August 31, 2011, 3:02pm – I make this promise: I will finish Ruby’s story before March 1st, 2012.
“Nice,” you may say. “Who cares? You haven’t finished her story in 17 years, what’s another year?”
You probbaly didn’t say that. And if you didn’t, thank you. That’s Mildred speaking, my inner editor. She’s a doozy, that Mildred. And though I try to follow my own advice every day about imagining her inside a giant Monty-Python style catapult and launching her into the stratosphere, she’s one tenacious octogenarian. She keeps coming back for more nasty down-with-Kristen talk.
And I have a secret: Mildred is calling for reinforcements.
A baby, to be specific.
Little did I know that right about the time that Ruby started telling me her story, I was growing another story. The story of my new baby, who is due to be born on March 19th.
Oh, how excited I am! Baby socks and baby clothes and tiny poems about tiny baby fingers! Late nights and early mornings with milky breath on my cheek. Long walks in the pram, yards of white linen pressed into pleats around the bassinet, twirling tiny wisps of hair between my fingers.
And no time to write about Ruby.
So March 19th, or whenever new Baby House decides to arrive, will be baby time.
And until then, Ruby, it’s all about you, baby girl.
Here’s how we start, just as I tell my students.
1. Outline. I have pages and pages of Ruby’s story outlined. I’ve poured over the details just long enough to start changing them. That’s a key indicator that it’s time to crack into prose-writing.
2. Back-stories. I have motivations and histories for all of my main characters crafted and completed. Even if I never touch them, it’s proof to my own doubting nature that I know my characters inside and out.
3. The promise. If I say it out loud, I’m going to hold myself to it. And there may be a fair amount of guilt and nagging from my husband and my mother and my writerly friends. I welcome it. And so does Ruby.
Strangely, my first chapters won’t be the first chapters in the book. Those first pages are far too important and too delicate to bludgeon with my first prose attempts in this novel. The first pages call for a light hand and strong, present voice of a character who has lived and breathed for quite some time. I’ll start in medias res, in the middle of the story, and work my way outward to the ends.
And the most important part of getting Ruby written is to write every day. To write madly as if my hair were on fire. To write as if this story is the last one I’ll ever tell. To write as if today is the last chance to redeem my word-starved soul.
Because it is.
Now off to write.