Like everyone I’ve ever met has told me every day of my life, I need to learn to let go. And yet, the more I look at my own writing, the more I hate it. Finding this scene has been an unbearably depressing process, so you can all SUCK IT! But after you’ve read it, so I didn’t suffer for nothing.
Except don’t read it, because I’ve now been staring at it for several days, and every single word makes me want to dramatically slit my wrists in a bathtub while listening to Dashboard Confessional.
(You can tell I’m about to turn 29 because all my references are now dated. Crap.)
Also, I’ve never once looked at a single scene in isolation, even by a best-selling published author, and thought, “wow, that’s amazing”. I’ve thought, “I have no idea who these people are” and “I don’t know why they’re doing this”, and then I’ve gone to get a snack and resumed waiting for my Twitter timeline to update.
Nevertheless, several people helped me pick this one, and I’m now at the point where attempting to edit out all the bad bits just involves taking out all the WORDS, so. Here’s a scene from Sparks, aka Failed First Novel of Doom.
(FFNoD is complete but not finished, which means all the words exist and they make a story, but both the story and the words aren’t any good. It’s a YA, first-person contemporary mystery — the genre I was shooting for was kind of like teen pulp noir. After, for the record, is none of these things.)
“We’re going to get eaten by a fuckin’ bear.”
“We’re not going to get eaten by a bear. There are no bears here.”
“Have you been out here and fucking checked?”
Everything hurt. My knees felt like they’d been emptied out and filled with gravel. My hand was burning. My wrist ached, my ribs pinched and smarted with stitch, and I’d bitten my tongue at some point. Snot was running out of my frozen nose, and I didn’t have the strength to wipe it up.
Nate was bleeding from one eyebrow and favoring his left ankle. In front of me, he shoved a branch aside, and I couldn’t get my hands to cooperate in time to stop it from springing back to whip me in the chest. It was taking every tiny scrap of energy I had just to keep picking each foot up and putting it down again.
“Fuck it,” Nate said, and stopped.
I was concentrating on getting my right foot to move forwards while my left knee continued to hold my weight, and walked straight into the back of him. He stumbled forward a step and sat down. Just folded up like he was hinged and slumped into the mud.
The forest stretched and heaved and dripped around us. I didn’t think I had the strength to sit. It seemed like less effort to stay upright, clinging to the slimy, scratchy surface of a tree trunk.
“We didn’t look in the garage.”
“Sparks.” Nate was a black smudge on the forest floor. “We need another way.”
I pushed my cheek against the rough bark of the tree. “I don’t have another way.”
“Bullshit. You’re like a dog with a bone—”
A bull with a sore head, my dad supplied in my head.
“—you have another move.”
I laughed and the tree swallowed it up. My tongue hurt. “I’ve got nothing. This was my big play. This was my whole plan.”
Nate was silent for what felt like hours. I saw his head knock back against the tree he was propped against. The trees dripped. Thunder growled from somewhere behind us—maybe past the Cove and rolling out to sea now, on its way to beach again in the real world. “Your forward planning sucks,” he observed, detached.
I wiped my nose with the sleeve of my sweater. I’d left Adam’s coat over the broken window at Mitchell’s. It probably had his name sewn into it. “Why are you here?”
“Because this is how I like to party.”
“No, really.” I found an exposed chunk of root and tried to get my creaky knees to bend. My jeans, sandpaper-stiff, pulled at my skin like a cheese grater. I didn’t think I’d ever been so cold. “What did you see on that calendar tonight?”
“Mitchell,” Nate said, but not in answer to my question. “That cocksucker.”
“You know what I don’t get? Selling that tape exposed that room to the whole island. Not the smartest move if you’re…”
“Knee deep in shit already?”
I nodded. “Did his hatred of me just overcome his sense of self-preservation? He was so carefulwith everything else.”
I saw the shadows of Nate’s hands, pale ghosts against his dirty face. “My brain hurts,” he said, muffled.
My teeth clacked and shuddered as they chattered. My hands and feet had gone from tingly to searing to totally numb—I could feel the dead weight of my second through last toes like my shoes were stuffed with rocks. Nate shuffled, and the solid weight of his wet coat landed on my knee. It was soaked and stiff with cold, but it was heavy and the damp lining was warm from his body. “Thanks.”
Somewhere down the hill, a branch cracked. We both tensed, waiting. The rain was easing up. In the gaps between gusts of wind, I could hear Nate’s teeth chattering, the rustle and whisper of his clothes as he shivered.
“You know,” Nate said finally, “he’s my stepfather. I know he’s a bastard. I thought you just wanted it to be Mitchell because he shot your dad. Because it’s easier if there’s someone in front of you to blame.” I couldn’t tell for sure if he was looking at me, but I could feel it in the dark. It felt like an admission.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “It hurts.”
I heard him sigh. “I do get that he was your dad, you know. You’re trying to protect his memory.”
I hunched into Nate’s jacket, wondering if this was an apology. “That makes it sound noble. Dash said I was being selfish.”
Nate said, “You loved him.”
“Love is selfish.”