For the last few days I’ve had a mental and soulful breakthrough. I had realized again, but more deeply this time, that I was free from the abuse of my family and it had been five years since I left the abusive husband. I felt it was safe to really let it all go.
In that realization, I found myself drawn to my original first draft manuscript. I was afraid for years to read it – 22 years since I began writing it and only since 2006 had I finished that first draft finally. Thing is though, it was a terrible mess. It was a complete blundering Mary-Sue with hardly any action, inner dialogue, plot or any form of character development. I was a teenager at the time when I started writing it on September 1, 1995 to May 9, 1996 of 18 chapters by hand in ruled notebooks and later in my mid 20s I continued from chapters 19 to 26 and still after all that time it was a damn mess.
In 1998 I submitted the first three chapters to Baen Books. I have since lost the rejection letter, but I still remember the poignant words from the editor –
“It has potential, but it needs work.”
Ever since reading those words potential and needs work I’ve kept on typing a new manuscript. Later those three manuscripts would become something more. As for the original manuscript, it has now become a distant memory and is barely noticeable as a story to be continued with the new three books. A whole new fourth manuscript will be so different than I originally had intended back then and that’s okay. It’s part of the process of being a writer.
Now, I’d like to share with the world something I’ve only shown to a small handful of people. I’m only going to show one page that should give a good enough comparison of the new revised from scratch chapter 12 of the original manuscript.
(Book 4 is far from getting started in writing. I just did this revamp of chapter 12 to help myself understand how far I’ve come as a writer and how I can continue to improve.)
Yes, I edited a bit of it last night in red pen. It needed it so badly.
Now, for the revamped version….
November 18, 2017
A disclaimer – Twenty-two years have passed since I wrote my first manuscript titled Mythia. Chapter 12 from that manuscript is being rewritten to showcase a comparison of writing styles to see how I have progressed. This is the finished example.
by: Tara B. Dobbs
The Isle of Sperotus was bathed in cool blues giving the plant life a haunting effect as the evening crept in with the double moons hanging in a partly cloudy sky. The southern side of the island, with its long sandy beach was kissed by the full moon in silver light; the pale blue moon at quarter. Ocean surf gently fell over the sand and in the distance waves crashed among the rocky outcrop of a massive plateaued cliff.
Ynycornus had arrived first to the island a few hours earlier. His mind raced with doubtful thoughts with fear nipping at his heart. He had to tell her how he felt this time; finally for the first time. It had been a thousand two hundred years since he last laid eyes on Mythia’s princess.
Princess Ira had been imprisoned in a crystal orb by the actions of a malicious criminal by the name Katema – a noblewoman who was displeased with her lot in life at court that she had to stoop to kidnapping the Princess in hopes for a ransom. Ira was only a child and Ynycornus could do nothing to save her once the little girl was placed in the orb. A powerful magic had sealed her in and to add more pain, the little princess thought she could be crafty in protecting herself with a spell she had found hidden away in the lost pages of the Book of Anora. The single spell for continuous sleep Ira put on herself.
Ynycornus thought of this a bit more in hopes to understand Ira’s actions. Maybe she was afraid Katema would take information from her? As long as Ira was in the clutches of the Eternal Slumber spell, Katema, not even Ynycornus or anyone in the kingdom, save for maybe Tibrus, could wake her. The spell had been designed to work itself out once the danger had passed. There was no telling how long the sleep would be. For that, Ynycornus was the most angry with Ira still to this day for her actions.
While she slept for 1,200 or so years, Ynycornus was voted by the High Council and the Noukadian Priesthood to be Steward of the Kingdom. There were no heirs to the throne since King Cyrus and Queen Tamera, Ira’s parents, were murdered by Katema that same day as Ira’s imprisonment. With great pride Ynycornus accepted the position but with a lingering broken heart.
Tonight though, Ynycornus would get a chance to speak with Ira alone. The princess had meetings with the High Council and the Priesthood for months now on how to go about taking over as Queen and leaving Ynycornus back on the High Council as Second Command Councilman and return to the Priesthood as High Priest. To Ynycornus’ disbelief, the Princess gracefully declined for Ynycornus to return to his original duties. She wanted him to stay in the position the people had voted for. The Council and Priesthood had informed her on all the good hard work he had done for the kingdom in her absence and had begged to differ that Ynycornus was in need in current affairs of Temple and Council. Ynycornus was grateful for her loving gesture, but how would she react to him of what he had to tell her; of what his heart must confess?
Far into the distance a small row boat, adored with the royal crest at its bow, came into view. Far out away from the shore behind the rowing boat the Mythian Fleet’s Galian ship laid anchor. Ynycornus could see Ira cloaked in black to hid herself from any possible prying eyes. She had only been awakened for three months and only the High Council and Priesthood were allowed to see her for that time. Not even the four men rowing the boat to shore were allowed to see her.
As the boat came ashore, the four rowers jumped off; pulled the boat further in away from the surf. Ira sat, her head down as she waited for Ynycornus. No one had touched her hand, let alone her shoulder when she awoke from the orb’s shattering. The best physicians looked her over, barely touching her for the examination and found her to be in perfectly good health, save for one major change – she had grown and aged to a full adult, but how? The Eternal Slumber spell could not force someone to grow and age and yet stay physically one age for so long. Under natural circumstances Ira would have been in her elder years by 1,200 years and possibly close to death.
Making his way toward the boat, the rowers holding the boat steady, Ynycornus took Ira’s gloved hand helping her off. Ira’s grip onto his hand was strong and warm. A warming slipped through his body as she stepped onto the wet sand. It was now that Ynycornus felt as though she had come home at last.
Leading Ira onto dryer sand near the tree line Ynycornus turned to the four men, “You may go. Give my thanks for Anya for this meeting.” With that the four rowers pushed their boat back into the waters and began rowing toward the awaiting Galian ship.
Once the rowers were far out of sight and the ship took up anchor, heading back to the mainland going North, Ira slipped off the black cloak. Long dark brown wavy locks fell down her back and over her shoulders. Her blue eyes the color of topaz finally set sight on Ynycornus’ elder face.
With a gasp seeing how old he had become, she stepped back covering her mouth to restrain a scream.
“I’m sorry,” Ynycornus apologized. “Maybe we should have met sooner, but this was the only way I could get you here.”
Dropping her hand to her chest, taking in some deep breaths, “You’re so handsome, but you’ve aged. Are you in good health?” What was she expecting anyway? Ira was not allowed to see Ynycornus until all the meetings were done. It was Tibrus who had found her slumped in the clear gelatinous substance of the broken orb in the Grand Ballroom which was also the throne room. Even while she slept in the orb, no one was allowed in that room save for Tibrus who worked all those years trying to break the spell. All those she saw were of the Highest Council, higher in rank than Ynycornus by far and only three Priests and many physicians. Ynycornus was the High Priest, the highest in rank anyone could go, so why wasn’t he allowed to see her? This flew through Ira’s mind as she continued to look him over to get her barrings.
The last she saw Ynycornus was when she was a child, maybe as far back as a baby. She remembered him holding her, rocking her to sleep and at times feeding her when her mother Queen Tamera slept and while her father King Cyrus was off doing kingly duties of state. Ynycornus looked young back then when she was little. He looked no older than late teens at least. To the royal family Ynycornus was more than just High Priest and Second Command Councilman, he was a surrogate brother to Ira. Her love for him showed through her smiles, cries and worries she bestowed on him over the few years she got to know him.
The realization of having lost her surrogate brother, her best friend finally hit her. She kept up a fecade of royal duty for just a few months, not allowing herself to grieve. Her parents had been taken away from her which made it all the more worse.
Her breath calming, she looked around seeing the island, which was forbidden to all but the High Priest Ynycornus, she fell to her knees burying her face in her hands as the long, long awaited tears poured from her eyes.
Kneeling on both knees in the sand, his blue and silver robes flared out on the sand, Ynycornus pulled Ira close to his chest. Dropping her hands from her face, she pressed her tear filled face onto his chest slowly soaking her sorrows into the fabric. Her arms wrapped around his neck and shoulders as she sobbed to nearly screaming.
Once she had calmed enough, Ynycornus helped her to her feet. “Follow me. I want to show you something.”
Guiding her through the tropical forest onto a well warn path to nearly the center of the island, a creek flowed beside them. Far up ahead the sound of a waterfall flowing into a pool echoed amongst the trees. Just at the entry way to the falls, a pale blue barrier flickered as Ynycornus walked through. Ira hesitated. “It’s alright. It’s a circle barrier of the magic that lays here. Once you’ve crossed it you can’t speak while inside the space. See there?” pointing to the trees and bushes, the flowers began to wilt and the leaves began to dry and fall to the ground. Putting a finger to his lips, Ira stepped through the pale blue lighted barrier in silence.
For many minutes the pair spoke nothing to one another. Slowly the plant life around the waterfall returned to its former beauty. The flowers grew swift; blooming with radiant colors. It matter not that the nighttime had come. This place was strange and yet beautiful in all it showed inside the circle. Even the waterfall and the pool below seemed to glow a delicate blue.
Sitting on the ground, near the pool, Ira looked around slowly. She sighed, turned to Ynycornus and pointed to her throat.
With a gentle smile, Ynycornus answered her telepathically.
“Are you strong enough to speak with your mind?” he asked.
Hesitating, she took a breath, closed her eyes, “I think so. Why couldn’t I come to the island when I was a child? I have memory of this place.”
“You did come here once before, but you were very little. You were barely learning to walk when your parents brought you. It was forbidden even for royalty to be here. I was there in the forest watching. I could have easily removed you all, but I couldn’t allow myself to do it.” Ynycornus smiled softly at her as he remembered that day so many years ago. “You loved it here. Even though you were only allowed to be on the Southern beach. I could not permit you and your parents any further.”
“I’m glad to be here now then,” she paused, blushing, “with you, but it’s too quiet. I’ve had my fill of silence. Not enough beauty though.”
For just a little longer, they sat and watched the flowers bloom and grow. The waterfall sparkle in the moonlight and then Ira realized it – there were no birds singing. On Mythia there were plenty of nighttime birds that would sing softly, but here at this waterfall, this closed off area of the island there was no sound of birds. The water made splashing sounds, but no birds. Ira began to panic. Standing in a hurry, she gathered her long white and silver dress and ran out of the circle. The thin lighted barrier flickered as her legs went through.
Chancing after her, she was heading back to the Southern beach, Ynycornus grabbed her arm pulling her back gently her back against his chest. Her breath was fast and uncomfortable to hear.
“I can’t have any silence like that for long!” Ira cried as she turned around to look at him. “Didn’t anyone tell you? Tibrus learned quickly I couldn’t take it. I have to have someone talking aloud or music playing somewhere at all times. I can’t handle the silence. So much silence all these years!”
Ynycornus had not been told of her condition. A thousand and two hundred years in silence with only your own thoughts to keep you company. By the Five Lords, how could a little girl handle such a thing for so long? It was then Ynycornus understood that part of Ira’s mind was still a child. How could he confess anything to her now? She was still just a child inside.
Shaking away the disgusting thought of his mind, “I’m sorry, Princess. No one has kept up in telling me anything of what you’ve gone through.”
“No one? How? Why?” A rage formed behind her eyes. A rage Ynycornus had never seen from her. An unease crept into his soul as though he had done something terribly wrong to her somehow.
“Let’s not worry about this now. I’ll have a talk with the Council and Priesthood tomorrow morning.”
Taking a breath, stepping away from him, “You must have wanted to talk to me about something important to take me away from my duties.” Ira touched his chest where his heart lay inside beating. “I appreciate the effort to give me time away from the work, but what was it you wanted to really talk to me about?”
Now wasn’t the time. The only thing he could think of on the spot was to show her the truth. She had only known of him in his humanoid form for six years. She deserved the know the truth. Only the Highest Council of the main eight and two Priests know of this truth. A few others in the past had known, but they were long dead. Not even Ira’s parents, the King and Queen of Mythia, knew of this truth. It was hidden as though the kingdom depended on it.
Looking around at the clearing Ira had run into, he nodded to himself. Closing his eyes, dropping his hands slowly from head to hips and then finally bending over just slightly as though his arms and hands would touch the ground, within a few seconds his whole body transformed in the shape he was original born – a white unicorn.
Flowing pearly white mane and long thin tail with thick tufts of hair at the end. A tall strong build, a foot taller than a typical farming draft horse, but with cream cloven hooves and nostrils at the end of his muzzle looked different almost the shape of a deer. A single spiraled bone white horn in the center of his brow and his eyes the same stunning blue as the ocean.
Stamping one front hoof to the ground, he nodded his large head at Ira. His flowing mane catching the moonlight.
It was quite the sight to behold as Ira found herself trying to find a tree to steady herself against as she walked backwards. Once she found a tree to lean against, she looked the beast over carefully. Her eyes were the size of skipping stones. Face nearly pale with shock.
Gently to her mind, “It’s okay. What you see is the truth.” The only thing he expected next he would not be angry at her for.
Sure enough, within a few more seconds Ira ran. She ran as fast as she could with the long dress clutched in a thick gather of fabric. The only way now off the island was natural to her – she had to fly.
Once she was clear of the trees and on the sandy beach, she spread her white feathered wings wide. She had not flown since a year before her imprisonment. Not having much practice her instincts took over. Higher she climbed with the occasional misbeat of her wings to flap in unison. She had to find her way back to Hayemore Castle as soon as she could. She could not understand what had happened. Everything was happening far too fast.
In the forest, Ynycornus still in his natural form, he watched through the break in the trees Ira flying away from the Isle of Sperotus. Once she was out of sight, he made his way through the forest back onto the beach. Finding the wet sand more sturdy for his large equine body, he pawed at the water a bit and slowly pawed at it some more and more until the sand turned the water to mud. Neighing aloud with a snort of anger, Ynycornus galloped down the beach at full speed. Turning around, he galloped again even faster, but once he was close to the rocky cliff, having done this time and time again with ease, he climbed his way to the top on the gagged rocks until he was safe on the plateau face.
How could he be so foolish? He was the High Priest of the Noukadian Temple and Second Command of the Council. He was one of the highest ranking officials in the kingdom – that had made a grievous mistake. It wasn’t that he had transformed to his born form in front of his precious surrogate sister and possible love, it was that he had forced her into something that was against nature and now there was no going back. The realization of his mistake from centuries past had come to full form.
It was then he realized, “Maybe no one will know. If I just help her adapt back into her the life she had lost, maybe just maybe she’ll be free.” He paused, looking out over the night sky and ocean below, slowly transformed back to his humanoid form, but this time a young man, “As long as the Council doesn’t know, but I have to tell my brethren at my side.”
But could they keep even this secret? They had before of his born unicorn form for thousands of years, but this – how long could sealed lips last?
I don’t think I’ll repair any other chapters in the original manuscript. It’s just too painful to look at anymore, save for the 1% of notes I found that I’ll use in book 4 later in the next few years.
If you are expecting some more excerpts of book 4, I’m sorry to break your heart but this is the only excerpt I am willing to showcase until it’s truly published. It took me many, many years to get up the courage to show any piece of the original. I’m ashamed of the mess the original had become, but at least I got that work of 197,000+ words out of my system to show to myself that I can write novels.
And here I am, 22 years since I wrote my first, I’m still writing them. Knowing that, makes me the happiest person alive right now.