“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”
- Don William Jr.
From the title, you thought this was going to be a post about teaching gym, didn’t you? Nope, it’s about writing.
I just pulled this excerpt below from 06/10/06. It’s my first completed manuscript. In rough draft. Why would I admit to this, you ask? Good question. I’m revealing this piece of (insert disparaging noun here) because it shows how far I’ve come.
This is the beginning of the prologue to Jordan Walsh the Extraordinary: Circle of Four:
Jordan Walsh was an ordinary teenager. Well, he felt he was ordinary. He lived in an ordinary suburb in Long Island, New York on an ordinary street. He had ordinary parents. He went to an ordinary public school. It was all so ordinary; it made him want to scream sometimes.
Jordan was on the threshold of his thirteenth birthday and teenage angst was beginning to bubble inside his veins. Of course, he didn’t feel there was angst involved or that it could possibly be from the very act of becoming a teenager. Jordan was quite sure he was justified in every emotion brewing inside his stomach, spreading to the tips of his fingers. Over the past year he spent more time alone in his room and less time with any of the friends he had from elementary school.
In fact, this previous year had been the loneliest in Jordan’s life. He felt himself turning more inward for the answers to the questions that began to buzz in his head. Sometimes he couldn’t make out the particular words for all the buzzes and hums, but he knew they were questions that would not let up unless he could figure out the answers. So, in order to devote more time to this task he had shut out virtually everyone and found himself in a deeper state of melancholy.
He felt had reasons for this malaise. After all, his parents seemed to be so preoccupied and had little time for him. He wasn’t sure he wanted time for them, but he wished more than a little that they acted more like parents were supposed to act. Jordan’s mom was the head of the PTA and she made it her whole world. There she was, working on behalf of all the students in his school, but one (two if you counted his sister). And many nights he had to reheat his own dinner or make a box of macaroni and cheese. There was always a meeting about a budget, event, or something to do with curriculum, whatever that was. She seemed to fly in and out of the house like a bird during the first warmth of spring. She would flit around to take care of a few household duties, phone in ear, and give absentminded kisses with instructions for dinner on the way out the door. She would rarely even sit still long enough for a conversation. It was as if his mother made herself busy just to avoid spending time with them. If she liked school so much, why didn’t she just become a teacher? Jordan didn’t understand why she didn’t try to get a full-time job like his father.
It’s the first 448 words. If you’ve been following my blog for any period of time, you may remember I’ve said I used to have a problem with show, not tell. YOU THINK? Was I writing a synopsis or query or…. WHAT?
I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m going to. When I tried to fix it, I added a wake-up scene, and then described every aspect of Jordan’s appearance by having him look in the mirror. I know. Shudder.
In contrast, here’s my most recent beginning, also a rough draft of Naked Eye:
You know how adults are always warning children not to run with scissors because they could lose an eye and to stop tipping back their chairs back because they could crack open their skulls? I’ve never cracked open my skull from tipping back a desk chair, but three years ago, I ran with scissors and lost an eye.
My class worked on an art project, making dioramas of our bedrooms, which had to be drawn to scale. “That’s my scissor,” I accused Andrea when I’d moved scraps of paper, bits of Styrofoam, and pipe cleaners only to spy my orange-handled one in her hand. “It’s mine now,” she responded. Her lifeless hair covered her expression, and she didn’t even bother looking up as she cut out her dilapidated-looking dresser. I only knew it was a dresser because she’d told me. Her attitude artistic ability was as bad as her attitude.
I huffed up from the table, banging shoulders with that sloth, Jeremy on the way to the art supply desk. We were locker neighbors, and he made sure to take his time with his door blocking mine so I’d stand there tapping my foot until just before the bell. It was only two weeks into school and I’d received three tardies because of him.
I searched the bin to find only rusty scissors were left, which would be terrible for slicing through thick paper. Snatching a scissor, I hurried back to the desk. “Lucienne, no running,” the art teacher, Ms. Lee warned from Jeremy’s table. I didn’t think it counted as running, but I wanted to get back to work and Andrea already wasted enough of my time. Something tripped up my feet and the next thing I knew, I flew forward landing smack on my stomach. Pain seared my right eye, which made my brain explode in a flash of light, with shrapnel reverberating in my skull.
I screamed forever as I writhed around on the ground. I kept my eyes shut tight to keep from knowing how bad it was. I knew it was horrible because I felt something sticky running down my right cheek. And the pain wouldn’t cease. The incessant agony went on and on to matter how hard I begged to escape even though no coherent words formed on my lips.
Hands were on me. People spoke but I couldn’t understand them because I couldn’t stop howling. There came a tugging on my hand and I realized my fist still gripped the rusty scissor. They wanted me to let it go, but I refused to release my grip. My body became a stuck in a fetal position. A prick stung my shoulder and within seconds, my body loosened until it wasn’t mine to control. My voice fell away along with the pain. They hoisted and placed me on something softer than the hard classroom floor, and soon my jelly body jostled as wind rushed over my skin. Running feet and squeaky wheels echoed in my head.
There came a slam, and then I sensed the light had dimmed while drops of liquid pricked my skin. I attempted to open my eyes but something was wrong. Only one eye cooperated. Above me loomed a threatening sky as rain assaulted my fragile face. I shut my working eye.
My last thought before I got knocked out was, Jeremy tripped me on purpose and because of him something terrible had happened to me.
This is the first chapter at 578 words. I read this part and some of the second chapter aloud to the peer critiquers at the NESCBWI conference. They gave me some great suggestions, which I haven’t yet incorporated. So you get to read it raw.
I’m excited to return from my trip and see where this story goes.
Another journey begins.