So I was digging through some old files and came across some of the earliest words I ever wrote for a novel. I'm not going to share that one, because...reasons. But I am going to share with you the opening of the second novel I ever finished (At sixteen). Because I rewrote this one recently. That's write, I dug out a decades old novel and rewrote it. And I'm pretty happy I did. So, without further ado, one of the earliest examples of my writing.
It was dark by the time she came home. She snuck in through her bedroom window. Her feet had just touched the floor when the lights came on. Bringing her face to face with her angry mother. She looked around for an escape route but the only way out was through her window, and she doubted she could get out and down, before she was pulled back in. "Hi mom. Been up long?"
"Don't 'Hi mom' me! Where have you been? I've been up all night worrying! You are in so much trouble! This goes beyond grounding. I can’t believe you! Every night this week! I thought that you would have known better than this! First, you've been expelled from every school I've ever put you in. You spend most of your time away doing who knows what. Then you dare to break curfew. This is exactly why I'm sending you to private school.” Gwen eyes bugged out as she tried to make sense of what she had just heard.
"What!? I can't go to private school! They brainwash you and make you into little robots that act all snobby and not only that but, I'll look stupid. They'll make me wear a uniform and...eww."
"Not just any school. Darkcastle Boarding School for Troubled Youth. Besides you should have thought about that before you blew up the gym."
"I didn't blow up the gym. The moron, who decided to explain how dynamite works set up right next to my display about fire, blew up the gym."
"Yes but you lit the fuse."
"Not on purpose. I thought it was my candle! I was only expelled because the principal hated me so much!” she said trying to recover the upper hand. “ Anyway isn't Darkcastle in Europe?"
"Yes. But that's not important. They've accepted you on the reasoning that your uncle went there."
"You have to ask?” she rolled her eyes in exasperation. “It was your uncle Eric." Ah yes the good for nothing uncle Eric who lived in Europe and apparently had no job.* At least he got away from my psycho mother she thought bitterly.* Her mother plowed ahead, ignoring her daughter’s look of chagrin." Besides, since he lives over there you can live with him while on break or you can stay at the school that is up to you. You'll come home for the summer, of course, but I can't afford for you to come back during the holidays this year, so I'll just send you your gifts."* I can't believe this. She's planning the rest of my school career for me she thought angrily.*
"Don't I get a say in this!?"
"No. You have a day to pack. Meaning tomorrow. Then the next day you leave."
"You couldn't have told me earlier? I won't have time!"
"Oh don't worry. Anyway, I didn’t want you running off. You just have to pack clothes and a few personal items. They provide everything else. Food, uniforms, soap. The essentials. Don't worry about it." *Oh my God. She was really gonna send me away she thought.* "The travel buddy I got for you has your ticket so you can't tear it to pieces or whatever. Now get some sleep. You have a big day tomorrow." She left the room and turned off the light, leaving the girl in the dark. Gwen flopped onto the bed and fell asleep.
So...you can see that I hadn't quite grasped "craft" at this stage. But that's okay, I was sixteen. I didn't have anyone who could provide feedback on my work. I didn't want to show it to my parents, or my teachers and at that particular moment I wasn't speaking to my friends so...yeah.
But, I kept coming back to the ideas I presented in the book. Because some of them were good. There were, as they say, good bones. So I tore it apart and came back at it once in college, and then again more recently. And that scene above? It's still in the book actually. Sort of. It's no longer chapter one, it's not the opening and my craft has been refined to some degree. So for comparison's sake, the newest version of that scene.
Chapter Three: Run
The lawn was damp with morning dew before the sun had risen. I could feel the cold of it against the flesh of my bare feet as I made my way back to the house. It was sandwiched between two other homes; to which it was indistinguishably different. A cookie cutter home in a bushel of cookie cutter homes. A testament to the ingenuity of the American city planner. I crept across the dampened lawn like a thief, silent as I could be. The second story’s left hand window was still cracked ever-so slightly, just as I had left it. My hands met the twining greenery of the ivy trellis as I pulled my way up the side and towards the window.
My legs were already protesting as I had made my way across the lawn, and now they screamed at me. I could feel one of the muscles coil and tighten beneath my flesh, cramping. I gasped, letting a little hiss of air escape as I tried not to make too much noise and wake my guardian. I reached down and massaged the leg as best I could and pulled myself up the rest of the way to the window. Fingers slid under the metal pushing the window up far enough to enter.
My fingers were followed by my hands and arms as I pulled myself into the room beyond the window. “Ow.” I muttered, head slamming into the floor at my miscalculation of the drop from window to beige carpeted floor. As hand went to head the lights over my head flickered on and panic set in as I glanced around for the intruder. “Oh hi, Silvia.” I forced a smile and scrambled to my feet, waving at her with the hand not currently clasping my head.
"Don't 'Hi Silvia' me! Where have you been? I've been up all night worrying!” she shouted, waving her arms about in an effort to make her point of just how exasperated she was. I wasn’t really in the mood for theatrics.
“I took a walk.” Now was not the time to explain my midnight excursions into the forest. I didn’t want to worry her.
“You took a walk.” She turned away from me, arms wrapped around her chest. “I...” She turned back, face pale and eyebrows drawn down sharply. “You and I will discuss this over breakfast. Go to bed.”
She shook her head and marched out of the room, slamming my door closed behind her. I glanced down at the floor for a moment, marveling at the way the carpet sucked away the damp from my feet before I turned and closed the window. I took a quick shower and rubbed some ointment into my leg. I turned the light off with a sweep of my hand as I hobbled over to my bed, collapsing into its soft, warm embrace.
“She worries too much.” I whispered into my pillow, burrowing into the feathered puff and into a dreamland I could only hope would be friendlier than that which had driven me out into the woods.
So that's different, right? It's amazing what a decade, writing classes, critique partners and betas and a whole host of amazing writers can do. My point is, we all start somewhere. We all have those terrible first drafts buried in our hard drives and in battered Composition notebooks. It's okay. And if you find one of those novels and see something in it worth saving, you should trust your instincts. Your younger writer self may not have been fully-baked yet, but all that creativity you have now was present then, and you might just find yourself with a real diamond in the rough.