Ink-Stained Scribe

A Manuscript's Journey - Part I

My revision for THE MARK OF FLIGHT is FINISHED! *fireworks*

I've talked a lot about "The Mark of Flight", which is the first book in a fantasy trilogy I've been writing since the Summer of 2002. It was the first book I ever finished ('06), and also the second, because I rewrote it completely over the Winter of '09-'10. I learned a lot of my "what not to do"s on this manuscript.

Each story has its own tale outside the ink on the page, it's own creation myth. I know a lot of people reading this blog are writing their first novels, or have just finished them, so I thought I'd show you all the journey of my first novel. It's a bit long, so I'm going to break it up into a couple of parts...and hopefully there will be more to come.


I think almost everyone remembers how and when they first came up with a story, or at least what initially inspired them. As I admitted in a previous post, my friends and I are huge role-players. Yeah, we play Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop type games, but before that, we just made up our own worlds and characters and jumped around Adryn's room, smacking each other with mini-blind-dowels for swords.

Call it weird, call it an extension of pretending. We own it. We still love it (although now we've got the funds to make better props).

The Markmasters trilogy started out as either Adryn or Merrilee's idea, which they got from some video-game I'd never played, which had magic stones called "Runes" (Suikoden is the name of the game). Well, I didn't know what those were, so I just sort of made up in my head what I thought they should be like. *I* had recently seen a movie called Shanghai Noon where a princess ran away with a man she thought was her friend, but ended up not realizing she'd been kidnapped.

So it began. I made a princess in a predicament, Adryn created the unassuming, stuttering slave-boy, and Merrilee created the wandering Mage-guardian named Bay (all of Mere's characters are named after plants: Bay, Ivy, et cetera).

Like most of our role-plays, we did this one for a while, developed some of the story and the scenes, and moved on. The interesting thing is looking back at what we played versus what I actually used in the story. The original roleplay had so much that is no longer present in the story: dragons, demon-wolves, and lots and lots of camping. Also, like most of our role-plays, we played the beginning over and over and over, and never really developed the major plot.

I don't know why I chose to write this particular story first. Partly, because I adored Arianna. Partly because I adored Shiro. Partly because I felt ready to start writing one of the stories we had developed, and that one came to mind. Despite the fact that Adryn and Merrilee had created it so they could fan-play something, I felt very close to the story. I had developed so much of the plot, and because I had never played that video game, I sort of filled in and made up my own idea what the Magic was.

I remember where I was when I wrote the original opening line of The Mark of Flight (then called, simply, "White"). It was Summer, 2002, and I was 17. I sat at my desk with my big Gateway desktop purring, light slanting in through the windows on my left and bending over my bed. I didn't have any idea how to start the story, so I thought about Arianna's most defining feature--her hair--and wrote:

It would be the first time Arianna had ever seen her hair.

Did I know what that meant, or why, or how it would figure into my story or not? No. I made up the why after that, and even though that line is no longer the opening line of the story, it remains one of the important cultural points in my story.


So I banged out three chapters of Arianna at her Ceremony of womanhood and the ball afterward, where she meets her eventual-kidnapper, Tashda. I wrote her fighting with her mother about Magic, and then complaining about the unfairness of it to Tashda, who suggested she run away with him.

Then I switched tactics and wrote a scene from Bay's perspective. Bay, whom I remembered nothing about. Bay, who was Merrilee's character, but whom she had only played once or twice. It was interesting, because I'd never really tried to write a character I didn't know before. I just started the chapter with an "Okay, who are you?" mentality. And Bay (or my subconscious) sprang onto the page as the most entertaining one of all. Even in subsequent drafts, Bay remained my favorite to write, possibly because I didn't have much expectation of him, so I just let him (or my subconscious) do where he wanted.

He was laid-back, he was nosy, he was irritating. I loved him. In more recent drafts, he's become less laid-back, and WAY grumpier, because the backstory I eventually created for him did NOT lend itself to the carefree, well-adjusted person he was in that first draft, although that is likely who he would have been with a normal childhood.


By the time I had three chapters, I was back in school in my senior year. Adryn and Merri had both graduated, Raven was at a boarding school for people who could actually memorize the periodic table, and the only ones left were Skrybbi, Mica, and me. At that time, I was the editor of my school's literary magazine, and I had created a writing workshop group that met after school every Friday.

As I usually did with my work, I handed off the first three chapters to a couple of my friends. I wasn't expecting much of a response, but Skrybbi came back to me with it.

I still remember her handing me the alligator-clipped print-out and saying, "I think this is the best thing you've ever written."

Funny, how the most insignificant-seeming comments can inspire you. JK Rowling talks about knowing she wanted to finish writing the original Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone because her sister, reading the first chapter, laughed. Well, Skrybbi telling me that these three, unpolished chapters were the best thing I'd ever written was the spark I needed.

I'd written short-stories before, for class. I'd written fanfiction in abundance. Never had I set out to write something long, like a novel, because I didn't think I'd have the will to buckle down and finish it. I don't know if that comment gave me the will to keep going or not, but it's what gave me the will to try.


That year I got Mono (during which time I actually played Suikoden, so I could see how they did the Magic and make mine different), followed by bronchitis, followed by a series of ADD medications that had me either not eating or not sleeping. I was in two school plays, was taking college Spanish at the local technical school, and was both editing the literary magazine and leading the writing workshop, Tangent. By some miracle, I ended up with five fully-revised chapters by the time I graduated. It wasn't much, but it was enough to go on with...

...and it was the best thing I'd ever written.

Play with me: where did you get the first idea for your WIP? Was it a combination of real-life events? A dream? A fan-play? A concept from something else that you explored more deeply? A series of what-ifs?