In six rows, elbows on long tables and feet on shiny tile floors, twenty-some students sit impatiently as the teachers explain the next assignment. The clock is ticking silently beside the old brown cabinets containing thirty-year-old textbooks, seeds, and other random junk no one will ever look at again. The green chalkboard behind the teacher’s desk is smudged with yellow chalk. To my right are a row of barstools and large iMac’s that only a few students can use.
I rest my chin on my hands, my notebook open under my elbow, while I listen to the substitute teacher, a grey-haired woman who enjoys making students laugh. Beside her stands our tall principle who is acting as a teacher for my class—containing grades 6-9—on Fridays.
“You’ll be writing a fiction short story,” the substitute says. A grin brightens my face. I pull my notebook closer, pick up my pencil, and at the top of the page, I write: Carly Brady – Nov. 18th, 2018.
An idea drops into my mind, though I’m not sure where it came from. I listen long enough to hear the page limit, then I put pencil to paper and scribble out three pages worth of plot. They continue to drone on and my classmates ask questions. Meanwhile, I’m looking through my math textbook for name ideas. I happen upon a long list of people who made that textbook possible. I find Featherstone, Baxter, Susan, James, and Marcel, all from different columns and piece them together to create their full names.
When I’m done writing, they are done talking, and it is time to head to the computer lab next door and get to writing. We find our assigned spots, log in, and open Google docs.
In eighth grade, when this was assigned, it had been several years since I had been asked to write a short story by a school. The last time this same substitute had us write a short story was back in 5th grade when we were only allowed 3 pages and I just couldn’t cram my story into that little space. So, as you can imagine, I was thrilled to now have a ten page limit.
My idea was… well I best not say, for I will be spoiling the ending of Two Worlds. But it really came out of nowhere and I had no idea how to put it into words so a reader would understand. But when I did figure it out, I wrote and wrote until time was up and it was on to the next class.
I logged into Google Docs at home and worked on my story late into the night. When a writer is on a role, she or he feels this exhilarating rush. The words flow from our fingertips and onto the keyboard. I was feeling this rush and loving the assignment, while others grumbled and complained. Until one night, when I was closing my computer, I realized I’d met the page limit. So I approached my teacher the next day and asked for an extension. He reluctantly granted it. Now I had a whole fifteen pages to write this.
But then I got to twenty-one pages and knew I couldn’t wrap this up anytime soon. So, with only a couple days ’til our rough drafts were due, I put a pin in this story and typed up a new eight pager in a couple of nights.
I didn’t pick up my original “short” story until that summer, where I converted parts into chapters and added several more. New characters were born as well as new worlds and creatures, which in turn caused the original plot to expand. By the time I entered ninth grade, I had basically the entire book outlined. I even attempted making a couple book covers online.
At my high school, if you read my last blog, you know that they allow students to do whatever they want in a school subject so long as it meets the requirements of the Canadian government. So, I chose to write this book to meet my creative writing requirement. Early on in the year my teacher became my editor. Around that time I also decided on a name; Two Worlds.
For a brief moment I thought I could fit the whole story in one book. Clearly I hadn’t learned from that short story assignment.
During that time, in the very beginning of 9th grade, I sat on my floor and opened a faux leather journal to write a few pages about Susan, one of Two Worlds characters. I was interested in exploring her backstory. I ‘creatively’ named this Susan’s Story and wrote until my hand started cramping. Then I moved it to the computer and the more I wrote, the more I was certain this backstory was important.
So I talked to my teacher about it being a sort of prologue or another book. She was hesitant, but nonetheless decided to humour me and I put a pin in Two Worlds. When it became clear that this was too long to be a prologue, I shifted things around and made Susan’s Story the first book and Two Worlds the second. My teacher helped me edit the new first book. Turns out, it needed a lot of work-shopping. One day, when discussing the new addition, she asked me, “Why is it important for the reader to know about Susan’s story?” And right then and there, I realized it wasn’t. It didn’t affect or contribute to the overarching plot in Two Worlds at all except for maybe the last page. So, I shelved this one and made Two Worlds book one again.
Now, I won’t go into the whole submitting to publishers bit because I talk about that in my other blog, but I will talk about the first one I submitted to because it ended up changing the book significantly. You see, they had a word limit, and that word limit was 50,000. And let’s just say I was around 40,000 words over that. So, my teacher and I chopped the book up, taking out whatever we could without impacting the plot. I feared we were butchering it. She suggested we remove the last couple chapters and move them to the next book. This significantly lowered my word count to around 85,000. But then, we were stuck, waaaaay above the word count they wanted. I sent it to the publisher anyway and crossed my fingers. A couple months passed and there was no response. So we did all that work for what seemed like nothing. But I see now that Two Worlds needed that and is better for it.
This whole experience has really taught me a lot. That no matter how many steps it takes, no matter how many setbacks there are (and there have been a lot with this book), everything happens for a reason. Trust. The. Process. Going on five years and counting with this book, I have to keep reminding myself that there is no rush. Everything will happen in time. To quote my dad, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
The whole plot, the whole message of Two Worlds, is to never accept the world for how we’re taught it is and to keep moving until you find the ‘magic’, the light, the hope, in all that darkness. In the fantasy fiction genre I can quite literally bring this to life. But it was not an easy undertaking. I’d never built a world so complex and big. The creatures, where they reside, who’s fighting who and why, how each character fits into it, the lore, the past, and how to develop these pieces further in the second book. Of course I knew where the story would end, but the little bits and pieces in between were thought of as I wrote the second book.
What really inspired me to write this story, at all hours of the day and night, was the main character. I wanted to let my voice flow through him so I added bits of my personality in him, like sarcasm. Having myself in the story made it easy to write. But as time went on and the story developed, he grew into something more. He became a character that is stubborn, brave and has the ability to bring all these wacky walks of life together.
This book is not my first, but it is the start of my career and it really marks the growth of me as a writer. These characters helped me so much during the dreary days, the good days, and the boring days. And knowing I am capable of writing something with a world so complex is encouraging for me because I’ve been intimidated by all of those amazing authors out there who’ve made some pretty famous worlds, like in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, to name one.
I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me next and I hope you all enjoy Two Worlds when it finally enters the world.