Many people, if not all people, have their safe places, those locations, physical or otherwise, where they go because they’re more comfortable there or need time alone. I have a novel, one I wrote a couple of years ago, that’s my safe haven. It could be that sounds a bit strange, or not, I’ve no idea.
Like many, I keep a journal, though mine is devoted to important dates and ideas pertaining to my writing. Some of what’s in there is personal, but not a lot. I’ve tried keeping a more personal journal, a diary if you will, but I become too introspective and always abandon it.
Besides, I better express myself in story form.
My refuge is my writing desk. It’s my comfortable place, my nest. I’m a serious nester. Give me even a small place of my own and it becomes a nest. Even in elementary school, I’d often (if allowed) set items around the outside edge of my desk so it’d feel more like my space and not just another desk. My reading refuge is my bed. Need a good cry? I have yet another place for that.
I know, who thinks about this stuff? I’m an INFJ and we self-analyze ourselves to death, or so it seems. We’re also poor at applying our insights to ourselves. That’s me.
Unless I can do so via story.
For me, like many writers, writing is therapeutic on so many levels. I can escape the real world for awhile, not just to travel in my fantasy world, but as a distraction. It’s also an opportunity to address issues close to my heart or to revisit that which was bad and make it good (after considerable conflict and tension, of course).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m quite proud of the seven novels I’ve drafted and cherish all of them, but there’s that special one…
I participated in CampNaNoWriMo last month and chose editing for my project (I really don’t need to draft more novels!). It was a rough month personally, so the last week I abandoned that novel and jumped into my safe haven novel, Torment Surfacing.
On the surface it’s a fantasy adventure with romance, which makes it much like my other books. It tells the tale of a young apprentice isolated from the rest of the world as much as is possible. Circumstances lead to accompanying a group north to recover a coded message. Over half the book covers the group’s time on a raft in an isolated region. It’s an excellent opportunity to study the characters and the group’s dynamics.
Torment Surfacing (I’m trying to not share spoilers) was the easiest novel I’ve ever written. I drafted it in a month (during Camp a couple of years ago, as it happens).
It was easy to draft despite the fact it didn’t go as I’d expected.
While drafting, an endless array of unplanned twists leaped into the story, yet they fit perfectly without me having to make major changes. The vast majority of the foreshadowing I typically insert while editing fell into place while I was drafting. While drafting!
My focus here, though, is on my heroine. I’d planned her arc to progress at a particular pace, but she’d have none of it. This girl (she’s seventeen) had more zest for life from the start than I’d planned. She was determined to live or die trying. By the end of her first scene she’d jumped ahead of where I was planning her to be as a person in several chapters. Each day, it seemed, she reduced me to tears because she took my heart and ran with it, even when she stumbled.
I knew going in there were some parallels between her life and my own, but I wasn’t ready for how she seized her life, and mine, and sprinted down a path I hadn’t expected. Even when she was hurting, even when she was suffering setback after setback, she fought like no character I’ve ever written.
She swept me away, and continues to do so. My admiration for her, and her ability to inspire, leave me wanting to return to the novel when I’m hurting. I don’t just read it though, but instead perform at least a light edit on it.
I sense that I’m explaining this badly, in part because I don’t want to spoil the story. I fear the novel is coming across as nothing more than my favorite novel of those I’ve written, or perhaps the best written. My heart knows it’s more than that. There’s a bond between us I can’t explain and that might be an explanation that’s as good as any.
At seventeen my life was also a hellish place, but I failed to escape. Oh how I wish I’d had her as a model.