Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Unborn Child

Eleven years ago I sat down in front of my room mate's computer and began conceiving a story. I even wrote about fifty pages, writing every night, only to forget about it when I moved to England. While I was there, my friend Mark let me borrow his old 386 after a drunk evening when I remembered the story, and told him about it. So once again I sat down to the story, and rewrote what I remembered of it, and added some things. It began to grow, to my surprise.

It was at this point that the story took on a name: The Devil's Footprints.
For the rest of my time in England I would go back to the story, drop it, then come back to it. The characters, though remaining the same in name, began to grow and take on lives of their own. It was while I was in England that for the first time something amazing and unexpected occurred - the story was changing as I was writing it. The characters almost seemed to act of their own accord.

It was at this point that I began reading the Dune series. I couldn't hep but think how wonderful it must have been for Frank Herbert to imagine, conceive, then give birth to his own universe. I enjoy the books surrounding the original series written by his son and a collaborator, but as entertaining as they are they lack the scope and vision of the originals. The depth they do contain was founded on the original idea. But I digress (as I do). The point is, I kept thinking of The Devil's Footprints as I read these books. So envious and enamored I was with Frank Herbert's sweeping vision, a world at once completely apart and exactly the same as ours. It was a funhouse mirror on our universe, one seen from a distance that puts our world in a new perspective by placing it 10,000 years in the future. I was then determined that one day I would let my own little universe out to let somebody else see it.

Fast forward a few years, and I was in Summerville, South Carolina working night audit at a plantation inn. The night audit would be done by midnight, leaving me with seven dark, quiet, lonely hours in the woods to essentially just be there if I were needed. I never was. So once again I picked up The Devil's Footprints right where I had left off. But this time I decided to begin outlining. I thought that by outlining, the synapses in my brain that represent each of these characters would stop veering off-path.

I began writing from the outline, and in each session the story seemed to take on its own life as I wrote it. More turmoil occurred in my life, and I set it down again, letting it collect dust in the back of my mind. I would never have suspected that it was still growing, becoming something of an unborn child.

Once I moved to DC, I began outlining again. I would walk around the monuments at night, go to the Smithsonian, wander, and think of the story - sometimes ending the day in a bar with a notebook and pen. Outlining was often the last thing I did before I went to sleep. At this point it was conceiving the story that became the fun part. It was as escapist as reading any novel ever had been.

So once again I set about writing it out. I've lost so many versions of the beginning of this story, that writing the first fifty pages had at this point been more clerical than creative. But here again, my life was uprooted and I found myself in Rhode Island.

In Rhode Island, Eric and I rented a house near Providence. This house had a back deck, and quickly I bought a table and some chairs, knowing that I had found a refuge for The Devil's Footprints to grow.
I spent so many hours those two and half years out there outlining, developing characters, creating maps (for my own use, to keep a consistent vision as this world grew). I made family trees, even wrote a few journal entries from the perspective of the main character. I have three notebooks in a box somewhere with the original outlines, and two or three binders still in Rhode Island with further outlines. (However, at this point I'm pretty much fine without them, I know the thing so well).

By my second year in Rhode Island I felt like it had become an obsession. I was writing as well as outlining, and probably wrote (if you include everything I ever deleted), around 350 pages, maybe more.
I find myself back in South Carolina now, dancing around the story, and still thinking about it all the time. I have ideas in mind for other stories, including one surrounding Summerville, stories that are not nearly as outlandish, and take place in the world as we know it, in the here and now. But as I sat down the other day to try to begin the story about Summerville, (after having done some light research), I realized that I couldn't write anything else until The Devil's Footprints is done.

It's become my favorite pet, this monkey sitting on my back. I hate it bitterly but love it. I can't write anything else until it's done, I realize that now.

As far as what I might do with it - who knows? At this point I don't care as much about that as I do completing this thing. I want to let it run its course and get the hell out of my system!
Sure, I have a few pipe dreams of publishing, but if I'm writing this for that, I think I might cheat myself, and the story. I need to let The Devil's Footprints unfold as it always has - on its own, my fingers the vessels.

Maybe I'll let my nephew Zach have it one day, (as my nieces are likely not as apt to enjoy this type of story. Aside from being a fantasy, it can at times get a little violent. Abby didn't even like the opening scene of Bolt). Maybe I should write it for him, and think only of his enjoyment when he gets older. In that I likely won't be as self-conscious and will love the process for what it is.

The Devil's Footprints is my unborn child. Only instead of nine months, I've been carrying this kicking, punching baby inside of me for eleven years. I think it's time to finally let it come on out.

I may ask some of you to help with the delivery. I might paste a few pages here from time to time and let you tell me what you think. Or I might ask your opinions, and maybe even ask for you to help in research. Though I don't think I need much in that respect, as I pretty much know the damn story from start to finish.
And it's grown. It's grown in scope, in number of characters, and in plot. I'm not even sure how I'm going to squeeze some of it in there, but there are things that must be squeezed in.

So here we go - here is my final new year's resolution - I am going to finish this damn thing, if for no other reason than so I can move onto other stories. It may give me the practice I need, and maybe I'll go back to it once and a while to polish it, help the child become an adult. And maybe then he will be ready for Zach.
As I close this post, I'm getting ready to start the process. No more hours and hours of outlining. It's time to start. Again. And finish.

Happy New Year everyone. Wish me luck.

5 comments:

Samantha said...

Good luck WIll! I am looking forward to reading it! I know you can do it!

wah said...

Wish you good luck.
Keep writting. So used to read your blog everyday. It is interesting. But,your blog background color made me annoying.
May be only me????
Warm Regards

Mandy said...

I remember seeing this story. It has been a very long time. Get it done. I'm sure there are plenty of your readers that would love to see what it's all about and offer their two cents.

Looking forward to it.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

How cool! I'm sure you can finish it, you're obviously very dedicated to it! Happy New Year!

Doc said...

If you feel comfortable post a few pages... I'd like to give it a read.