With The Spoil all grown up and free to wander the big, wide world, I’ve started to turn my attention to my next project. After spending so much time and effort getting that behemoth out the door, it feels weird not to have a document open every evening, either to tinker with or guiltily ignore. Next on the list is supposed to be The Paper Flower, but I find that I’ve run into a couple of big roadblocks already.
I’ve been toying with this book (or trilogy, for so it shall be) for more than a year, developing characters I like but changing the plot at least three different times, moving people around like chess pieces to try to figure out where they belong and what they should do within a general framework that I’ve never been quite happy with.
Last year, I wrote what I thought was the entirety of the first book, but abandoned the second less than a chapter in. Why? Well, a few different reasons. One was that it sucked. I mean, really sucked. People were wandering around, moaning and wailing, not really doing anything besides dropping cryptic hints once in a while about an event that never materialized. My main character, Sareisa, was gloomy and indecisive, struggling with tragedy after tragedy with no redemption in sight, and the entire novel was weighed down with grief and sadness.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Characters have to struggle in order to eventually triumph, and things need to go wrong in order for people to make them right. But I wrote Sareisa at a time when I was caught in my own battle with depression, feeling lonely and abandoned, stuck in melancholy that I thought would never clear. I got better, and I thought Sareisa would get better as I looked at her in a new light this time around. I’ve made her character stronger, more resilient, and less self-pitying, which works for the book.
But reading some of the things I wrote back then has been hard, because so much of Sareisa is simply a reflection of myself. Even if some of the events that she goes through are (thankfully) nothing like my own life, her emotional trials, her thought processes, her fear and yearnings, her indecision and pain are deeply personal to me. There are three paragraphs that make me cry every time I read them, because they are, essentially, a distilled version of my own battle to feel like I belong in the world, that I am worthy of love, and that some day I will find some sort of happiness that will overcome the sense of isolation that has been so deeply ingrained in me.
That this small, human thing seemed like such an unthinkable possibility was the great, hidden sorrow of her life. However hard she tried to resign herself to her fate, it was that tiny kernel of hope which kept her awake far into the night, begging the gods for some relief from the torment: acceptance of her current state or a solution to it – anything but the terrible pain of hope deferred that tore her brittle heart into pieces.
I find it hard to write a story so steeped in sadness. When I read, I want hope and adventure and glory and all the things that are missing from my own sense of self. When I write, I want to be swept away on the tide, not reminded of my own failings and shortcomings. I hate writing this book. I hate codifying and exposing these things about myself. I hate Sareisa – I condemn and revile her – because I hate that she is so similar to me, and can’t overcome the things I fight with every day.
And yet, this story is a powerful one. It’s a story I want to tell. It delves deeply into the lives of women, rich and poor, constrained and free, in a society that alternately reveres, ignores, frees, and cages them. They say an author must feel everything they want their readers to feel. If I ever buckle down and write the story that must be written, I will be happy if my readers feel even a fraction of it.
But for now, I struggle to find the inspiration, the drive and the motivation. I struggle to grasp that moment of clarity, where the plot falls into place like the last piece in a puzzle, and the way forward is as clear as day. I haven’t had that moment yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t. Like Sareisa, I must push on through the dark, and hope, with no real assurance, that there is a light on the other side.