Well, guess what? I blew it. As of yesterday, the manuscript hit 44,000 words, which by my calculations, is somewhere comfortably past the halfway mark. And that's okay. Because the slow-down in the writing was a message for my subconscious that something wasn't quite right in the story.
This week's writing uncovered a secondary character's real purpose and in exploring it, increased the stakes for one of the primary characters in a way I couldn't have anticipated when I was loosely plotting the story out several months ago.
Sometimes you need a little time for a story to find itself, no matter how much you pre-plan. At least that's the way it is in my writing. While I do pre-plan and do loose outlining for every story I write, I've also never written a novel that didn't change considerably between thought and execution.
So here is a part of the scene that emerged from my writing this week.
She sat on the edge of the porch, curled her arms around her legs, and rested her cheek on her knees. Now what? Everyone was waiting for her to come up with some magical solution. Yeah right. Magical. She was supposed to have all this magic and all this power, but all she felt was the weight of their expectations. Even Elspeth, as abrasive and mistrusting as she seemed, couldn't hide her desperate hope. The tithe linked them all in a sticky spider web of obligation. Whether Taylor wanted it or not.Was this how Lydia felt? It was like having her nephew tugging at her shirt, wanting something he couldn't name, multiplied hundreds of times. "I'm sorry. I don't know how to do this," Taylor whispered."Will you accept my counsel, now, Lady Hawthorne?"She jerked her head up at the sound of a familiar voice, silky smooth like melted dark chocolate. "Seneschal. It was you in the woods watching me."He bowed, the gold threads in his cloak catching and reflecting even the dim light filtered through the pines. His clothes were in sharp focus, a stark contrast to the strange blurring of his features.What would it be like to live forever without a face or a name? She shook off this unwanted sympathy and stood to face him, glad for the invisible presence of her Fae companions in the house behind her."They won't hear you, Milady."Taylor stepped back, until she felt the solid wood of the door against her spine. "Are you threatening me?" Her pulse quickened. Heat spread outward from her chest and through her limbs until her hands and feet tingled. She faced him, her hands on her hips, her legs solidly beneath her.The Seneschal stood his ground, but his Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. He spread out his hands. "I only hoped to have a quiet word with you. Then, if you wish, I will depart.""I'm all ears," Taylor said, folding her arms across her chest."Will you walk with me?""No." Her companions might not be able to help her, but her connection to them buzzed like a live wire. She wasn't going to risk losing her only advantage here. "I can hear you perfectly well from here."He nodded. "Fair enough. I have given you little cause to trust me."Taylor snorted. "The last time I saw you, you were trying to hurt my friends.""A regrettable error.""Is that an apology?"His quiet laughter had an edge to it that made her shudder. "Milady, I have underestimated you and I am here to make amends.""So tell me what you want and leave.""You misunderstand."A breeze freshened, ruffling the dark hair that hung loose around his oval face. Her eyes skipped over the blurred space it framed. No matter how hard she stared, she couldn't penetrate the glamour that obscured him. The more she tried, the more her unease grew. Instead, she traced the gold and green threads of his cloak down to where its hem brushed the polished tips of black boots."I am here to offer you advice and counsel."It was easier to listen to the tone and cadence of his voice when she wasn't trying to pull his features into focus. "Sure you are," she said."You have grown in power, since our last meeting, Milady, and yet, you have not learned what that means."There was no use denying it. And he had to know something about Fae magic; he was dripping in the stuff. She toned down her sarcasm. But she was going to have to be careful. What did Aileen call him? Silver tongue. "What do you want from me?""I have forgotten how refreshing it was to treat with ephemerals. You are all so direct." The Seneschal clasped his hands behind his cloak and bowed his head. "Then I will be as direct, in return. Aeon's madness will doom us all. For good or for ill, I am bound to serve Faerie's ruler. You seem to have some influence over him. Our survival depends upon you.""Oh." Taylor tried to take a step back, forgetting she was already against the door."I can show you the hidden ways to your own power."A buzzing rose in her mind, drowning out the sound of her heartbeat. She swallowed hard. "And what will I owe you in return, Seneschal?""Can you afford the price of your ignorance?" he asked, his voice an urgent whisper in her ear.She looked up. He was standing in front of her. Her heart pounded, her muscles trembled with the need to run."I think you understand me, now, Milady. Let there be no pretense between us." He reached up to stroke her cheek. His hand burned a path across her skin. "With my magic joined to yours, he will no longer be a threat." The veil across his eyes thinned. They were green with a ring of orange fire around the pupils and they blazed with raw need.She shook her head, struggling to breathe. The heat of his body siphoned hers away and Taylor shrank away from him until the unyielding surface of the closed door pressed into her spine."You would rule Faerie. And I—" He leaned forward and brushed his lips across her ear. "I would serve you."She couldn't look away from the intensity of his gaze."You will make such a Queen as Faerie has never known." The Seneschal traced her lips with his thumb.She groped for the door handle. It wouldn't budge."What say you, Milady?"His voice was the flat of a knife sliding across her skin, waiting only for the slightest turn of his wrist to cut. Icy cold shocked through her. Currents of power swirled in her gut, transforming fear into fury."Don't touch me."It emerged in a hoarse whisper and he laughed, cupping her cheek with his palm. "You have no strength without me."She shook her head free of his touch, trying to clear her mind, too. Aileen and Isidore were inches away, just on the other side of the door, but they could be on the surface of the moon for as much as they could help her.Isidore's words rose in her memory: "Even Aileen, as clear-seeing as she is, does not have my long experience in the way you twist truth to suit your ends." Even powerless against him, he stood up to the Seneschal. She stared at his blurred face, her eyes narrowed. The Seneschal's words were a spell, a lie to trap her and keep her helpless.A low growl vibrated through her chest. She repeated herself slowly, filling the words with the power of her stubbornness lashed to the magic roiling inside her. "Don't. Touch. Me." Surprise filled his eyes, erasing the hunger there.