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Commitment--and an excerpt.

I'm nearing the end of my book--I'm currently at approximately 75,000 words, and I forsee maybe another 30,000 words to go. It's not quite close enough to make a mad, sprinting dash for the finish line, but that's not really what I want to do anyway. Although I always was a sprinter rather than a distance runner, in this case I think consistency and a steady pace are going to be what sees me through.

That said, I'm close enough to set myself a deadline. So that's what I'm doing, here in public so everyone can see, and therefore can hold me accountable if I don't manage it.

So: By my birthday, July 5th, I'll have this first draft completed. That's a promise. Please judge me and hate me and all-of-my-irrational-fears-of-failure me if I don't hold up my end.

To pass the time until then (even though it is no longer Teaser Tuesday) I'll post another excerpt. I had so much fun with the last one, but it was such a brief, superficial moment in the book. It was really the first serious danger Lark encounters outside the Wall, and its purpose is mostly to show her just what she's let herself in for, and that nothing--absolutely NOTHING--can be trusted in this new world.

This scene comes from a somewhat more character-driven part of the book. Lark has joined company with a young man named Oren, so far the only person she's encountered who hasn't been twisted into a monster by the magical vacuum and storms ravaging the wilderness. He's unused to company and terse to the point of rudeness, but he knows how to find food and water, how stay ahead of the monsters, and when to seek shelter.

Lark has been struggling with fairly significant agoraphobia ever since setting foot outside the Wall. She grew up never having seen the sky, and now finds it overwhelming. Though she's made significant progress over the past two weeks since her escape, the wilderness still has a few tricks up its sleeve.




___________________________________________________

THE IRON WOOD
by Meagan Spooner
Excerpt: 1,091 words.




“What were you doing just now?” I asked.

“Laying a false trail.”

“What?” I scrambled to catch up with him, summoning the energy from somewhere to get to my feet. “A false trail for who?”

“For whatever might want to follow us. It’s a hungry world. And you don’t walk very quietly.”

I glanced over my shoulder before I could stop myself, half-expecting to see grey-skinned faces and teeth in the shadows. “Well, I don’t think you’d last ten minutes in the city,” I replied. It was a bald-faced lie, but he didn’t know that.

He only shrugged and quickened his pace. “It looks like a storm is coming,” he said, tilting his chin briefly toward the sky. “We don’t want to be stuck out in these hills when it hits.

“A what?” Any pleasure at having gotten in a dig, even a small one, vanished. I had seen pictures of thunderstorms. They were one part of living inside the city that I did not miss.

“A storm. We’ll be fine if we get into the hills to where the forest starts up again.” He stopped and looked back at me; somehow, without input from my brain, my feet had stopped moving. His face changed, just a flicker, as he looked at me. “You’ve never been in a thunderstorm before?”

I shook my head. It seemed I would spend my life trying, and failing, not to show how afraid I was.

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and then jerked his head in the direction of the foothills. “Let’s keep going. Best thing to do is get to cover before it hits.”

Out on the plains, the clouds were unimaginably immense. The old terrors began to catch up with me as we walked, the feeling that at any moment the vastness of the sky would suck me up into its depths, and rend me apart. Though the darkest clouds were still far in the distance, the titanic bulbs of grey and ash cloud overhead kept me glancing nervously upward and then fixing my gaze on the grass until the dizziness passed.

We were maybe half an hour out from the start of the forest dotting the bases of the mountains, like stitches along the hem of a skirt, when the rain began. Coincidence had me tilting my head back for an ill-advised, panicked look at the sky when a raindrop struck me on the forehead. I stopped dead, reaching up with astonished fingers to feel the water dripping down my face.

Oren stopped not long after. “Best keep moving,” he said, without looking around.

“Rain,” I said. Something in my voice must have struck him, for he turned around to look at me. I held out my wet fingers as proof.

“Usually comes with thunderstorms,” agreed Oren. “You’d think you’d never been rained on before.”

I tipped my face back again, a second drop and a third splattering against my cheeks, flushed from exertion. “I haven’t.” Each drop brought a rush of adrenalin, fears all coalescing into this moment.

“Come on, Lark, let’s go.”

“I can’t.” My feet wouldn’t move; I stood there shivering, staring now at him. What had once been unfounded fears of undefined space and horrible emptiness was now turned real. The sky became a vast sea overhead, and I struggled not to drown.

He looked at me again, and hesitated. It was the first time I’d ever seen him take a pause.

“Just take one step,” he said quietly. “We’re almost there.”

It was easier to do as he said than refuse. I knew he was half likely to sling me over his shoulder and carry me if I disobeyed. I was so unsteady when I lifted my foot that I slammed it back down, closing my eyes as the world spun. The rain was falling faster now, a chilly roaring in my ears, even as the pixie huddled against my neck, humming madly. For once, the sound was a comfort.

Oren took a step toward me and then reached for my hand. My skin jolted the moment he touched it, every hair on my body standing on end. It was like the moment of static electricity when stepping through the barriers, only visceral and immediate. It was not a pleasant sensation. I shuddered, but his expression gave no sign that he had noticed anything. He gave my hand a gentle tug, and I took another step, and another.

Half-coaxing, half-cajoling, Oren got me to the edge of the wood. Once the branches overhead were thick enough to block out most of the rain, I found it easier to breathe, easier to move. I let go of his hand and held onto a tree for support, resting my forehead against its bark. My skin was damp from sweat and rain, my shirt sticking to my back.

“Are you okay?”

I turned my head; Oren was standing not far away, hands tucked into his pockets.

“Fine,” I said. “Just--the sky scares me.” There was no point, now, in trying to pretend I was anything less than a coward.

Oren frowned. “How can the sky possibly scare you? It’s just the sky. There’s nothing up there. Except water right now, I guess.”

“That’s just it.” I shut my eyes and swallowed hard. “Nothing. I only saw the sky for the first time when I left the city.” I shook my head. “It’s huge, and empty, and awful. I feel as though it’s going to sweep me up and crush me and drown me and tear me apart.”

“Of all the things you have to be scared of, Lark, the sky’s the least of your worries.”

Perhaps he meant it to be comforting, but his assurance and his quiet voice merely triggered something in me that had been building since his first words to me. “Look, I’m new to this! I hadn’t ever even seen the sun until what, two weeks ago? I left everything I’ve ever known to find a place that is now apparently going to kill me, and my only company is a machine I’m pretty sure is my enemy and a man who treats me like a child, and I’m just--I’m sick of it!”

Oren waited until my breathing had calmed somewhat, and the pounding in my ears had faded. His head was tipped lightly to one side, expression set in the familiar neutral disinterest. “We’ve got another couple of hours to walk, and then we’ll be there. Let’s go.”
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Comments

Before reading: YAY! I love Teaser Not-Tuesdays.

After: I want to read more. D: (That's a good thing. The horrified smiley is because I can't read more.)

Oh, and how's the characterisation of Oren going? From what little I read I think it's going well, so it seems like you got past that obstacle. My main character is starting to reveal herself a little more, too. Heh. Damn those secretive characters that dodge your attempts at figuring 'em out.

Also, congrats on 75,000 words. That's seriously awesome. I'm so happy for you!!! You can do it. :D

(Keeping you accountable as you are me. You inspired me to do the 500-words-a-day challenge and it's going so well. You're totally right--perseverance is key to getting anything done. I think that's what I was missing before.)
Whoohoo, I'm glad you like it! Yeah, Oren's coming a lot more easily now. He's terse and stubborn and unintentionally rude by nature, so somewhat of a pain to deal with when he refuses to profess his undying love and all, but you know... we're working on it.

You make me SO unbelievably happy that you're on the 500 words/day thing and sticking to it and everything. It seems like such a tiny commitment, but it's really not. It's making room in your life for something EVERY DAY and it can be way, way harder than anyone who hasn't done it can realize. I'm just so glad it's helping you!! <3
I really enjoyed this! Despite not knowing a great deal about the characters or the world, I was drawn in immediately and upset when I got to the end. :) Plus having a fear of the sky is such an interesting thing to think about/explore! It was sweet when Oren helped her to the forest as well when I get the impression that he's not a very patient person normally?
Oh- and I just found out about this post from Gail Carson Levine about how to write "un-sappy romance"- she has some tips about how to make chemistry work I thought were really helpful- check it out if you're interested!

http://gailcarsonlevine.blogspot.com/2010/06/un-sappy-romance.html
I'm SO glad you liked it. It's surprisingly hard for me to pick excerpts--it feels like everything is so high-context. Plus, at this late stage in the game, practically everything's a spoiler! But I'd imagine most writers feel like that, so I'm trying to ignore the little voices. ;)

And yeah, Oren is not a patient guy. He's used to living absolutely on his own, and Lark... well, just now, Lark is not the most competent of companions.

And wow, that post is AWESOME. Thanks so much! It's going to be super helpful!
Can't wait for July! :)
Heehee, thanks! I have sooo many misgivings about this deadline--I mean, I don't even KNOW for a face that I have only 30,000 words to go! I suspect that's wishful/optimistic thinking. Still, that's the point of saying it publicly... can't take it back now! ;)
For a face? WTF. For a FACT, I meant. See, when I've been writing for too long without a break, I start doing weird homophone and approximate homophone things where I just start replacing random words with similarly pronounced--or spelled--other words. Sigh. Maybe I should break for lunch.
Wow, the idea that the immense sky is scary and suffocating and just too much for someone is new. I liked that take!
And Oren has this teeny distanced-mysterious-man air that I LOVE!
Lark and Oren are great names!
I'm really curious to know more now! (Like why Lark left the city) Looking forward to next time~
Yaay, thanks! I'm so glad you like Oren. He's the "new" character (despite being in my head as long as Lark) so there's definitely still a bit of settling down to do with him.

So happy you want to know more! There's a bit more about the setup of the book in the explanation for the first excerpt I did, if you're curious: http://meaganspooner.livejournal.com/1728.html
This sounds amazing :) I hope you can meet your goal.
Aww, thanks! I hope so too. But I am a crazyperson when it comes to failure, so if I set myself this goal (in public where I can't take it back and pretend I never set it) then I should be so averse to failing that goal that I'll stay up all night for a week if I have to. At least, that's the idea...
lol maybe I should set goals in public too.
Well, it definitely does work, I will say that. If you're the type of person who hates to let others down, it'll torture you until you succeed. I was that could who wouldn't do homework to save her life but if it meant a teacher's disapproval I wouldn't sleep until it got done.
If you do not finish by your birthday, not only will I judge you, I will make you cook dinner. That's right, on your BIRTHDAY. I will eat all the cake myself, because that's how mean I am. This is your warning.

Also, <3<3<3 this bit. "It's a hungry world. And you don't walk very quietly." One of my favourite phrases from the book.
That is one of my favorite lines too! I love that you peg all the stuff I like as the stuff you like. This is why I make you read my WIPs, you tell me exactly what I want to hear, when I need to hear it. <3