August 9th, 2020

Crow Castle

Each maiden slumbers in her childhood bed.

Crow collects a lock from each, twines a nest

with garden twigs, hair ribbons azure, red—

sufficient room for one without a guest.

A candle friend, tapers she divests for

the sheltered to sustain.  Her loneliness

a lesser pain than immolation born

by a fractured soul in wax — the fierceness

of rising sun attacks. Soon she will call

on each inside their sleep to walk into

a forest deep with axes, reinforcements, all,

muscular as they are small — men who hew

the logs, to slate the roof and carry stone

leave them to Crow Castle all alone.


An Annotation That Is More Craft Essay:

I am so close to finishing the poetry of Crow Carriage my poetic novel.   By so close, I mean only one poem left to write.  Though I will have months more of work writing the footnotes for these poems that are essentially like flash fictions that do the work of the prose of the novel.  It’s been such a rewarding journey with this collection of poems (half of the novel) that I started before the pandemic, in a different world.

I really like novel writing this way.  I wrote a conventional novel once — it was actually a trilogy but I’m such a poetry nut that the only way I kept interest in writing all that prose was to write a character that was a sonneteer.  Some of her sonnets were in the book and held clues to events in the book.

It was a clumsy fledgling attempt to do what I’m doing now which is writing hybrid experimental novels.  Not really a verse novel or a traditional novel, I write a sonnet and expand a small chapter of the details in prose with a footnote.  But the footnotes are much longer, most of them, than traditional footnotes and in effect are chapters of a book.

I’ve never been a plotter of my novels before the hybrid creations.  Flutter was my first hybrid experimental novel and Crow Carriage the second.  I didn’t outline and all that jazz, and I didn’t feel like it was missing — but since I started with the hybrid approach, the sonnets that come first become an outline.  That’s been enormously helpful to me and I feel so much more confident in my storytelling.

Poetry is my strong suit, and mapping out a book in poems and then expanding on that with the prose later makes me feel strong.  My small advice on novel writing is just that — don’t be limited by your ideas of what a novel has to be and how it works.  Experiment.  Lead with your strengths.

This poem above Crow Castle comes from the end of Crow Carriage.  It is the survivors of a terrible experiment in the Victorian era, young women, banding together to build a structure that houses their secret society.  I can’t wait to write more about this in the footnote and already see a sequel for this novel which is insane to me — all because I outlined in advance (a thing I never did before until I found a way to make that poetic.)

I suppose this annotation has turned into a craft essay and if so the point of it is not:  you must outline.  The point of it is not that you must do anything a certain way in writing except I believe be humble and teachable in your work — even teachable unto yourself.  Have the nerve to tweak your approach to anything and experiment in ways that use your strengths.   Like the women in the secret society, use your whiles, your wit to build a manuscript that tells a story in the best way you can, with the resources you have at your disposal. When you do, a magic can happen that is deeply personal and unique.  However you get to that place, that is where we all should strive to be as writers.

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