I’ve finally finished writing Ilyaen’s Mirror!

I had a vision in April of 1980, of a fantasy novel with an evil mage and a princess with the potential to best him but no training. It started like this:

Scattered moonlight skated, silvered, across the face of Ilyaen’s obsidian mirror.

A lot of sibilants, don’t you think? Well, the world has two moons, not one, and the princess is actually half-Lorefolk (think fae), and the evil mage seems like a pretty nice guy, if a bit dense. I’ve earned a Master’s degree in counseling, so the motivations of all my characters are less callow than they were back then.

Writing alone is difficult for me. So when I happened upon The Write Practice’s 100 Day Book (thewritepractice.com/writeabook), I think it was in Book Baby’s newsletter,  I was overjoyed. Accountability, weekly deadlines, and a definite finish date? And it’s not going to break my budget? Count me in!

The program is simplicity itself: all I had to do was determine the amount I planned to write (100,000 words is standard for fantasy), divide it by 100 days, and then write an average of a thousand words a day.

At first, that sounded like a lot. Then I  remembered that I wrote 100 haikus in a single night to prove a point to my high school creative writing teacher, that it was possible to write 100 poems for homework. I’ll never forget the look on Mr. Stitt’s face.

Actually, I only had to write 7000 words a week, since we had weekly deadlines. I missed the mark a couple of times due to illness but, in the end, wrote nearly 140,000 words. The habit of writing daily was the most difficult part, and it pushed me on until the point where suddenly my story seemed to flow like water from my fingers to my keyboard.

That’s not all, though. A staff member sends weekly pep talks, there are weekly suggestions on ways to freshen your writing if you’re blocked (which I mostly ignored –  sorry, Joe), and weekly personal emails after each deadline. The program is supportive and fun … and there’s a surprise waiting if you finish on time. Plus, there’s a virtual after-party, which I look forward to attending. I was on the road all day during the wrap-up.

I also had the pleasure of reading work by wonderful writers, and look forward to that part of the process when editing Ilyaen’s Mirror in 100 days, starting February 24, 2020.

The experience of actually finishing a novel taught me a great deal about myself and writing in general. The 100 Day Book product actually includes 1/4 to 1/3 of the next book in the series, because I am a ‘panther’s and didn’t have an end point in mind. My first beta-reader and a developmental editor agree on a point much earlier in the story for an ending. I should have had  at least a rough outline.

More important, though, is that I did not rough-edit as I wrote. That may cause problems when I get into the nuts & bolts of the next phase. At least I backed up in 4 different places. I’ll never lose a draft again! (Next post, I will tell you why it took from 1980 to 2019 to write the book. Lack of backups play a significant part in the story.)

Taking Dictation

Once upon a time in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, there was a little girl who loved words. As a first child with a stay-at-home mother, I was read to frequently and regularly. I strengthened my eyes and mind by reading along with Mom or Dad by kindergarten or first grade.

The adults in my family used to delight how my child’s mind made sense of the world. One lunch-table discussion about Kraft’s extra-sharp black label cheddar cheese, when I was about five, illustrates this.

It used to have a cartoon raccoon on the label, and back then it was called Coon Cheese. One day, my little sister asked why it was called that and, before the grownups could answer, I said, “They go out in the woods and pick up all the old dead ‘coons. Then, they grind ’em up and make cheese out of ’em.” After all, if a ‘coon was on the label, doesn’t that make sense?

Sis said, “Oh, okay,” while the adults exchanged looks. It wasn’t the first time we’d had that product – in fact, we loved it – and we weren’t squeamish kids. We both finished our cheese sandwiches and ran off to play, with no harm done.

My first love, though, was poetry. Sometimes Dad would read out of a slim gray volume from a college literature class, and the rhythm of the poems trickled through my ears and made me sway with the sound of his voice. I made up little poems before I could read or write.

My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Summers, taught us about syllables by having us write our own poems. She also required us to get library cards, and bring library books to school to practice our reading. I loved her fiercely, and decided to become a teacher because of her.

And reading in the library was such an adventure! Words painted pictures behind my eyes, and I watched stories unfold like movies in my head. As I grew, I wrote my mental pictures down. I no longer have those early ‘movie scripts’ (most were lost during my parents moving twice). But I still take dictation when my characters speak, and fill in the background: actions, details, and surroundings.

I didn’t become a teacher, but I never stopped writing. I hope to someday share them with others.