Once Upon a Time in Iowa trudging along

Before my thyroid crashed (thanks Hashimoto’s) I was only chapters away from finishing the first (aka roughest) draft of Once Upon a Time in Iowa. My endocrinologist has me closer than ever to feeling like myself again. This new burst of brain function is new and exciting.

I’ve been working my way back towards writing. Writing prompts have been a great help. Sort of like dipping your toes in the pool. But mostly, I’ve been afraid to approach Once Upon a Time in Iowa.

What if I can’t do it?

Seriously. It’s ridiculous how terrified I am that I won’t be able to pick back up where I left off. What if I can’t find the groove again? What if Mary Cardelia won’t talk to me?

It’s a real possibility, you know. Do you know how many times she tried to talk to me, and I just ignored her because I was too tired to keep track of what she had to say? Yeah me neither. Far too many to count.

Of course, once is probably too many times to ignore your characters. You miss out on vital story information that way. She’s been silent an awfully long time, now. They all have.

Laura Bell wants to play

It isn’t much. But I heard Laura Bell’s little voice reminding me that she is a young girl. That she is going to play games and potentially expect her sister to play with her. She’s likely to think her brothers owe her some game time, too. She is the baby, after all, and can expect at least a bit of attention lavished on her. She’s also the only one who is still a child.

Research isn’t writing, but…

It’s true. Research isn’t quite the same as writing, but it’s writing adjacent. That counts for at least something, right? And so, today, I began researching for games Laura Bell might have played.

It started with Cat’s Cradle. That’s what Laura Bell was telling me. She thought maybe she and Mary Cardelia might indulge in the string game from time to time. It sounded as though it might be one of her favorites.

While on the quest to find out if Cat’s Cradle was even an option in 1871 (it is. in fact, it was centuries old already by then, though called many names), I came across a handful of websites that discussed various games of the time period. As I scrolled and read, I heard her whispering in my ear.

“That one was fun,” she’d whisper. “I never did understand why the boys played that one so often,” she added with an eyeroll.

another piece of the puzzle falls into place…

Another little something. A scene I wrote forever and a day ago. An idea I’ve been struggling to incorporate that I foreshadowed when I was still writing every day and never questioned what the characters were telling me to write. What if I combine the two? Scene + idea = writing gold.

Jesse’s the one that sorted it out. Just last night, in fact. He thought, “wouldn’t it be just a little funny if I jumped out of the moving cart, leaving Mary agape with confusion?” And you know what? He’s right. We, the audience, could find her bemusement to be our amusement. Although it was a task he could fail at, leaping from the cart will allow him to pull it off.

just getting my feet wet

It’s all baby steps, right? So here I am, taking baby steps but getting back into it. I have high hopes that Once Upon a Time in Iowa will be back on track and (dare I dream?) finished sometime in the near(ish) future.

I’m off to work out the scene in which Jesse leaps from the cart –of which he is holding the reigns– and takes off running into a nearby field. Sweet Princess is a good horse and can take herself home without guidance. This will allow the focus to hone in on Mary’s reaction. Oh but how will she react?

Words of encouragement are always welcome. Drop ’em in the comments section.

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