On Beginning the First Draft

Blank paper.

Blank mind.

The ruled pages stare back, daring me to peg words to them like inky washing lines. But there are so many words that they all become a jumble so that though they are many, I can’t find any of them. A galaxy of words tangle in my mind but I cannot pick out the constellations that I need to find my way.

I don’t even know the story. All I know is the burning in my bones, the urge to write, the knowledge that they’re there waiting for me to record their tale, whoever they may be.

The story I ought to write, the one that has been stamping for attention all this time, now pulls the blankets over its shoulders and growls for five more minutes. Each story has its time but I have time and no story so I sit back and stare into the emptiness.

Footbeats. Heartbeats. Always in twos.

A girl, oak skin and oasis eyes pounds past me.

I know her.

Pen touches paper and all at once there are towering canyons of chalky rock soaring up around me. A watery sun is clawing its way into the bare sky as I follow this girl, a girl I already know. She runs a path that is strangely familiar to a city I cannot see but I remember, as if from some long-forgotten dream.

The girl kicks up chalk as she runs and I know at once that there are more coming after her. I know that the sling on her back contains something precious and that the scarf itself is dear to her. And I know that above us, a strange creature is following.

It’s a broar, of course it is. And somehow I know what that is, what it looks like, what it wants.

When the first chapter is done and this girl is safe in the city hewn from desert rock, I sit back and stretch the stiffness from my hand. I refill the cartridge in my pen. I make a cup of tea.

Before Morwen’s footsteps thudded up behind me and overtook me in the Crags, I had never considered her story. Within a chapter, I knew everything about her and her family and her longing for home. I knew of the dragons, the Eyrie Master, the Usurper in her homeland, and why Morwen still hides the crown of the rightful heir. I knew about the griffin, not yet born but his egg blessed by the Maker’s hand, and how he would arrive to her unwelcome, yet providential.

They are all there, the story plays out as if I stumbled upon a tale already in motion. There is no outlining, just stepping into what has already begun. There is no real plotting and brainstorming, just watching their lives unfold. There is no conscious world-building, just cursory observations of what already is in my mind.

Sometimes, I wonder if I am a writer or merely an observer of other worlds, watching their histories unfold to their inevitable conclusions and hoping against hope that the characters I have grown fond of live to tell my tale.

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