Creative Writing Exercise (The Beginning)


Last year, a friend of mine (actually a few friends of mine) participated in NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month. 

The task? Write 50,000 words during the month of November. 
Of course, I'm not crazy enough to think I could actually do this. I don't consider myself a writer; I'm an editor. But I do aspire to write a novel at some point in my life, and I was inspired by those who did sign up. So I started writing.

I didn't write very much--maybe 6,000 words (which felt like a lot to me even though I'm not silly enough to think that it is). But then I got stuck and so put it aside and haven't looked at it for probably eight months. 

Well, it's November, and again my friends are diving into writing full force. And again I feel inspired by their creativity. So I opened up my forgotten Word document and read through my fifteen-page beginning of a story. During my read-through I figured out why I'd gotten stuck, so I decided to cut half the story and take it in a slightly different direction. I wrote a few additional scenes too, so all in all I've gotten my word count back up and right around 8,000. Again, I know that's not much, but it's something. 

I've decided to share the beginning of the first chapter with you. It might sound familiar, because this scene has, in fact, already made an appearance on this blog, as the initial main character was born out of a creative writing exercise we did at work one day. 

Let me know if you have feedback (even if it's bad), because I do want to keep writing, and obviously I want to write something good. With that said....

{note: I just realized that if you're reading this in Google reader, it's doing something funny to the word spacing. I don't know why or how to fix it, but just know it isn't my fault!}

Chapter 1

"Wait!" Courtney lifted her head from the pavement and saw the yellow bus pulling away from the corner. She angrily swiped at the lone tear sneaking toward her chin and spit into her palm, using the moisture to rub blood from the cut on her knee.

She quickly gathered the spilled contents of her backpack--two wide-ruled notebooks, one black pen, two #2 pencils, an eighth-grade geometry textbook, a pair of gym shoes, and a paper bag lunch--and jumped to her feet, wincing as she straightened her leg.

Hugging her open backpack to her chest with one arm, Courtney waved her other and took off in pursuit of her only mode of transportation. If she missed the bus, she'd be late to school for the third day in a row. One more tardy or absence from first period, and she would be docked a full letter grade. Then she'd have to tell her mother. 

Normally, her mother wouldn’t have cared that Courtney hadn’t gotten an A in every class. Courtney knew her mother understood that not everyone could be perfect at everything—unlike her father, who wouldn’t accept less than excellent. Nowadays, however, her mother was acting anything but normal, and she was the one Courtney was worried about.

These days, Courtney wasn’t sure what was going on; it was like her sane, cool mother had left and been replaced with a crazy person she didn’t recognize. It wasn’t until two days ago that Courtney had finally been able to look at her mother without focusing on the purple streaks in her hair…and the diamond stud in the right side of her nose. At the time, her mother had claimed it was her mid-life crisis that forced her into the beauty salon at the mall—and then the jewelry store they passed on the way out. Her mother had laughed. Courtney had been horrified but not fooled. She knew it wasn’t a mid-life crisis; no, it was because of Aunt Sylvia.

“I’m not stupid,” she wanted to tell her parents. “I can hear you guys whispering. I know what’s going on.” But she knew she couldn’t say that. Little girls of thirteen weren’t invited to listen in on adult conversations—at least that’s pretty much what her father had said when he caught her listening in the hallway outside their bedroom. Courtney had sighed and gone into the living room to watch TV with Eli, her younger brother. He’s so lucky, she had thought. At only nine years old, he was uninterested in anything beyond little league baseball and making sure he had cookies in his lunch box. She had sat on the couch watching the Disney channel and complaining—not that there was anyone around to listen. It’s hard being the oldest child.

For the first time ever, Courtney had tried to follow in her brother’s footsteps; and for the past month Courtney had just pretended not to notice when her mother randomly burst into tears and ran from the room. She tried not to listen to the soft sobs coming from her parents’ bedroom. And, above all else, she did her best to not get into trouble.

Today, however, it was obvious that her best wasn’t going to be good enough. “I needed to get on that stupid bus!” she shouted. Then she shook her head, shoulders slumped in unhappy acceptance. “Ugh. Stupid bus driver.”

The stupid bus driver, had, however, moved on, leaving Courtney standing in the middle of the sidewalk, waving a skinny arm at the rapidly disappearing yellow bus while the contents of her backpack slowly slid out of her grasp and scattered, once again, onto the pavement.

“It’s not my fault this time,” she said to no one in particular. “Today I really was going to be on time!” Courtney knelt down and began picking up the strewn objects as she continued talking to herself—a habit she’d developed when Eli was born. 

“Okay, so fine. Maybe yesterday I shouldn’t have stopped at the doughnut shop on my way to the bus stop. And maybe the day before that I shouldn’t have forgotten my social studies book on the kitchen counter. But”—Courtney zipped up her backpack and started the three-mile walk toward school—“today was not my fault.” She stopped and stamped her grey converse sneaker on the concrete.  “Stupid uneven sidewalk.”

Glancing down at her knee, she spit into her hand again and hastily wiped away the dried blood. She glanced back longingly at Sunrise Sprinkles, a one-room orange-and-yellow splash on the otherwise empty corner. It was one of two doughnut shops in her small town of Harper County, Ohio, but it was the only one that sold cinnamon glazed; and even though it wasn’t on the main thoroughfare (as much of a thoroughfare as there was in Harper County), folks drove out of their way for the spiced treat. Mmm… cinnamon glazed. Just the thought made her stomach rumble, a less-than-subtle reminder of first thing she’d missed that morning.

Courtney stopped and looked at the straight, quiet road ahead. The choice between a long walk to first period and a delicious sugary treat seemed only too easy, but then the responsible first child side of Courtney won out in her inner struggle. “No,” Courtney said. “I’m in enough trouble already. Plus, I don’t have any money.” 
Caitlin said...

I already want to read more-- you did a great job and piquing interest quickly-- and describing the scene well...keep us posted!

Amanda said...

Thanks, Caitlin :)