Days 6 & 7: New Story & Self-Improvement

My poor little writing challenge is getting second-rate treatment in light of all the Pitch to Publication fun! Still, days six and seven turned out okay.

For day six, the prompt said this:

“Select a book on your shelf and pick two chapters at random. Take the first line of one chapter and the last line of the other chapter and write a short story (no more than 1000 words) using those as bookends to your story.”

I picked Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End, a favorite since childhood. Picking it may have been a mistake, because the random chapter’s first sentence was one that shows far too clearly why I love her writing in this book and why others hate it:

As the years passed and, it seemed, the king’s folk must have searched every handsbreadth of the king’s land, and the royal magicians had searched every thought’s-breadth of every dimension over and under the king’s lands (by the time Rosie was thirteen, divisions of the royal cavalry accompanying royal magicians had swept through the Gig four times; but if they found anything mysterious at the edge of the wild land where the bdeth grew, they gave no sign), and the royal fairies had touched or tasted or listened to every wisp of wild magic that sprang from the king’s lands, and there was still no news of Pernicia–no sign, no trace, no trail, no clue–another sort of story began to be told.

Spindle's End cover

Yep. You read that right–it’s all a single sentence. McKinley’s writing makes the grammar nerd in me start drooling big-time, but how was I supposed to use that to write a story that uses that as a starter? Luckily, my ending sentence was shorter: “And then she knew no more.”

In the end, I was able to pull the story away from the context of the Sleeping Beauty retelling and invent a tale of a fairy who posed as queen so she could get a child from the human king. After twins were born, she vanished, taking one child with her (eww–why did I go the stereotypical twins route?). Everyone assumed the queen had been kidnapped, but in reality, she returned to her own realm intentionally. The story that “began to be told” years later was that of her true nature, and my story shows her listening to that story, accidentally revealing herself, and being captured (against the king’s will–he knew what she was when he “married” her and is still fond of her) for information on her son’s whereabouts.

That’s about as far as I got; it’s hard to keep a story to 1000 words, and I was definitely making it up as I went. It got a bit out of hand. I might rewrite it as something better later, though, and I LOVE the concept of using first and last lines of chapters to make a new story. I’ll be trying that one again with a different book.

Day seven said, “Write a letter to yourself telling you what you need to improve in the coming 6 months.”

Well, that’s easy. I’ve worked on that list over and over again:

  • Exercise: My jobs are all sit-on-my-bottom jobs, and my circulation and endurance are just about shot. I need to fix this over the summer before I die of lack of movement.
  • Clean: Clean, sort, and get rid of stuff; I have some boxes and piles in an ugly transition stage.
  • Move! I have had a low-paying job for a few years and have been biding my time at my family’s home (no roommates to be found 🙁 ), but editing work is going to change that soon.
  • Manage stress: I had a rough year with three jobs for several months, and it was so stressful it made me sick. A big one on my list is learning to manage stress in a healthier way.

I don’t need a letter to go with the list. I tell it to myself all the time. To paraphrase Yoda, I need to “do or do not; there is no letter.”

Can I encourage you in your own improvement goals? Maybe they’re like mine, or maybe they’re writing related–I have some of those, too. Everything is a little easier with encouragement, and I’d love to be there for you!

On a fun note, I want to hear some story first-and-last-sentence combos based on prompt #6. What book are you using? What new story do the lines inspire?

Tomorrow, prompt #8 will overlap with the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo, which I’m going to use as an accountability tool again this month. Let me know if you’re participating; I’ll cheer you on!

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