Thoughts on the Impact of my Lost Book

Over the past few days I have been beginning to rebuild the lost 1/3 of my novel. So far I have written approximately one paragraph. The words that come are easy; the only problem is that they are so few. Every word I write is written in fear; written in fear of being a replacement of the words that I have lost. What if those words are better? What if they make me forget the ones that no longer exist?

I want to rewrite, I want to rebuild my lost empire. It is instrumental to my emotional/mental well-being that I do recreate this huge part of my novel. If I don’t, months of my life will have become completely redundant. But to me, the process of rewriting seems to be synonymous with the processes of a) accepting, and b) moving on. I don’t know if I am ready for that yet.

Something I’ve noticed – as I struggle between the tug of needing to write and the agony of loss which prevents me from writing – is that the nature of the story has changed completely. Before I lost practically every major plot point in the novel, Katerina (my protagonist) had undergone a vast amount of character development, and was desperate to redeem herself for the sins of her past. I wasn’t very happy when she made this decision, because she is a figment of my imagination, so I should be the one calling the shots. But once she had set off on the road to redemption, I was able to see how it was justifiably the right course of action. Then Ansel (Katerina’s love interest, and so much more) decided he didn’t want to be the character he had been for the entire novel so far, and wanted to have an even darker past, etc, and I thought that that was also a bad decision. Yet I put my faith in my characters, and followed them into what ultimately turned out to be the best story for them.

Since losing every ounce of Katerina’s and Ansel’s character development, though, this has all changed. Katerina doesn’t want to redeem herself anymore. She wants me to go deeper, darker. She doesn’t want redemption. And Ansel? He wants to join her on this path of darkness. Ultimately, this story will be far more intriguing for me to write, but it makes me sad, because it increases the impact of the lost part of the story. I feel like I won’t be rewriting as such, because even though the plot is the same, the characters won’t be. They have changed. It occurs to me now that I am not the only one who has suffered from this loss: my characters have been hurt by it too. Because after all: they are a part of me, and I am a part of them.

The Katerina who yearned for redemption is gone. She has darkened, become more twisted, tormented. I love it, I really love it. Pain is the thread from which I weave my words. But, for her sake, I wanted her to be good again. She’s lost that chance, all because I didn’t have a recent backed up copy of my book. Isn’t life just so fun like that?

The other day, I told my Ethics teacher about what happened with my book, and I said that I felt like I’d lost a part of myself, and that I knew I would rewrite it, that I would recreate what I’d lost, and that that made me feel even more sad, as though by recreating it I had lost it even more. And he said something along the lines of “But isn’t that such an amazing thing? That you do have the power to recreate a whole part of yourself?”
And something about that really reached me in a way that nothing else had – because I forget just how special it is to be a writer, to be able to create worlds, to be able to create them over and over again. I have the power to change, to evolve, to grow, all through these worlds that I create. They mean that I have control over my own fate, my own identity.

Being a writer is everything to me, and being a writer is not a choice. It’s who I am. I create, I make worlds inside my head, I make up people who feel more real to me than actual real people do. And within it all, I store myself. I am as embedded in these stories as they are in me, and that is why I have not truly lost this book, because it will always live on in my mind, and I will write it, I will complete it. It won’t be the same, of course it won’t, but it will reflect me, it will reflect who it has made me become.

A Story

So I wrote this Gothic styled story for my English homework, and I decided to post it on here as well. I used the characters from the book I am currently writing (I actually wrote this story the day after I lost 1/3 of said book), but the story has little to do with the book itself, because a) the story is in the 3rd person, and the book is in the 1st, b) my protagonist isn’t quite that insane (though it’s not a far leap), and c) if this scene were included in my book, a large chunk of the plot would become completely redundant because the second-most important character in the novel would be dead.
However, I really enjoyed writing this story – I love writing anything dark – so here it is:

Eyes flashed in the damp darkness of the cellar, illuminated by the final, ebbing flame of the red candle. Agonised screams echoed through the cavernous cloisters below the Winter Palace, a pitiful melody of deserted sanity and forgotten hope. The Prisoner had grown numb to the screams; he had had to, after months down here. Were the screams those of the other prisoners – tortured souls trapped in the Palace’s frozen underbelly – or did they belong to Katerina, his wife, his queen, as control of her mind slipped further from her grasp?

The prisoner-king arched his back against the slippery wall, tugging against the heavy chains which confined him here, below the city, below the palace that he should rightfully own. The wall’s torpid moisture seeped through the discoloured cotton of his once-white shirt, like a clammy hand caressing his spine with slow shivers.

A sound! A creaking in the distance! Was he losing his mind, as Katerina had done? Could sanity be stolen from all who inhabited this palace, this historic slaughterhouse where so many kings had died before him? The sound slipped nearer, sliding into his ears as the slime from the wall slid down his back: not a creaking. Footsteps!

The door opened, rusting hinges squealing in a painful protest. Blonde hair glinted in the eerie light of the green candle she held, casting a sinister glow across the face the prisoner-king had once loved with all his fragile heart. The sight of her terrified him, yet he was excited too. To see Katerina was to breathe again: breathe a deep lungful of the water in which he was drowning.

‘Ansel,’ Katerina whispered, the whites of her eyes shining dangerously in the light from her candle, embedded with an element of the otherworldly. ‘Ansel, my love, it’s time for me to end this, time for me to make it right.’
Katerina glided closer into the gloom, blonde hair hanging down her back, like a cloak to cover her white nightdress.
‘I couldn’t sleep, my love,’ she murmured softly.
Ansel stared at the ethereal figure before him: innocent, childlike – world’s apart from the deranged wife who had locked him here.

‘Ansel,’ Katerina whispered again, kissing him on the lips as she reached him. Ansel was gripped by fear, yet touched by an unfathomable, burning desire for his wife, his queen, his captor. He was still shackled to the wall, still her hostage, completely at her mercy. The torment and terror merged with the ardency of a yearning, a fire, which had burnt so slow throughout his captivity, and was only now coming to life. Ansel strained against his chains, pressing himself against the unearthly Katerina, longing for her, needing her.
‘Ansel, my love,’ she said, her soft voice echoing in the tangible gloom as she drew a knife and stabbed him through the tough muscle of his beating heart. Ansel’s blood dribbled down her fingers, the heart that had loved her was finally in her possession.

Copyright Eliza Robinson 2015

Onwards and Upwards

In the past six months there have been perhaps three occasions where I have felt as if my world was imploding. Occasion number one was on the 31st of last December, when I asked out a guy I really liked and he rejected me. I wrote a blog on that topic at the time, so I’m not going to go into it now. The second occasion was more recent, only a couple of months ago, when I found out that one of my Media teachers (one of my favourite people in the entire universe) was leaving at the end of this school year. Finding out he was leaving hit me really hard, because I had relied on him so much. He’s the person I go to when I’m having one of my many emotional breakdowns, he’s the person I go to when I need advice about anything, he’s the one who can make me laugh no matter how sad I am (by “laugh” I mean “laugh at myself”). But the third occasion was a hundred times worse than these first two combined.
Tuesday should have been a good day. I only had three lessons, and they were all with some of my favourite teachers. But Tuesday was a rubbish day, and when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. I had finally gotten past my writers’ block, and written 1,488 words, and so later in the day I decided to write some more. I clicked on the Microsoft Word document that my book was saved as. An error message came up. The file was corrupted. I had been writing it that very afternoon and it had been fine. I reacted accordingly: I spent the entire evening sobbing.
On Wednesday, I took the memory stick my book had been saved on to one of the IT technicians at school, and he told me that if a file was corrupted, it couldn’t be saved. I wasn’t going to give up that easily, so I went off and tried to fix it myself. Plugged memory stick into computer. Error message came up. “There is a problem with this device”, etc, “scan and fix(recommended)”. Clicked scan and fix. It scanned, certainly, but it didn’t fix. It didn’t fix at all. It deleted. My book – the book I have been writing since 9th August 2013 – deleted. And, because I am a complete idiot who now really hates herself for it, I hadn’t backed up my book on my laptop for absolutely ages. The most recent copy I had was from months ago. I had lost 23,000 words/46 A4 pages. I had lost just over a third of the novel. Naturally, I spent the afternoon crying in the toilets at school. I was devastated; I didn’t know how to move on from this. I don’t know how to move on from this.
Fun fact: I have somehow taken on my main character’s (Katerina’s) voice whilst writing this blog. The narrative style is eerily similar to The Choices We Made, which probably emphasises just how much I’m missing it. I’ll know I’ve turned into Katerina if I started using the Power of Three technique all the time (e.g “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know” or “I can’t cope, I can’t cope, I can’t cope”). All I know is that I put so much of myself into that character, that book, and now I feel like I’ve lost a friend, lost myself even. This feeling of grief clutches constantly at my heart, squeezing it tighter and tighter, filling me with dread. Because I don’t know what to do. I can’t give up on this book after two years, but I also can’t recreate what I’ve lost. I lost almost every major scene in the book. I lost weddings, attempted suicides, schemes, revealed secrets, sabotage, ascension of thrones, and, most importantly, practically all of Katerina’s character development. Who am I without her? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
I never thought that Katerina and I were particularly similar, although we always had a few things in common. But lately I’ve been noticing many parallels between us. We developed together. We reached the same revelations, made the same choices, and I didn’t even realise it. And now I have to make these choices alone, and I have to rewrite this novel whilst being hindered by hindsight. When I wrote the past 23,000 words, the ones that are now lost to me, I didn’t know what choices she would make, or what choices Ansel (my other main character) would make. They completely swerved off course a couple of scenes ago. I wasn’t meant to know how they would turn out whilst I was writing. How can I write their undoing when I now know their road to redemption? I’ve lost the element of surprise, and lost trust as a result of this. Because now that I know my characters’ fates, I no longer have to trust in them as I write. And, as Katerina realised before this realisation fell into the computer’s abyss, trust and love are not synonymous, they can exist without each other. Now that I trust my characters, can I love them? And just because I love them, does that mean I can trust them? Can I rewrite a third of the book without them changing it completely?
Sometimes I feel that perhaps the worlds I create are a metaphor for my own life. I read this piece of writing advice a few months ago “What’s the one thing your character can’t live without? Take it away from them”, and I feel as if the roles have been reversed, and that this has been done to me, as if I am the character in a book, as if I have no control of my own fate. I feel like I’m losing everything. I’m losing two, probably three, of my favourite teachers next year (one’s retiring, the other’s moving schools, and I will probably lose the third due to timetable reshuffling), and I don’t know what to do without them. I rely on them so much, and I’m going to have to live without them. I thought I could cope with that, because I had my book, and I could never lose my book. But I have. I have lost my book, and now I feel as though I have lost everything that matters to me. (Okay, I still have 41,000 words, and I’ll still have at least two of my favourite teachers, but still…)
I wonder if perhaps this is the character development I have to endure, the torture that makes me stronger. Last night, when I was sobbing uncontrollably because everything I love is shattering around me, sharp shards of lost hoping snowing down from the bitter sky and stabbing me in the heart, my mum said to me something along the lines of “I know this is awful now, but think of all the new beginnings you’ll have”, and I said I didn’t want things to begin, I just wanted the things I already had to continue. But I know that they’re lost, and that I can’t get them back.
And I will mourn my book, every lost detail, every sentence, paragraph, chapter, phrase that will never return to me, just as I mourn my Media teacher and his ridiculous spiky hair, or my English teacher who I’ve had since year eleven, who’s known me since the days when I wrote about cannibalism on my mock exam, or my other English teacher who I might be losing, the one who compared my knowledge to that of Google. I will mourn everything I am losing and have lost. But I have to move on, I have to move forwards. Onwards and upwards, no matter what. And unlike Katerina, I do not feel that when you reach the top your safest bet is to crash right back to rock bottom. I do not believe that at all.
I will mourn in my own way. I will listen to Lana Del Rey songs (or “Old misery guts” as my mum calls her), and I will cry, and I will probably not start to salvage my book for a little while yet. But I will move on. Just as I will not assume that my new teachers will not be able to replace my old ones. Because, no matter what we lose, there will be something out there, somewhere, that will fill our emptiness. That something can never replace what we have lost, but it can fill an emptiness we never knew we had.

And no matter how long I spend crying over my lost words, I know that I’ll write new ones, I know that I’ll move on, and that I will finish this goddamn book because I will not allow myself another choice. I will not give up, I will not give up, I will not give up. This is who I am, and I will recover.