After months of hard work, I’ve finally reached the first milestone in my latest story, The World Undone.
And I wanted to talk a little bit about the process of writing my newest book.
I’ve found the first twenty thousand are the hardest, for me at least. Until this point, I’m not entirely sure where I want the story to go, what I want the characters to do or how they evolve. I have to write a beginning that is both intriguing, but also not too vague. I have to build up a believable world without giving away too much too quickly.
Some authors might love the beginning, but that’s what I dread.
This is usually the part that gets changed the most. It’s the first twenty or so thousand where I keep adding and taking away and tinkering with what I have. While that might improve what I have, it also means I spend so much time nitpicking what I’ve already done, that I can’t move forward. And stagnating usually ends up with me not working at all. Yes, I know I should be working every day but things come up, I lose focus, next thing you know I’ve spent the last few hours on Facebook scrolling and texting bad jokes to people.
What I have to remember is that, once the first twenty thousand is done, it’s only easier from then on out. Once I’ve gotten the introduction out of the way, everything else feels so much easier. I can start expanding on the lore and history of the world–which you shouldn’t really go into much detail on in the beginning, but more on that later. I can start fleshing out characters and showing off all these cool things I’ve thought up for my story. It’s these parts that I love about writing. I love sharing all these crazy ideas and harebrained concepts that I cooked up late at night, twelve cups of coffee in.
But I think I’ve gotten a lot better at starting stories now. I remember the first time I started to write. Although I’ll always cringe at the way I used to write (really, do all your main characters have to be gun-toting snarky macho-men?), I still recognise that I’ve grown and matured so much since the start. Through writing and practising and more writing–as well as some help from my friends and colleagues–I’ve gotten so much better.
But, I won’t just speak about myself without anything to back it up. I’ll let you read and decide for yourself.
Ladies and gentlemen, the first snippet of my latest story, The World Undone.
The Women of Vylderstadh
The dark roiling clouds had gathered months ago. Bubbling from a clear blue sky, the storm roared into existence, drowning the small, quiet township in rain and thunder and lightning. Never once did the storm seem to lessen over those long, long months. It hung over the town interminably, unmoved by howling wind or the burning summer sun. Darkness clung to this quiet town in the Kingdom of Farengail, darkness unseen since the time of The Great Cataclysm. Darkness infected every corner, every home, every room. The air itself swallowed light. Candles and fires were smothered by the darkness—the sun had disappeared by day and the stars at night were gone. For months, the people of Vylderstadh had lived with only the memory of light.
The people cowered indoors, underneath leaky thatch roofs and behind flimsy boarded walls. Men held their wives, wives held their children and the children clung to one another as if they would die without the feel of another human’s skin against theirs. Fear ate away their minds during the day, and invaded their dreams at night.
Those who could all fled long ago, leaving behind their homes and all their possessions so that they could take their chance to escape this waking nightmare. Their screams were still fresh in the minds of all the townsfolk. Their long, tortured wails had carried loudly even over the incessant roar of rain and thunder—their deaths were neither short nor painless. None dared to leave their homes after that. Sometimes even people who hadn’t left their homes were heard screaming.
Something evil held this town. Something wicked gripped this quiet corner of the Kingdom. The air was filled with the smell of death and rot. All the plants were withered and black, as if they had been set aflame, despite the never-ending rains. The houses were being eaten away by decay. Covered in mold and vine and ivy, they stood as if neglected for decades.
In a small, nondescript hut, near the outskirts of the town, five women stood huddled closely together. They bore heavy cloaks of thick, black wool. Their hoods were pulled up, obscuring their faces. The five were chanting, chanting an ancient song of power, a song not heard by mortal ears for millennia. Their hands were clasped tightly together, around small, dimly-glowing charms made of bone and wood. Their eyes were hollow and sunken into their skulls, their pupils having expanded so far that it seemed the entire colouring of their eyes was black. Their skin was pale, and so taut their bones stood out sickeningly through their skin. Perhaps under different circumstances, the five might’ve been beautiful. In another life, in another time, men would’ve thrown themselves at their feet, and Emperors would beg for their hands. However, it was not another life but this one. Not another time but now.
They bobbed backwards and forwards in their chanting, as if they were entranced by the song.
The hut in which they gathered was small. No furnishings stood in the hut anymore for they had all been removed, save for a pallet in the centre of the dim and dank room. On this pallet, laid a sixth woman. Of a pale and pallid complexion, she, of them all, seemed the most normal, save for one thing. Her bare body was exposed, revealing hundreds, if not thousands of sinewy red lines freshly carved into her skin. The lines curved and contorted and joined into runes and markings that seemed to glow in the darkness. Her belly was swollen and fat, and it was here that all of the lines and markings originated. Pulses of light flowed from the runes across her body into a single point just above her waist.
Suddenly, the woman threw back her head and howled. The women around her fell silent. She screamed and screamed again, her head thrashing to-and-fro. The women around her knelt down, so that there was one woman for each of her limbs. The last knelt between her legs. The chanting begun anew.
The carved woman screamed louder, so loud that it drowned out the thunder and the rain and the lightning. The kneeling women looked to one another, so briefly that they did not appear to move at all. Their brows were furrowed in worry, and concentration. They held the charms in their hands tighter and their chants reached a fervent pitch.
Screams echoed loudly through the town and all the people who still remained drew themselves inwards, trying to escape from the horrendous sound. Those who had loved ones nearby hugged them tight. Teeth clattered in their skulls and the blood pounded in their ears and their hearts raced in their chests. Panic gripped them all and suffocated them in its clutches.
The storm above reached a crescendo. Rain beat down onto Vylderstadh as if it were trying to sink the township. Thunder shook the ground and rattled the walls and dislodged pieces of the ceiling. Lightning forked across the black clouds, illuminating in flashes the small, frail houses below.
For a moment, the winds blew open a hole in the clouds, revealing a bright, shimmering full moon.
The screaming stopped.
The bloody lines in the woman’s body disappeared, leaving behind no trace. Sweat matted her hair. She and all the women around her were transformed. All of them appeared on the verge of womanhood. Their normal eyes shone with youthful exuberance. Their hair still clean, soft and full. They did not appear so ragged anymore. The woman on the pallet held her screeching babe to her breast, and sighed relief.
If you like what you read, I have to ask that you help to share my blog and stories. Show it to your friends, your family, your dog, all of it helps me to get the word out.