In December I was really struggling with the first part of my fiction project. I wasn't sure where I was going with the story. I had plans and character sketches and outlines, but I was really second-guessing myself. I didn't know if I was going to stay that course or move on to a less cumbersome path.
When I was in the midst of my crisis of confidence, I compared it to Alice facing the Jabberwocky in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. She isn't sure she'll be able to face her fears and do what needs to be done, to do what has been foretold in the Oraculum. In the midst of convincing herself her tribulations are all a dream, Alice is informed by Bayard that the Mad Hatter has been imprisoned by the Red Queen. She's determined to free her friend:
"We're going to rescue him."
The bloodhound shook his head. "That is not foretold."
"I don't care!" said Alice. "He wouldn't be there if it weren't for me."
Bayard stood up, his fur standing on end as he shivered anxiously. "The Frabjous Day is almost upon us. You must prepare to meet the Jabberwocky."
"From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole, I've been told what I must do and who I must be. I've been shrunk, stretched, scratched, and stuffed into a teapot. I've been accused of being Alice and of not being Alice. But this is my dream! I'll decide where it goes from here."
Bayard's claws dug into the ground. "If you diverge from the path--"
"I make the path!" Alice shouted.
Alice does her best to help her friend by infiltrating Salazen Grum, the castle of the Red Queen. Unpredictability ensues, and eventually Alice takes refuge at Marmoreal, the castle of the White Queen. She's overcome with self-doubt (as she's wont to do), and Absolem helps her remember who she is and what she needs to do.
I took a moment to quiet myself and my fears, thanks in part to the encouraging comments of friends and readers. (And also to an ego-boosting phone chat with Absolem.) In the stillness, I was able to listen to the characters and let them tell me where they wanted to go. I stayed on the tangled, difficult path, but I threw the map away. I knew there were landmarks to pass, certainly, and I managed to stay on track to those destinations. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I didn't have to let the journey be as complicated as I had originally envisioned. I wasn't finding these characters; I was creating them. Their whispers in my mind were really my own, reminding me that I knew how to do this.
I finished the first, rough draft last night. 127,381 words. All mine, with the exception of a couple hundred that are quoted song lyrics. (It'll all make sense when you read it. I promise.) Today I got the first printed and spiral-bounded mark-up copy to start editing. I've read and reread most of it on my laptop screen several times now, but I need a hard copy to peruse and illuminate. I was taught how to be an active reader, and I'm trying to be an active writer, as well.
I still have a lot of work to do, both on this piece and on the rest of the project. But I feel elated to have accomplished this milestone. The Jabberwocky's head has definitely rolled to the side. I think I'm going to keep the armor for a little while longer and keep slaying while I can. I'd rather be polishing my Vorpal sword than drinking tea at a boring old garden party anyway.