I don’t know if I could specify an exact period in my life when I began writing. When I look back, I was always writing something, always making up stories or journaling my days. After all, what pre-teen/teenage girl doesn’t have her secret diary where she recounts all the absolutely horrible-awesome-unbelievable-heartbreaking things that happen to her every single day???
Growing up on a farm I can remember whiling away the hours while cutting acres of grass on a little riding mower, and the whole time I would be telling myself stories – out loud of course because the mower was typically loud enough one could barely hear themself think, and it wasn’t as if there was anyone around for miles to hear me talking to myself. Sometimes, if I liked the story I came up with while mowing, I would later pull out a notebook and write it out. I still have some of those notebook-ed mowing stories in my keepsake boxes. Some are truly cringe worthy but even the most horrible of them illustrates the potential for storytelling that lived within me, even then.
But it was really when my eldest son was a baby that I thought to myself, “I’ve got all these ideas and stories just percolating in my head, why don’t I try to get them out?” At that point I was already a voracious reader, frequent book reviewer on my original blog, and had also been writing fanfiction for a couple years, so the idea of writing my own original stories was, to say the least, enticing.
So, I started typing.
Carving out time, when and where I could, to write. To allow the adventures, the dreams, the characters – the stories – out of my head. When I couldn’t sit down at the computer, or escape for a bit with my laptop, I got into the habit of packing around a notebook and pen. It wasn’t uncommon in those days to find me scribbling notes (ideas, a turn of phrase, inspired dialogue) while sitting at skating lessons or while the kids played in the McD’s play place.
There were so many ideas that rushed forward in those early years. I’ve got files and files, and files, and I’m frequently adding more as new ideas crop up. There are dozens of ideas that I’ve never gotten around to even attempting to flesh out and really develop. Then there are the ones that I did focus on. The ones I took time to see where they might lead, see what kind of story it was that was waiting to be told.
And from those, there are a handful that I’ve truly delved into and narrowed my sight on. Those stories have weeks and months, and more, of time invested in them. Time spent researching locations, myths and legends, educational course paths for various (and sundry) careers, and a wide variety of legalities aimed at specific situations. Time spent doing character development and profiles, family trees, detailed timelines, and even drawing out the floor plans for homes featured within those stories.
Then the writing.
God, the time spent writing. Hours upon days, upon weeks and months, and years. All that time getting words onto screen and paper. Time spent on revisions and rewrites.
All those words.
Because words are what make the story. You start with an idea – the heart and soul – and with words you build everything else: the bones and framework of the plot, the muscle and tissue that give it weight, and most of all, the blood and breath that gives it life. Without the words there is simply an amorphous thought waiting.
I spent the past weekend going through my writing files because I had finally decided which one of my stories to focus on this year and to finally, actually, finish. This was one of my writing goals for 2019 that I talked about in my post last month. The result of that perusal being that this week my heart hurts (more than) a bit and I’m unusually obsessed with those words. Because you see, just more than a third of the existing files for that story were damaged-corrupted-unreadable-inaccessible. The originals and the backups. One third of the chapters I’d already written – just gone. At the very least fifteen thousand words lost.
I cried, quite literally and dramatically, when I’d finished tallying things up and realized just how much was gone.
It’s not even that I can’t rewrite those missing chapters. I can and will – if the geek squad pro’s that I haul my computer and flash drives to can’t recover them. It’s the fact that while some of those chapters are just the ‘bones and muscle’ of the story, a few of them are ‘blood and breath’ parts. While I may not be able to remember every word I wrote in those chapters, I remember very clearly how I felt when I wrote them. And there’s this part of me that is terrified that if/when I rewrite those sections, I won’t be able to pull off the same level of intensity, same depth of emotion. Quite simply – I’m afraid it won’t be as good this time around.
If rewriting those chapters from scratch becomes necessary, I’ll do it. I’ll do it to the very best of my ability… but man, right now the fear of that prospect is sitting right up there with the hurt of having lost the chapters in the first place.