Spinning Threads I Might Not Finish

Four of our Stonehenge Circle Writers—Karen Blakely, R. A. Gates, Kelly Haworth and Cheryl Mahoney—are collaborating to write a new novel: Pesto, Pirouettes and Potions.  It’s unusual for this many authors to work together on one continuous story, so they’ve decided to blog throughout the drafting, to give you some glimpses into the process.

Blog post by Cheryl Mahoney

Last week R. A. Gates told you about writing Chapter One of the story, and introducing Lola.  I was slated to write second, so I dove into writing Chapter Two of the story.  My main task was introducing Charlie, our second lead character.  Charlie must have wanted to share her story, because the scenes flowed pretty well.  We also did more outlining for this story than I usually do for my own, so I was working with a paragraph of notes on what we decided to include for this chapter.  That may have made things easier, because the roadmap was very clearly laid out.

Since this was Charlie’s first chapter, it was mostly about setting up her character and her life.  I started with the bows at the end of a ballet performance—which sent me down a rabbit hole of research on modern ballet and the levels for dancers within a company!  I started inventing characters to form a community around Charlie, both in her dance company and in her neighborhood, which we had decided is very close-knit.  Even though I was creating characters for Charlie to know, I was also trying to hit the point that she’s lonely right now; her grandparents, who raised her, died a few months previously, and she’s also alone romantically.

The funny part about writing this as a collaboration at this point was realizing that I was setting up threads and ideas that I (or at least, I alone) wouldn’t be the one to write the results for.  For example, I wrote a bit where Charlie is hoping to get the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker this year, but someone else may be writing the scene that reveals whether she gets it or not.  With that in mind, I added more notes than usual, detailing what I was trying to set-up and how it might pay-off.  We may not follow all of those ideas, but at least that way it’s noted and can be considered by my fellow writers as they write forward.

It also was interesting to have more immediate feedback for my writing than usual, as I bounced ideas I was having off of my partner writers in almost-real time as I wrote.  I have people I talk to about my writing, but it’s usually not quite so in the moment.

I thought I’d share an excerpt from Chapter Two.  This is my favorite bit, as Charlie struggles to fall asleep and her dog Sammy comes to join her.

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After Charlie’s mind went around the same circles two or three times, and she tried every possible position at least once, she gave up and turned the light back on.  Some nights were just going to be restless and blue, and there was no use fighting it.

She reached down to the bottom shelf of her bedside table and came up with her worn old paperback of The Two Towers.  She opened at random, landing near the beginning of Chapter Four.  She knew the story backwards and forwards, so she started reading where she was.

Only a few pages in, she heard a thump as the mattress shifted, and then Sammy’s cold nose was pressing against her shoulder.

Charlie rolled over to rub Sammy’s favorite spot between his ears.  “At least I have you, right, Samwise?  That was enough for Frodo.”  He’d had an entire Fellowship, but Sam was really the only one he’d needed, to get all the way through Mordor.

Sammy snuffled, turned around twice, and curled up against her.  Charlie went back to her book, the little terrier a warm lump at the small of her back, and read about Merry, Pippin and Treebeard until she fell asleep.