In the Beginning . . .
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Mystery Horse at Oak Lane Stable started out as a homework assignment for a middle grade/young adult novel workshop that I had my second semester when I was in graduate school. I was expected to hand in 20 pages for my first review by my professor and classmates. I handed in 12. I was new to writing novels. I had signed up for school with the expectation of being a journalist and pursuing shorter nonfiction pieces, not lengthy bound fiction stories. I wasn't sure if I was cut out to take on such a project. I had to learn to have more confidence in the writing.
I started the original horse story with the main character, Cassie, riding her beloved pony, Miss Blossom, while her father watched as Cassie rode in her lesson. Her father made a comment about how Cassie had outgrown Blossom and might need to move on to a bigger horse. Cassie is heartbroken and doesn't want to sell her pony. I had included a few other characters and a barn scene but not much more. I really had no idea where this story would go. I felt resistance the moment I tried to put this story together. Something tugged at me that I wasn't initially willing to pay attention to. After discussing the go-nowhere story with my class, I put it aside for two weeks while I worked on the first 20 pages for my second novel workshop. (Yes, I took two novel workshops in one semester even though I was heavily discouraged from doing it. Nothing like diving in head first.) Sometimes taking a short break from a problem often results in a resolution without too much extra effort from us.
Once I put the story to rest and worked on a completely different novel, I was able to come back to it with a fresh perspective - I understood that the horse story I was trying to force wasn't the story I had to tell at all. I ended up scrapping the first 12 pages and allowed the story of a rescued horse with an unknown background to come through. Instead of trying to think up the story, I simply put the story down. Every time I tried to force the story and make it go my way, I experienced internal resistance. I had to learn, with practice, to trust the story and let it have a life of its own. I was amazed that by the end of the novel how well everything came together - characters and their behaviors, plots, sub-plots, the story arc, etc. - without too much effort on my part. The story always knew where it was headed.
As I write the second horse novel in this series, I hope to let that story come through as well and not get in its way. I have some ideas about what to include, but that is it. I will write it as I go along. I already have started that story with two beginnings. I'm not sure if either one is the true beginning yet. Only time will tell as I keep moving along.