The Road Through Self-Doubt Paved with Growth

Self-doubt is insidious because it, like depression, tells you lies. It’s a prosecuting attorney in the court of your life where it’s up to you to lead the defense. As the defense attorney, you need evidence, proof that you’re right. The best source for that is yourself via growth, mini successes you can point to as evidence of your increasing prowess.

Riparia at Lake Seclusion.

Riparia at Lake Seclusion, Carrdia.

There’s nothing like a glimpse of your past to do just that.

As reported last week, I’ve returned to Trust in the Forgotten, Book 1 in the Kovenlore Chronicles. It’s time for serious editing on the road to publication.

Yup, kinda scary.

That is, until I looked at the novel’s opening from the standpoint of writing experience and little successes.

This is the tale of three openings to a novel — and a series — that needs that opening to do a lot of heavy lifting.

First Opening

So much has happened since Trust was drafted in 2016. Eight years have passed and I’ve written a lot of words. My health is far, far better. I took a three year break from Kovenlore Chronicles after I became stuck and wrote more intimate stories in Pannulus. I returned to finish the series.

I learned a lot about Riparia and who she is along the way, but I learned even more about me along the way. I gained skills, which have steadily led to confidence.

The original opening is lost to time. At least, I can’t find it. A faint glimmer of it, though, remains buried in Chapter 2. It wasn’t that it was bad, it was that it was too drawn out (at the time) while leading to a slow chapter.

Near her destination, she urged Doppla into the shadows and extracted the soggy paper. The creeping mist clinging to her skin was a gargoyle’s breath after feeding. She was trusting again, and trust was too often nothing more than betrayal while it was still smiling.

A hub, but with spokes and banding only on one side. A block away on the left was The Crescent Wheel. It was another rundown tavern and a good place to find Keepers.

“Okay, Doppla, it looks like I’m going to trust Paran Foise.”

Transitioning straight into the meeting with Paran Foise was great for conveying information (too much info!), but it was a pace killer for opening a novel.

Too, heading into the meeting right away provided no opportunity to establish anything beforehand. It placed far too much pressure on the meeting to exhibit Riparia’s personality, her life, and any other needed background.

The meeting went on for two chapters. It’s now less than one.

Second Opening

In 2019, much had changed. My health was drastically improved. The first five Kovenlore novels were behind me. I’d written the fabulous opening to Case of the Cryptic Design, my first Pannulus mystery.

I revisited Trust for a quick edit that summer and immediately realized I’d started the novel in the wrong place. Adding two (now 1.5) chapters before allowed for a more ominous beginning and ample opportunity to trickle in some establishing details.

Rain dripping off the brim of her hat, Riparia Dellbane weighed the possibilities, but any explaining the charred corpse in the middle of a Coving street weren’t good, and the worst was the most likely.


The mere thought, if allowed to linger, would induce shaking.

She was shaking.

Clutching Doppla’s reins tight, her hand cramping, she spun around. The street was empty, too empty for early evening.

What did she know about Practitioners? Little, outside fireballs and cruelty. Maybe more, but it was difficult to think when even the solemn drumroll of raindrops on cobblestones couldn’t remove the stench that was cooked human flesh.

Problem was, I was so focused on getting the plot correct that I got Riparia wrong (not to mention Doppla, her horse, who doesn’t react until much later). Okay, she’s shaking, otherwise there’s little evidence through the first 500 words that she’s anxious. Instead, she stands beside a corpse ruminating. That last paragraph? It’s just the beginning.

After that edit, I returned to Pannulus, then returned to Kovenlore Chronicles to finish the series.

Third Opening

Now, in 2023, I’m back. I knew right away that Riparia and Doppla were off. Problem was, after so many years, the existing words were sort of sacred.

For more than a day I fiddled and tinkered, making few changes. Thing was, my growing confidence and experience wouldn’t allow me to move on. On the second day, I declared, in Riparia fashion, “Enough!”

I cut a witty line that didn’t serve Riparia and I was on my way.

Leaping from the saddle, Riparia Dellbane sprinted to the smoldering body in the street. “No…” The deadly truth disagreed. The steam rising off the victim into the night air might as well have been lifeforce, for none remained within.

Her eyes welled. She sank to her knees, her gift useless because she was too late to help a stranger.

Behind, Doppla neighed.

“I know!” She was curt. It wasn’t fair to Doppla, who was right. Every street, every road in Carrdia was dangerous for someone like her.

Rain ran off her hat’s brim in twin streams. It played a solemn drumroll. The gruesome possibilities? Any explaining a charred corpse in a Coving street weren’t good. The worst was the most likely.

Ministry practitioners.

Up and down the narrow, twisting street, rain glistened in the meager gloom devoid of those who’d fled. Were any lingering in the shadows?

Shaking, she shot to her feet and backpedaled. Wringing her hands, her thoughts raced. In and out of the city. A quick message exchange. Return to the open road. Was that too much to ask?

“Bittle!” She stomped a foot. “If this was practitioners, where are they now? I don’t want to flee towards them.” She should escape the city, but delivering the message remained.

Doppla nudged her. Another neigh, louder, more urgent.

“Yes, yes, of course.” All at once the twenty-ninth of Autumn New Season was as cold as winter. She grabbed at the saddle.

Riparia Tarnabeth Dellbane. Picture: CA Hawthorne

Riparia Tarnabeth Dellbane. Picture: CA Hawthorne

For all I’ve changed, this open still does everything an opening should. It names the main character, along with Doppla. It tosses out a few background nuggets. It shares needed facts like location, her occupation, and the date. Story questions are posed.

More important, this better reflects Riparia and her relationship with Doppla. There’s more tension and the pacing better reflects her anxiety. This isn’t finished, but it’s close now.

It isn’t experience alone that made this possible. It’s recognizing that my experience has led to growth. That, in turn, allows me to counter the self-doubt that says I can’t.

Guess what? I can.

You also can.

About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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