Words: Chapters 4 through 6 total about 9,000 words.
Basic details: My protagonist, Delia, is biding her time waiting for an important letter that will theoretically springboard her into the future she's been dreaming of, but she has no idea how long she's going to have to wait. Because she is a fairy school graduate with many specialties, she is qualified to do many types of magickal work, but her reputation was ruined by a school enemy who got hired by the king and used her influence to blackball her, which makes it very difficult to find employment. Delia is a proud person and does not want to take on magickal tasks she believes are "beneath her," so in these chapters she is distracting herself with a completely unrelated job: working in a tavern in a neighboring village, more or less passing for human. (She's half fairy, but looks-wise she's almost entirely human.)
These chapters are about what she does when a regular customer her own age gets a crush on her without knowing she's a fairy, and about her struggle to keep her "real" serious life separate from this temporary distraction. She also goes to one of the seasonal fairy rituals and reconnects with her study partners from her education, who are married to each other and have gone on to get a low-status job together without her.
The good: I'm enjoying Delia's odd little relationship with Tom, the thirteen-year-old boy who pretty much just likes her because he thinks she's pretty. Delia spent her life so far among fairies, and being judged by their standards of beauty has made her feel like her appearance is not a plus, but among humans she's being treated like an unusually attractive girl and that really messes with her mind. She's also kind of adorable when she's awkwardly flirting. Especially this one scene where she gives the boy some cake and then hides for the rest of the evening because she's afraid her behavior was too forward. I like seeing her downplaying or hiding things she's usually proud of (most notably her magickal abilities) in order to belong in the tavern's human culture, though her boss and her co-workers know she can do magick (and sometimes make use of it).
I also really liked writing the ritual scene, incorporating the everyday elements of fairy life into the background of the interaction to flesh out their culture, and the interaction between Delia and her old partners is sometimes sort of hilarious to me. And I like that Delia isn't buying into the overused trope of a half-magical-race character by struggling with whether she'd rather be human. There's really never a question, though she does enjoy getting to explore the other half of her culture. It's more like visiting, though.
|Doodle of Delia with her old|
study partners, Fiona and Drake.
Just standing around being cute.
The bad: I'm six chapters in and Delia is still waiting for something--and it's the same something she's been waiting for since the beginning. I sometimes struggle with pacing in my writing, and I'm wondering if this is going to feel like too much waiting. On the one hand, it's terrible for Delia too. On the other hand, I should be able to make readers feel the interminable unknowingness of waiting for a letter without making them actually slog through it with her, the same as I should be able to indicate that a character is bored without actually boring the reader.
I also wonder if I'm drawing out her relationship too much. Delia is a very cerebral character. She's also only thirteen. She's finding that she's not experiencing any attraction to the boy who likes her, and wonders if that's owing to her inability to open up to him at all without telling him she doesn't identify as human. But she fights with this in the chapter where they meet, talks about it to her partners in the next chapter, and then has an inconclusive encounter with him in the last chapter I've written. She still hasn't told him. She doesn't know what she wants. I don't know if this is going to piss people off. (Yes, she's going to tell him in the next chapter.)
So, perhaps when I'm finished drafting and moving on to cleaning this thing up, I'll be able to figure out some ways to make Delia less off-putting to readers who may not know her past from the previous book, and speed up the pacing maybe. If it needs it. (I might need my test readers to tell me whether it's too slow. Authors have a tendency to not be objective on this sort of thing.)
And as promised, some favorite quotes from the last few chapters:
When the boy who likes her does something awkward but kind of adorable:
I definitely felt that gesture tickling me toward flattered. No one had paid me this sort of attention before—not in a way that didn’t feel inappropriate and predatory—and I was now beginning to realize that I kind of liked Tom’s approach.
What would it feel like to like someone like that? Maybe I would find out.
Delia's thoughts on why Tom is at all appealing:
As far as I knew, Tom had nothing in common with me. He was human. He obviously had no passion for magick. He had a future in a sweaty, dirty profession that he nevertheless was satisfied with, and he wasn’t literate or learned like I was. We came from different worlds. But right now, we were in the same one: both thirteen, both frequenting a tavern for our own reasons, both looking to spend time with people who didn’t treat us like we were naïve, precious babies with so much to learn.
A conversation with Fiona about the boy:
“Why would you . . . date someone if you don’t fancy him?”
“Because he fancies me and I don’t have anything better to do.”
An observation about the holiday ritual:
The musicians were playing a familiar ballad, and all the fairies were milling about in the dancing area, not actually dancing. I’d always thought the rituals for the cross-quarter between midsummer and autumn equinox seemed oddly lazy. Maybe we were all feeling the draining energy of the waning year upon us, but hadn’t yet accepted it.
When Fiona wants to know what she and Tom do together:
“We walk around in the middle of the night mostly talking about how annoying it is to be thirteen.”
“How much is there to say about that?”
I shrugged. “A lot when you’ve never been thirteen before and all your friends are old married people.”
Fiona dipped her finger in my blackberry jelly and fingerprinted it on my nose. I wiped it on the sleeve of her pretty orange festival dress and she shrieked.
An example of how much these three old partners obviously just love each other:
“What’re you two yammering about over here?” said Drake’s voice. He sat down across from us with his second plate of rice and began to stuff his face, even eating the decorative red flowers that I’d always considered nothing but garnish. That boy would eat anything.
“Delia has a boyfriend,” Fiona said.
“Send him my condolences,” he replied.
A rare bit of philosophical observation from Fiona:
“You’re pretending to be a human?” Fiona blurted.
“It isn’t hard. They assume I am and I don’t correct them.”
“Ohh.” She sighed. “I sometimes . . . forget about that.”
“No you don’t,” I said, cramming part of the muffin in my mouth and talking rudely around it. “You have eyes, you’ve looked at me.”
“We stopped looking at you a long time ago because we’ve seen you.”
Typical Delia reflecting on the seasonal ritual:
A priestess read some poetic ritual purpose statement—it seemed different every year, but always contained the same elements—and we focused on the transition of summer into fall, the fading of the light and heat, the first and least of the three harvests. The time had come for jellies and jams, for packing away, for enjoying the sun before the bite of winter would be coming for us.What-ifs from Delia, excerpted from one of her reflective thinky pieces:
I, for one, wondered if I was about to move into the winter of my life.
Sometimes I wonder who I would have become if people didn’t hate me. [. . .]
At the end of the day, I love the person hate made me. And maybe I wouldn’t have loved that person as fiercely if others had been there to do the job.
On an opportunity for physical intimacy:
Tom had happened to me. I hadn’t chosen him. I was a wanted thing, not a person who wanted. I couldn’t have moved if I’d wanted to, because the person he wanted to kiss didn’t really exist.
On a moment, or lack of one:
“I’m cold,” I said finally. Autumn was definitely starting to dig its claws into this late summer night.
Tom touched my face again. “Yeah, you are.”
Still, it would have been much colder to kiss him on the lips and not mean it. To pretend to reciprocate his interest if my heart wasn’t in it. At least, that was what I told myself.