the series I’ve been writing for these past ten years. The very beginning, in short, of my entire story of Dawn, my centre character of it all.
The first chapter details her life on the mountain, living alone with her family. The set-up is that she lives in a house in the mountains in an abusive household isolated from society and dreaming of escape. She has an adoptive sister, her only support, but that doesn’t stop Dawn from gaining a hard shell or from thinking better of the world outside. And through all this, she has no idea just how close town really is, because she’s never escaped that far.
Throughout my drafting of this first chapter, I’ve gone through many different versions. At first, I had both parents, then I had the mother flee at the start of canon, and now I have her gone by the time Dawn was three, because I needed to tie in the details from later in the series, and Dawn discovers she has a biological sister. That was the biggest change.
Nevertheless, through the years, that first chapter and the one that follows is constantly being changed or fixed or edited because I just thought of something else that was wrong, or unrealistic, or that looks terrible. It’s always those two chapters. So I’d say, coming from that perspective, they must’ve been clunky, especially that first chapter. But as Scott points out in his pep talk, I was young and — maybe not so innocent, but maybe I was, if I was innocent in my ignorance.
And through those young dreams of running away (in my case, it was the reverse, though not nearly to the motivations that Dawn had), those first chapters were always, I think, my strongest. As far as first drafting goes, when I first wrote, it did feel relatively that it flowed, better than a lot of think in those early days. Maybe that’s why I’ve stuck to it for so long.
Let’s move along to the second point… embarrassing writerly mistakes.
If I could stick to those first few chapters, I’m sure that those mistakes probably still exist in my first book draft. Well, the way I wrote in those early days certainly held some common mistakes. I remember writing waking up scenes, trying to describe the characters appearance, etc.
Talking more on content, I think in that first draft, I took away from the abuse of the situation by making her escape in smaller ways. I remember a particular description of her escaping the house and going for a bush walk up the mountain, and specifically the feeling of a wall of sandstone under her fingers as she felt along the surface… Then in the dialogue scenes between her father, I don’t really think I had a grasp of what that scene would look like, or how it would feel. And describing her pain was another problem.
There were even small details when she was cleaning up on him and heard popular music on the radio, or when I would try to list the kinds of books her sister Belinda read…
Of course, none of this was as bad as chapter two, when the scenes escalated dramatically to finally escaping, only to meet a worse fate. The boys on the mountain… If I didn’t understand how her father would act, I had even less idea about the boys who wandered in from town, or what they were doing there. All I knew was what Dawn knew and felt.
All this is just the first two chapters, and although there are other things I’ve written, none of them really stick out in my head as strongly. Probably because in the very beginning of my writing, I was in the habit of editing those things over and over again instead of just pressing ahead with the writing. And of course, that’s where NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) stepped in to help me get rid of that habit, way back in 2007.
Of course, that brings me to the relationships with my characters. Well, of course there’s Dawn; me and her go way back, and I’ll always love her. She’s my favourite character to date, though Dylan takes second. Dylan was actually quite a surprise; I didn’t expect to love her as much as I do, but I managed to put more of myself than I ever expected to in her, and I love her for it.
Although she’s different from me in that she’s outspoken and determined, on the inside she has much of the same confusion and insecurities that I’ve dealt with in the past.
And then of course, there’s Seth, her brother. Another character I care a great deal about, he encompasses another side of me. That is, the side that wants to fight my reality, and all the indignities I find follows certain aspects of living. For example, sexuality in the public light. Partly oppressed by his dead adoptive father, he diminishes his public image to one of invisibility so as not to be judged unworthy, a fact that Dylan endlessly fights against. And I understand why, but I understand Seth’s point of view much better.
Now, as far as bad relationships, I do have something of and on-again-off-again relationship with Andrea. When I first invented her, it was as a match for Seth. Given a shaded past, I thought he deserved a companion, and then that relationship grew into something like love. But this was in their childhood, and even then, he had his reasons to keep distant.
But then, after years, when I finally came back to her story (after spending so long on Dawn’s), every time I tried to put them together, they somehow tore apart again. What’s definitely true is that Andrea really desperately cares for him. It’s also become clear that, in his own private way, he cares for her too. What’s unclear is how much, and what form that care takes.
Another iffy character of mine is Brenda. Sure, she shares certain traits in common with me, like her social isolation and her love of books, but Brenda’s one character that falls flat to me as her own person. I can sympathise her reasons for breaking up with her ex, but beyond that, she mostly remains a mystery to me.
Which brings me to Orion. My relationship with him is only a little better, even though I share less in common with him. What I do share in common is his sense of outrage, and his concealed defence of those he cares about. I’ve always hated his brother Alex, one of my first villains, but through his eyes I began to see him in a new light.
I’m not sure if there are goals I had at the start that aren’t worth pursuing anymore. I mean, certainly, the series that I’m writing now were once separate, as well as the characters, so maybe that. But besides that…
As far as startling new vistas… I’m going to University this year. I’ll probably post an entry on that later. And eventually, all my drafts will come together. As far as plotting, that’s something else I have to figure out, especially for the third book.
There’s still a lot to do before my first drafts of the whole series is complete. But as a writer, of course, I’m looking forward to it. Here’s hoping it’s all going to happen before the next ten years passes.
I can’t believe Trifecta is finally ending! Well, after all the entries I’ve contributed to our community, it’s only right I should come back for just one more. I wrote this back in February, but now I’m repurposing it for this final hurrah.
She huddled against the cold, clinging to the one tiny pocket she had in front of her and chilled to the bone everywhere else. She had been forced into this corner, once having all the luxuries of a bed and now forced into the cold hard floor in the middle of winter. Just outside the door, she heard voices. Full of bitterness, she listened.
“Do you think there’s any hope for her?”
She could see his face, just imagine it in her mind. Her brother. She felt nothing but hate for him, something he would never understand through all his little denials of the weight of his guilt. Nothing would ever be enough, not anymore. Her hate for him was the only thing that kept her strong.
“There could be,” explained a stranger. Could he have brought her some doctor to take her away? “I mean, from what you’ve told me… that is, she won’t agree with me, but I feel like I can understand…” A shuddering breath. So maybe not a doctor.
“What she said about… hating you being her only strength. I mean, yeah. I can get that. I think right now, her family’s her only hope. She doesn’t know it now, but there can be more… if she can find the strength in hate, maybe she can find a different strength. Not in you, perhaps, she hates you far too much for that, but her family… if she can find some love in them, maybe there’s still a chance for her to one day… forgive you too.”
The very thought made her furious. Forgive him! There was nothing in all the world to make her forgive him, not if she lived for a hundred years! She would never forgive, she never could, she refused! He had taken everything from her, her entire life! And there was nothing shameful in strength from hate. She would do anything, if it meant that she would be strong; anything, if it meant she would never be weak again! It was worth it in the end…
“I hope so,” he said, and she wanted to tear him from the earth. “But even if she doesn’t… it’s okay. I just want her to be happy again.”
He had everyone else fooled, but he didn’t fool her! He had all the strength of luxury, while she suffered in the cold! And even if she suffered it all, he remained blind to what it truly felt for her. He would never understand, so she could never forgive him. Just the very thought made her stomach turn.
He could never be forgiven. Her mind was too far gone for forgiveness. It rose like bile in her throat.
She curled harder into herself, desperate from that little bit of warmth to spread just a little further. She was freezing.
It had all happened so suddenly.
One minute a volcano had erupted, the next the entire US was without a food source, and he was driving in the middle of a desert that looked more like a snowfield, to a place where it was known that crop seeds lay safe inside a warehouse.
Of course, it would take much more than just the crops themselves; America would need a place to raise them, and of course the government had greenhouses all over the country for that. But there was one more danger out here, dangerously close to ground zero…
Zombies, previously creatures of fiction, were now fact, destroyed by the supernatural volcano deep within the heart of Yellowstone. It just so happened that the storehouse was in that same region, almost the same state, as the famous national park.
The people once known as and laughed at Doomsday Preppers might yet save the human race. He tightened his air mask; even in this regal limo, he didn’t feel safe.
It wasn’t a wide open area like the Sahara out there, nothing but yellow sands and one solitary road. This desert was dirtier and rockier than that, just on the edge. And just when the President finally thought he was safe… this road trip was about to get a lot rockier.
He pulled his seatbelt tighter against him as the awkward, long car was sent over high and low rock hills, landing smoothly or jarringly each time. They had to get away, for the good of their country. But no matter how fast they sped, the zombies were somehow faster.
Darkness fell, even through the tinted windows, and they knew they had failed. They had caught up. All the dead and rotting bodies pressed up against the windows, smashing them, pale hands reaching out.
“The President!” called the driver, and he could see the flash of a phone. “We won’t make it! You have to –”
The line went dead.
Tale for Trifecta
Inspired by a game on my phone called Zombie Road Trip
His friends said he was too beautiful to be a woman; high feminine cheekbones, soft blushing skin, thin curved frame. Women were supposed to be beautiful, that was the whole point.
But his reputation preceded him. Word can fly when petty people whisper.
The man walked through the door, and he was struck by how pale he was. He could see where the reputation had come from, but he was a bit too pale, too platinum blonde. His appearance was stark, not beautiful.
He handed him a slip. He took at it and looked down on what the man had just handed him. ‘Inspection: 7 Sept. 2014’.
“You’re giving me this in person?” he asked the stranger.
“The school asked me to,” he explained. “Caused a stir last week, so I owed them.”
“What did you do?” he asked, curious.
“Indecent exposure. Which wasn’t really my fault, either, but…”
So that was it. The children had spoke about him not out of captivation, but out of scandal. Physical, too…
“What did they do to you?”
“Have you been up to the school? Have you seen the doors in the back?”
“I’m the Superintendent; of course I’ve seen them. Caught you there, huh?”
“I didn’t know they opened. The stalls were all taken. Some school play was going on, and half the grade was there changing too. I thought I could hide in the back room and change, but those doors don’t look. Some kid opened the door. It… was humiliating…”
“Sorry about that. Maybe I can bring it up in my inspection.”
“Thank you,” the man said gratefully.
“Can I get your name?” asked the Superintendent.
Tale for Trifecta
It was still all rather horrifying. From the moment she got the letter in the mail, summoning her to court, she had been walking around, rather shocked. And now, as she stared warily at the plaintiff’s table, she could see the girl who was suing her pull out a rusty, scrap-paged notebook. Her supposed evidence.
“In this notebook, you’ll see the evidence of what I’ve been saying,” she said, handing it over towards the judge. “The song was not an original work by the band on trial –” a glare in her direction — “but by me. When I was a little girl, I wrote all these lyrics myself –”
“Um –” said the judge, “I’m sorry, but this doesn’t appear to be lyrics. This appears to be a diary.”
“Yes, of course it is! If you will look carefully,” she said, pointing, “you’ll see the opening lyrics of the right at the top of the page.”
“Ah, yes…” said the judge.
After scanning the document more thoroughly, she handed it back, however. “This isn’t sufficient. In order to have a case against Mrs. Lee, you have to have composed the actual music and lyrics. Some similar sentiments when you were a child aren’t enough.”
“But it isn’t fair! She stole –”
“Silence!” said the judge, banging her gavel. “Settle down or I will find you in contempt!”
The girl sank back down.
Amy would almost have found it flattering if the situation hadn’t been so serious. The only thing she was guilty of was writing a song that people — including this girl — connected to. Very deeply, she added, at seeing the adamant look on her accuser’s face. She may not have written it, but her accuser certainly felt it, had probably lived, more than anyone else.
Amy made a move, and announced all this to the court. In the end, it was that speech that stuck at the end of the case. Her accuser simply didn’t have any evidence. Amy was cleared.
Maybe they could be friends.
Tale for Trifecta
He switched on the light. It flared for a moment then flashed off.
“Dammit,” he swore.
“Seth,” she said, “leave it alone.”
“I want to look at you. This isn’t something to talk about in the dark.”
“We are in the dark, though. All of us.”
He frowned. She had to stare to be sure.
“You can see me just fine here,” she said. “Say what you have to say.”
“I have nothing to say.”
“Oh, come off it,” she snapped. “Out with it!”
But instead of talking, he turned around stalked up the stairs.
“Hey!” she called. “I’m not done with you.”
“Well, I’m done with you! Have been for a while.”
“You pansy,” she cried, “you bloody wuss. Man up and talk to me!”
He turned and glared at her. “Did you really just say that?”
“Yeah,” she dared, “yeah, I did. And I meant it. You men, you’re all just –”
“What?” he said, “Just what? Go on!”
“Scared of women! Deep down, you’re all scared because you don’t believe in your own bravado! You’ll never admit it, but I can see right through you.”
He switched the light on as he moved into the next room. As she followed him, he pulled out what she had been looking for.
Tale for Trifecta