Friday, April 13, 2007

My Work in Progress...

I'm a writer. Not a published one, but a writer nonetheless. I've been slowly working on a YA fantasy book for years. I have a completed manuscript, but ever since I finished the initial draft I've not been able to bring myself to objectively look at it and go fix it. It's hard for me to tweak my own work, because I know it needs changes, but like any writer, I'd change all of it in the process, and I don't want to put myself through that torture. So I'm going to post the 2 introductory sequences of the book here for you folks to read.

Please, please, PLEASE leave me a comment on it, and be as open and honest about it as you can. I need feedback. :) I want to get this thing moving again, and that means I need a little help. Hit me people. If you like it, and if it pleases my readers, I'll post more of the book every week for your critique.

The Birth of a People

In the days before time there was a forest, far from the reach of our bumbling feet and loud mouths. At its heart there stood an oak so great, that all other trees seemed like gnomes in the court of a giant. But even the greatest of towers must fall under the weight of time. And one night, with the aid of a tumultuous storm and its fierce lightning, a shock directly from the heavens fell the Great Oak, and its towering mass slammed like a hammer to the forest floor.

Time passed, the rain came to a quiet halt, and a humming began to resonate in the woods. From the broken edges of the trunk and the fallen upper potion, a glow, soft and buzzing with energy lit the night like a candle. Small orbs of light floated up from the recesses of the earth and danced like fireflies in the autumn twilight. One by one they flickered out and in their place a tiny people were born. Their skin was as green as grass at the height of spring. What little clothing they wore was made of moss and leaves sewn with the tiniest strands of thread. Their eyes radiated like lanterns and were almost always green in color. They called themselves Shymen, for indeed they were shy of all the world but the small part that they inhabited.

As if they had known each other long before their birth, they smiled and said hello in a successive line of hugs and laughter. And after each one had greeted the other, they collected what things seemed necessary from the forest floor and in a mass they flocked to the freshly hewn stump.

There they became families, the light of love guiding one to another, until every soul had a mate. They built their homes of weeds and bits of wood; small huts for small creatures. Children were born soon after and life for the little people was truly begun. Within months some found they could control nature as if it was simply an extension of their bodies. From those rich with the power able to make the very trees dance and walk the earth, to those with slight skill able only to raise sprouts and small plant-life from the ground, the gifted were named the Nurturers. Most took on the role of farmers, but those unable to toy with nature devised their own ways of living. Some began to build markets within the Stump, where they offered food in exchange for other things, like jewelry and clothing, and a form of trade was established.

They were peaceful for a great while, many years indeed, and none were truly unhappy. They needed no King, no leader or master of any sort, because unlike men, the Children of the Forest could live their own lives and do so quite peaceably. Simply put, all things that make warriors and murderers of mankind went unknown to the little people. But even harmony can be broken, and even the smallest of worlds can be flipped upside down. The time when the Shymen would need a hero was inevitable.

A Peek Into the Past

The darkness enveloped them. Where normal folk would have feared, the Spider Queen and her visitor felt comforted, at home. There was nothing but the dark and their minds working in conversation as one. On the ground before Elioth, the Spider Queen, sat her long-time friend and often apprentice to her wisdom. Her knowledge, while not infallible, was not the kind to be taken lightly either. And this little creature that came to see her from time to time was at his wit’s end. She must tread lightly with her words. It was plain to see that he was upset.

He was sort of hunched over, his head bowed down, and Elioth could hear his tears as they struck the smooth stone of her lair. He had not yet said a word, but she knew what was amiss. This would be the last time her friend ever came to see her.

“It happened again?” she asked, knowing full well the answer.

“I’m not sure why,” said the visitor. “I was talking to the bloody thing, just talking to it! But something I said, something I did to connect with it…”

“It fell.”

The little creature nodded, cloaked in shadow and his own sorrow.

“Do your people know yet?”

“I’m sure they heard it. I wasn’t too far from the Stump.” His sobs interrupted him. “I was only trying to ask what it was like living so long, and so tall above the world.”

Elioth could see him, being accustomed to the lack of light as she was, and she saw the look in his eyes. It was one she had never seen in him before. And she did not like it. Something in him had changed, and not for the better. “What will you do now?” she asked.

“What can I do? I can’t abandon my family. I can’t abandon my home.
The Stump is where I belong.”

“But will your people understand your intentions?”

“Doubtful. They already give me looks as I pass them on the streets. They do not approve of what I try to accomplish, even if it is for them as much as me.”

Elioth, for the first time she could remember in her long endless existence, had no advice to give other than the obvious, “You must go home, and deal with whatever punishment your people deem necessary. Your family is more important than your dream of immortality.”

“How can you say that?” her friend stood from the ground, defiant.

“Who do you think you’re talking to?" she shot back immediately. "I have seen all the ages of this world, I have watched my children come and go, the seasons change and return. Year after year, I watch everything around me age, I watch rocks turn to dust, while I linger on. Yet here you are, daring to ask how I can tell you to go home and be with the ones you love? The gift of short life you have, you fritter away worrying about death! It will come for you, no matter what you do, and so heed my advice. If you’ve any sanity left in you at all, go home and see to it that your daughter does not make the same mistakes you have!”

She turned her head from him. She couldn’t bear to see him in such a state. She had never yelled at him this way before. How could he be so blind to his own folly?

“I thought you were my friend.” he said to her.

A solitary tear fell from her many-eyed face. She would say no more.

“Fine,” he said. “If this is how you would say goodbye to an old acquaintance… they will not hold me behind the walls of my own house forever. I will not be imprisoned! Whether it is in life or death, I will have my revenge. They have no idea what they throw away.”

With that, Elioth’s visitor was off, back to the world above, back to the life he was wasting in search of something that would never be found. Neither do you, Elioth thought as she sank back into her lair, down into its recesses, to tend to her eggs. She would keep them warm, watch them hatch, and then watch them fly away on the winds of life. Yet, there she would remain, forever the mother and never again the child. How she wished her story would end, so that she might start over again.

There was one bit of luck she had in her long life, and that was the ability to watch the world around her change and mature. She was certain that in the years to pass, something great and possibly terrible would become of those little green creatures, the Shymen of the Stump. Yes, the winds of change were blowing.


Anonymous said...

Hey Bildo
I rather like it and it feels like an effective hook to the story. I feel that perhaps a better description of the queens assistant would help - but then I guess its your purpose he remains mysterious.

NJot a litterary critic, nor a writer, i cant think of any other advice though.

-zutimac from hobbiton

Anonymous said...

Hey Bildo
I rather like it and it feels like an effective hook to the story. I feel that perhaps a better description of the queens assistant would help - but then I guess its your purpose he remains mysterious.

NJot a litterary critic, nor a writer, i cant think of any other advice though.

-zutimac from hobbiton

Anonymous said...

I like it too. Perhaps work on the introduction of the spider queen. Although I am assuming you want her to remain shadowend. You want people to ask, "Who is she? Is she good? Is she evil? Can she be trusted? What does she know about that she isn't telling?"

Tipa said...

To be brutally honest, it's boring, and if I were reading the first couple of pages in a store while looking for a new book to read, I would put it back.

Hook the reader on the first line, make them read that first paragraph, and then on to the first page. After you have hooked the reader, then you can put in your backstory. Also, lose the passive voice. Passive voice kills the energy level.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. had two rules for his writing. First was to write for someone specific, not yourself. This is a YA novel, which child are you writing to? Would they enjoy this? His second rule was, remove every unnecessary word. If it doesn't move things along, chuck it.

Roger Zelazny really moved his fantasy along. His short books were worth ten word-heavy ones.

Right now your story reads like fan-fiction -- too many words, not enough story.

Sorry to be all Simon Cowell on you, but you DID ask....

Bildo said...

You know it's a good point, Tipa. To write for someone specific, and not for one's self. But it's difficult for me to accomplish, being that these stories from my youth that I'm not trying to put down in adulthood are just that... stories for myself I made up while bored and in between books as a kid.

Perhaps, what I really need, is to start fresh. Possibly even to forget this 1st manuscript existed, as I've been stuck on it for several years now, and try something new.

Thanks for the words. Never fear about being honest, that's what I asked for. :)

Tipa said...

Have you tried writing exercises? Try writing your story in 100 words. Exercises like that (while artificial) make you really think about your story. And instead of writing your full story right away, right a one or two page side-story (that has nothing to do with your main story) about each of your main characters. This makes them more real.

I had this idea for a story once, and realized as I wrote it that it was really about missing my mom (who died of cancer), and my dad, who lived across the country and whom I rarely saw. It turned into an entirely different story.

Bildo said...

I think my problem, especially with getting this started again, Tipa, is that I'm very out of practice with my creative writing. This sort of blogging, and editorial type work I've been doing. That's easy. It's simply writing what you think, and if you've half a sense of humor, you can even get away with it making no sense at all... and look brilliant for doing so.

But with fiction... you have to create the image of reality, even though it's all lies based on the mere semblance (sp?) of fact. I need to get back to it... but I've got to find the time and energy. Writing the 1st draft of this manuscript, even though it's on the smaller end (45,000 words), took a lot out of me creatively... and it's still not "done."