I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for several years now; I’ve never “won,” and I’m still working on the same project I was when I started. I think I’m just too stubborn to know when to quit.
I envisioned this novel as a practice project for me; I’ve always loved fairy tale re-tellings so I figured I’d try one for my first go at writing a novel. I selected a Mi’kmaq tale called “Oochigeaskw,” also known in English as “The Rough-Faced Girl.” It’s a Cinderella-type story, and I’ve read plenty of good Cinderella re-tellings with enough variety of twists to feel confident I could make this one work. I’ve added some fantasy elements as well as a bit of Beauty and the Beast to the story to flesh it out.
Writing a story with a setting outside my own culture is tricky; I’m not unilaterally against the practice, but it requires so much thought and research that it’s virtually guaranteed that I’ll never publish this novel, because I can’t see myself being sure enough about correctly representing the Mi’kmaq culture. As I said, this is a practice project, and I’m primarily concerned with plot pacing and character development, so the world building and cultural details are admittedly getting the short end of the stick.
I’ve got about 20,000 words in my first draft thanks to my previous NaNoWriMo efforts, and my goal this time around is not word counts, but simply having a draft completely done at the end of the month. I have some blog posts already scheduled throughout the month of November, so you’ll still see some content here, but I probably won’t be around as much as I usually am.
For the past few days I’ve been going back and re-reading/editing what I’ve already written to help get back into the story. Here’s a scene from the point I’m picking back up writing the story. “Ash” is the Cinderella character, and she’s talking with the narrator “Meg,” who happens to be the sister of “Team,” aka Prince Charming.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course,” I said, opening my eyes and coming out of my meditative state. I had planned to take Ash on a walk in the woods this week so she could learn about animals’ spirits as well as plants’, but I abandoned that thought when I saw how tired she seemed. Not to mention that I got the impression she was favoring her right wrist.
I suggested instead that we try meditating again, but she seemed to be having trouble focusing, as well.
“Where does our ability come from?”
“Oh.” I thought for a moment. “Well, from the spirits, I suppose.”
“But how? And why?”
I laughed. “If you figure it out, let me know. I’m not really an expert on this. I only know what I’ve put together myself, and some things I’ve learned from visions. In fact, you’ve been challenging some of my assumptions, since it seems you had no interaction with spirits before your ability manifested, no precipitating event. Perhaps you just had some kind of latent natural talent for connecting with the spirit world.” I paused. “This is all just my speculation. I wonder if one of the elders would know more.”
“I’m sorry, what do you mean by ‘precipitating event?’” She pushed back a piece of hair that had fallen out of her short braid.
“I mean…you weren’t explicitly granted your gift. No one showed up and said, ‘Here, Ash: you can see spirits now.’”
“Is that what happened with you?” she said in surprise, which sent her into a little bout of coughing.
“No, not exactly. It’s a long story.”
“Will you tell me? I could stay a little longer today.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to get you into trouble,” I said.
She shook her head. “I’m not on any errands today.”
“Okay,” I said. “It’s actually as much my brother’s story as mine.”
And so I told her the story of how Team became a spirit.