Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Many First Pages of BARNEBY KNOTTS

I did a guest blog over at Harry Potter for Writers a couple of weeks and and I mentioned I had been a book snob for quite a while.

Sadly, some of that spilled over into my own writing, and I stopped writing books for ‘kids’ by high school because I thought I was above such silly nonsense.

YIKES would you believe it took me more than a dozen years to get over that? And in 2010 my young adult turned middle grade turned young adult book Barneby Knotts was born and I was totally stoked.

Last Year, Barneby Knotts ate my soul. So of course I had to share it with all of you.


This is my first ever first page of Barneby Knotts. It’s different from the rest because I wrote this after deciding I was sick with so many book series ending after the ‘final battle’ I wanted to start a book that began with the final battle. I still plan on it, but that just didn’t work for this story. Now this first page resides in the third book. I can’t even tell you the title yet, it will give too much away.

I Barneby Knotts, not being in sound mind or body hereby declare this my last will and testament. Though it shall never be found, as I am worse than lost and wandering through the middle of the desert. Also included are my notes on everything that has gone wrong up till this point. Just in case. Some of you in next generation of suckers― I mean heroes, might like to know how not to survive the final battle. This is really for you. The first thing that you need to know is I really don’t care that much about you. The second thing is it’s not always best to be the last one standing.

If they make a movie of my life, the waves of heat coming off the sweltering desert floor will make a great segue to this next part.

You might not know this about me, but I don’t really like following orders. It tends to get me in a lot of trouble, but never more than I can handle, never more than I can get me, my friends, and my clients out of. So of course the one time I do actually choose to listen this happens.

The desert at night feels a bit like you’ve crash landed on another planet. All day it feels as though you are battling an eternal fire than threatens to engulf you if you forget to drink water for ten minutes. Then the fire dies the sun sets and things are different. In cities there are things to hold on to that heat, in the desert nothing can and the outside temperature falls faster than your internal temperature does. That alone makes me feel uneasy. Of course the pack of domestic coyotes didn’t help.

This is my second ever first page of Barneby Knotts. It’s the first version of the new timeline and plot. The rest of the versions after this stick to the same main plot points, even if they seem completely different from this page.

This deal took place as they often do some place no one would really be looking. Sitting on a bench outside of an all night diner, somewhere in a suburb of Texas was an ordinary man. An ordinary man, in an ordinary suit, reading an ordinary news paper. If not for the ostentatious limousine, that had already been made to circle the block twice, there would be nothing note worthy about this man at all. Other than, the person he seemed to be waiting for was late.

Out of the corner of his eye the man must have seen him coming. Quickly folding his news paper the man got up. Hastily he folded his newspaper and tucked it securely under his arm. He glanced at his watch, but he did not frown at the time as he normally would.

If it was possible there was a less likely companion for his man than the one approaching him my imagination fails me. From his dark spiky hair and purple high-tops to his obvious school delinquency there was nothing ordinary about this boy at all.

"I thought you would be a little older, just based off your seemingly infinite list of adventures."
"And I thought you would be, I don't know awesome-er by yours but your just an old man in a boring ugly suit."

What might have been offensive to some, went unnoticed. The man, still clutching his paper sat back down and motioned for the boy next to him join him on the bench, but the boy did not sit.

"I suppose you being you is why I selected you isn't it kid?"
"Is that some kind of riddle Mr.Walker?"

"No, nothing like that. I am only saying that your youthful voyeurism is exactly what I know this quest needs to succeed."
"You know sir, if I didn't know better I'd swear you just accused me of being young and stupid."

From his folded newspaper the man took out an unmarked white envelope and placed it in his companion’s outstretched hand. "Not stupid Barneby Knotts. Recklessbut in my opinion, why change what works?"

After that I joined a critique group (that I have now separated myself from) they hated that beginning so under them I wrote this:

It was early, even for a school day. The sun had not yet fought away the early morning fog and would not for hours still. A boy, seemingly out of place, stood under a moss covered tree. Grass came up past his alarmingly purple high tops, except in the patches he had stomped flat in his frustration.

This boy’s name was Barneby Knotts.

It was wet. The air was as moist as the dew that had settled on everything, and even in the dim light green stood out everywhere. The newly paved road, however, blended into the darkness that the early hour refused to shed.

The trees here stood so close, and so thick, that if not for the humming noise from the freeway in the distance, the trees might have been a forest. And Barneby might have been standing in the middle of nowhere.

But this teenager didn't look like he was from the backwoods of anywhere. He had dark, tousled hair and circles under his eyes. He wore a t-shirt from a band you have probably never heard of.

Why wake up early, when you can just never go to bed? That was his motto, and he lived by it twice a week.

“Come on!” The boy huffed at the foliage, as another clump of grass was lost in his impatience.

The man this boy was waiting for was late. Releasing his third sigh in under a minute he fingered the map folded in his pocket. The map he had printed specifically, to find his way to this spot.

If you have read my blog, then you know I actually got a lot of positive response on Barneby Knotts, that was based off the above version, BUT after some agent feedback—the agent I REALLY wanted to be exact I wrote this version, with a younger, more first person Barneby Knotts:

I held my breath willing the window not to squeal. If anyone heard me now, I'd never make it out. I'd be a prisoner here for months, the whole summer trapped in this box. I'd go mad. At least, that was what happened last time mom caught me sneaking out the house.

Slowly, painfully slowly, I lifted the dusty frame up a millimeter at a time. My fingers damp with sweat, black grime sticking to them like fingerprinting ink leaving evidence of my crime. My window always jams halfway up, but it had to be enough. I couldn't risk sneaking out the back door again. My sister was on to me.

When I was sure that was as far as my window was moving, I turned back in facing my bedroom. On my bed lay my empty black Jansport. I shoved my school books deep under my bed, where I hoped my mother wouldn't dare look for anything. If everything went according to plan, I'd be off seeking treasure, and she'd think I'd gone to school early because I put off my math homework again.

Really the plan was almost flawless.

Propped against my desk chair was the sword my father had given me for my last birthday. It had belonged to his grandfather, and now it belonged to me. You rarely need such weaponry in these urban gigs, but it felt wrong to leave it behind.

I was still wearing the same sweat pants and over sized t shirt I always wore to bed, but under that were my favorite pair of jeans, and holiest band tee. I peeled off the top layer, and used it to wipe the black smudges from my window away before tossing them it the corner of my room. Just like I would do any other school morning when I as half awake. If I used the hamper my parents would know something was up.

Deciding that I hated myself for taking the agent feedback and getting that I wrote the version I have now. I was going to share it with you, but since Barneby Knotts doesn’t come out until ::checks newly updated schedule January 3rd I thought I’d keep it for later. But I will say. It starts like this.

He had exactly five minutes, and then I was leaving.”

Anyway, I shared that to tell you this. I hate revision, and this is the only book in the history of Angela Write Now, or Angela at any other time that required this type of revision. When I write books they are carefully planned out in my head, I hit play on the movie and easily capture what should be there. But until recently, Barneby Knotts wasn’t nearly as awesome on paper as he was in my imagination. I shared this with you because I wanted to share with you some rough evolution of writing. And to prove to Karen that I am capable of thinking crap is good. Even great, when it comes to my own writing sometimes.

I’d love to hear your feedback! What did you love, what did you hate? I should also mention, that I hated myself for following the feedback not because it wasn’t sound advice, but because it was so completely off base from who Barneby Knotts was-- he was supposed to destroy bad guys and virgins, and he ended up a little kid. I am glad he is back to who he was supposed to be, and one day I will do a story with the young Barneby Knotts. Just not today.


Karen said...

So you're, "Capable of thinking crap is good." Not exactly sure what to think of that since you're my CP. *smiles* I know what you meant. It's super interesting to see how your story evolved. Perfect example of how you need to stay true to your story. Chalk one up for learning something new. :)

Larry Kollar said...

On Twitter, you keep saying you hate this post and feel slimy (or whatever) for writing it. I really don't understand why. The opening scene can keep people reading or compel them to hit the HOME button and look for another story. That you cared enough to keep trying says you care enough about Barneby to get it right. Even if you took what you thought was a wrong turn or two.

We're all feeling our way through this. Thanks for sharing your journey!

Angela Kulig said...

Yeah, I feel gross because I only like to share what I think to be enjoyable. Not garbage ;)