Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dreams Within A Dream

Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

~ Edgar Allan Poe

The project that I've been having a writing marathon with this week is something a little out of the common way for me. It's the children's historical fantasy that I shared a bit of for December's Chatterbox. I've had out-of-the-ordinary ideas before, but I seldom actually start writing them. Most of these you can just file away in a notebook in case you ever reach a point where you know how to write them, and then again, some you simply have to plunge in and write when inspiration nudges, or they'll fade just as quickly and you won't be able to recapture the magic. This one is the latter.

I don't know why it's going so swimmingly so far—whether it's because I had the basic plot all set from the start, or because I'm just so entranced with the idea, or because it's a children's book. Writing for children is easier, in some respects, because of its relative simplicity. I don't mean sticking to words of two syllables (though I do have to remind myself occasionally not to use too many fancy words); I mean narrating your story with a kind of straightforward childlike candor—which, incidentally, gives rise to some tongue-in-cheek humor that adults can certainly appreciate. If you've read E. Nesbit or A.A. Milne or J.M. Barrie you know what I mean.

I can't give too coherent a synopsis of the plot yet, but it concerns five orphaned siblings living with an uncle in the year 1907, and their adventures involving dreams curiously connected to the bedtime stories told by their oldest sister. Dreamland eventually crosses paths with real life, and things become, to indulge in a quotation, "curiouser and curiouser."  (If you want a sort-of sneak peek, I've got a Pinterest board of miscellaneous visual inspiration—really the first time I've been able to use that aid effectively.) I didn't have a title when I began writing it. My first impulse was to call it The Land of Dreams, but a quick check of the Kindle Store showed that about a hundred other authors had already beaten me to the punch. So I decided to just start writing and see if a title turned up, and lo and behold, it did, in the first chapter. The working title is now The Summer Country. Apparently only one other author has beaten me to that.

One thing that I've been having so much fun with is picking quotations for chapter epigraphs. Reading novels that make keen use of them has become one of my literary delights, and finding one that perfectly matches my own chapter is even more delightful. The quotes I've picked for The Summer Country range from Poe to Milne to Coleridge to Gilbert and Sullivan, and I'm not nearly done yet. Titling and epigraph-ing (yes, I just made that word up) chapters is one of the fun parts of being an author.

Anyway, I'm glad I got to use my special vacation week to get a jump-start on this book. I've got a sizeable chunk down on paper, and it's pushed me far enough into the plot that by the time I go back to my usual daily routine, I'll have reached the middle chapters I've been looking forward to since I first developed the idea, and hopefully won't lose any steam. Right now, though, I'm about ready to take a weekend break and try to iron out the cramps I've got in my back, neck and writing-hand from sitting still and writing furiously for so long. A week, I think, is just about the outside limit for a writing marathon of this sort.

image: "The Story of Golden Locks" by Seymour Joseph Guy


Rachel Heffington said...

AGH I am so looking forward to this. I love writing for children. I really really do. It is just so much fun. And I'm glad we love the same children's authors. Nesbit is a perfect duck.

Bree Holloway said...

I can't wait to hear more about this! The Summer Country sounds like a lovely book so far; children's books are so good for the spirits now and again.

Epigraphing is something I've considered but never done with a book yet. I love the idea of it, to be sure. I guess I just haven't begun the thing and thus it's never happened. :P

Best of luck with your writing!

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Rachel - up till December I'd only read The Railway Children and The Story of the Treasure Seekers—I started reading her fantasies to gather a little style inspiration, and loved them. The Magic City is my favorite, though Five Children and It and its sequel were fun too. I love the way she writes from the children's point of view.

Bree - I used to have the idea of epigraphing briefly cross my mind, but never seriously put it into practice either till lately. I probably used to think it would be much harder than it's turned out to be!

Hannah Scheele said...

I'm glad you're seriously working on this one. I always thought it sounded really good. :)Something about 19th century kids just gets me. :)