Starting Over. Or How to Finish Your Novel the Hard Way.

Posted: August 20, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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Well, The Last Princess, my daughter’s and my middle grade novel, is finished. Finished in the sense that is now has all of its chapters. I suppose that’s a bit like saying a wedding dress is finished as soon as all of the pieces are sewn together.

167922480If you’ve ever been a bride or known one, you’ll know that there are probably a hundred things on a wedding dress that might need to be tucked or replaced or tightened or let out or upgraded or resewn before the bride is completely happy with it. Well, so it is with a novel.

The chapters are all there, but a million new ideas and altered plans have happened to the story in the time between when we wrote chapter 1 and chapter 14. Not to mention we’ve grown as writers and refined our style and fine-tuned the voice of our story, such that going back and re-reading our earlier work sounds a bit off.

To quote from one of my favorite books, Dune: “A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.” I’ve never been completely satisfied with the beginning of our book, and I have a file with no fewer than five different attempts to get it right. But by the time we had about five chapters written I settled on one that was good enough and it gave me the confidence and a good foundation on which to build the rest of the novel.

Somewhere around chapter 12 I hit upon a completely new way to open the book, with a new scene that not only foreshadows and supports everything that happens in the climax, but is a perfect showcase for our main character’s personality. And, a pretty good hook, if I do say so myself.

Tell us what you think. Here are the (new) first 464 words of The Last Princess:

How’s a girl supposed to get any serious daydreaming done with a little brother on the rampage? It was hard enough trying to do my seventh grade history project without him ricocheting off the walls like a caged dragon.

I know, there’s no such things as dragons. My mom told me. Pfft. How would she know?

I blew a strand of frizzy hair out of my face and picked up the brown pencil from the floor beside me. Hoping for just five minutes of peace and quiet, I leaned over my sketchbook and started coloring in the tallest tower of Windsor Castle. Where my room would be….

“Princess Brökkenwier! You must leave here at once!”

“Nonsense, silly servant. My father is the king. And he said I could have this tower for my very own.” I waved an imperious hand at the little man with puffy pantaloons and ringlets in his hair. “Now go and tell my maid I’m ready for breakfast.”

“No, Princess! The king sent me! We’re under attack!”

“Again?” I put down my silver brush with a sigh. “What is it this time?”

“Dragons, m’lady! Please, it’s not safe in the tower.”

“Whatever.” I stood and adjusted my gold crown. “Take me to my father.”

“At once, m’lady.”

Spiral staircases were so thirteenth century. That’s why I’d had Daddy install an elevator. And a fireman’s pole for quick escapes. The little servant screamed like a girl the whole way down.

As we ran through the courtyard I heard the shouts of the panicking servants and felt the chill of a huge shadow passing overhead. We ducked into the castle proper and secured the large wooden doors. We had almost made it to the great hall when a sound like thunder rocked the passageway and pieces of ceiling rained down. The dragon had landed in the courtyard behind us. I could already smell its awful, smoky breath. The doors slammed open revealing the courtyard on fire, and my brave little servant fainted dead away. But I stood my ground. An enormous yellow eyeball peered at me through the ruined doorway and I desperately wished I had one of the elf archer’s bows. One shot and this would be over.

“Princess!” my dad’s voice bellowed. I spun and there he was. Tall and muscular, bound from head-to-toe in golden armor. He clutched a dwarf-made axe in both fists, ready to rescue me or avenge my death. “Step aside, Princess. This is going to get messy.”

That’s when my little brother landed right in the middle of my drawing, sending pencils and glitter pens flying.

“Look at me! I’m a superhero!” He had jumped off the couch in a heroic leap, still wearing the red cape he’d gotten for his fourth birthday last month.

We still have a long way to go before this wedding dress is ready for the Big Day. But we’re definitely getting there!

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Comments
  1. Beth says:

    Absolutely love it! Grabs my attention right away, and doesn’t let go of it. Can’t wait to read the whole book when it’s done. Keep persevering!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beth, thank you! I’m so delighted you liked it. Yours is literally the first feedback I’ve gotten on that beginning, so I am very encouraged.

    If you would like to read the whole book, please do sign up to be a Beta Reader in the tab at the top of this page. I am very close to releasing the manuscript to betas.

    Like

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