Yes, I know it’s Tuesday. Someday stole Monday. Just came in the night, stealthy like a ninja, and snatched it away. I’m pretty sure it was Time who did it. That guy’s a real jerk sometimes.
Anyway, I missed Monday’s post because I spent all day doing story revisions. I mean all day! Like wake up, sit at my computer, start working, look up and it’s dinner time. It was one of those Mondays. Good news is, I finished the first round of revisions. Bad news is, there will be at least one more round, and hopefully, I won’t wear myself out on doing it.
I have a hard time stopping in the middle of the story to take a break or come back to it later. If my mind is snagged in that world, I won’t be able to concentrate on anything else, so these marathon sessions are just par for the course, unfortunately. Believe me, I wish I could write in nice, neat timed little sessions, stopping at a set time each day to tend to other things…like my life. Because you can’t press pause on life. Everything is still going on around you while you’re plugging away at creating an imaginary world.
But this post isn’t so much about my writing challenges as about my observations while I was doing these revisions. This is the first time I’ve really sat down and thought about the evolution of the story from its starting point to what I finally decide to publish.
With my first book, I published after the first couple of drafts, and it remained fairly close to the original draft in terms of structure. I even had that one professionally edited, though I still see a lot that was missed on that. Of course, back then, I didn’t really know anything about “the craft” (not the cool witchcraft, though. Just writing. Apparently there are rules or something, and I broke most of them.)
My second book, much like my first, was pretty close to the original idea. This was when I was still writing naively—before I knew anything about target markets, demographics, choosing a genre, etc. I was just trying to write a story that I would love, secure in the knowledge that if I loved it, then so would someone else. Sigh. Poor, naïve, innocent past-me.
Since then, my stories have gone through a greater evolution during the revision process. Or even the writing process. I wrote three complete manuscripts for this alien romance that I’m working on. Three! And they are all completely different stories featuring the same cast of characters and set in a world I dreamed up years ago for a completely different cast of characters and a completely different story.
This is the most I’ve ever struggled to get to a product that is even closed to finished, because I have so many story ideas, but I’m never quite sure which ones will end up being the most successful, and sadly, I’m not that innocent past-me who doesn’t think of those things anymore.
I still use what I love as a barometer though, which is why I think I’ve finally pinned this story down—because I got caught up in reading it, and that’s usually when I know it’s where I want it to be.
However, there have been stories I’ve written that I loved reading, but which will not ever be polished for publishing. They are the proto-stories, the seeds of the stories that have made it to Amazon’s virtual shelves. Both Lilith’s Fall and Balfor’s Salvation were significantly different in their infancy. Far more controversial. Far more potentially upsetting to readers.
And that’s where the evolution of story comes in. As I write the initial draft, I just go with what I want, focusing on the initial plot, the initial characters—the ideas as they are, no matter how gritty, how raw, how distressing they are.
Then, I begin revision, and inevitably, I soften those story elements that are too jagged, too gritty, too distressing. I’m sorry. Maybe this means I don’t have artistic integrity, but I want an audience for my books, and I’m already in a niche genre. I don’t want to scare anyone away with the darkest of my works, when I can still write an enjoyable, much lighter version.
And ultimately, I love the revisions just as much as the originals. I reread the finished versions of my books all the time, and not just because I have to, to maintain continuity between sequels. I just love these books!
Still, it’s interesting to note this evolution, and I can see it in each subsequent draft of my novels. Quite often, I like to return to the earlier versions and reread them for inspiration for new stuff. These versions are all part of what I refer to as my “personal library.” I write many manuscripts that will never be published.
How do the stories evolve, specifically? That depends on each one. Jessabelle’s Beast evolved not at all from my original plot and characterization. Lilith’s Fall and Balfor’s Salvation had massive changes in characters, their actions, motivations, and behaviors. I started with a demon/angel premise, and in the initial versions, I didn’t pull any punches. My umbrose were far more demonic than they ended up in the final draft.
I changed some pretty major plot points in Balfor’s Salvation as well. I even changed who the romantic female lead was. Stacia was supposed to end up with Jack Caruthers at the end of Lilith’s Fall. I’m much happier with her and Balfor as a couple, but that never happened in the initial draft, and his book was far, far darker. As in, I would never have published it as is. I probably couldn’t have even marketed it as a romance, despite the happily-ever-after ending, but would have had to list it as horror-erotica.
So why do I even talk about this? The truth is, I’m always looking for feedback, because changing my stories from their original intent sometimes grates on me. I feel so much self-doubt about whether I’m doing the right thing. I also spend a LOT of time working on one book, when other writers in my genre are pumping out books left and right.
Of course, I also want to be separate from the ideas I put into my work. I don’t want people to think I’m in anyway like my characters! I’m not, by the way. 😉 The world inside my head is a sandbox, where I can play at doing things that I would never do in real life. Just like people play Grand Theft Auto, but never behave so horribly in real life. That’s what fantasy is, but sometimes I think readers believe that authors are secretly this way or that way because of what they write. I can’t speak for other authors, but I’m actually a very tame person. I just have a wildly active imagination that can skew dark from time-to-time, probably because I love horror, particularly monster movies and horror sci-fi.
So what do you think about this? Do you think I should just go with the works as they were originally written, warts and all (polished up, of course, for quality purposes 😉 ), or should I stick to writing for a wider audience?