My Alpha Male post is here.
To celebrate the release of her new adult contemporary romance novella If I Let You Go, Kyra Lennon is holding a bloghop with the theme of letting go. The winner will receive a $10 Amazon gift card. (And I love that font! It reminds me a bit of a slightly less-fancy version of my favorite fancy font, Edwardian Script.)
Here’s my entry, originally 892 words and edited down to 498.
I got the idea for my contemporary historical Bildungsroman Little Ragdoll in May of ’93, when I first heard the famous story behind The Four Seasons’ song “Rag Doll.” In July, I began working on it.
In those days, I usually didn’t break up my books into smaller files. I learnt a very valuable lesson when some kind of disk bug struck in the Spring of ’94. I was so devastated I stopped working on it.
I carried Adicia’s story around in my head for years, always feeling I’d finish it someday. In the intervening years, I even thought up Betsy van Niftrik and her parents.
Years passed, and computers no longer had disk drives. And the newest Mac word processing program, AppleWorks, couldn’t open MacWriteII or ClarisWorks files.
I finally bit the bullet in November 2010, after having several dreams about it. So many things came back to me, like Sarah. It was meant to be, if I could carry that story around in my subconscious for 16.5 years.
Because I let go of my obsession with needing to have the original first draft to work from, I was able to craft a much stronger, more mature story, and take it in directions I never could’ve dreamt of at all of 13-14.
A few months after finishing the 397,000-word first draft, the discontinued original first draft was miraculously resurrected. I’ve been thankful ever since that it was lost for so many years. I needed to be forced to let go of it in order to take the story in the direction it needed to go. I’d grown so much as a writer, and I wouldn’t have been served well to crawl back to the past.
There’s no way I could’ve salvaged a halfway-decent story from that mess. The only things that remained the same were the names, ages, and basic outline. Losing it let me do things like:
- Make oldest sister Gemma more nuanced and sympathetic, instead of some queen bitch.
- Significantly tone down youngest brother Tommy’s spoilt brattiness. Now he grows very slowly over the 15 years of the story, and his major redeeming feature is his colorblindness.
- Give Allen and Lenore’s love story more buildup, instead of getting them together so soon.
- Put in some new characters and subplots, like Marjani, the mystery of who Julie’s mother is, and oldest brother Carlos’s trial.
As emotionally difficult and frustrating as it is, every writer should have that experience of a total rewrite at least once. Sometimes a draft is so awful that you have to scrap it and reconstruct it almost completely. Now down to 387,000 words (would’ve been a bit shorter if I hadn’t needed to write in left-handedness for a bunch of characters), this is one of the books I’m proudest of having written.
It was truly a combination of letting go and being unable to move on. They existed alongside one another and made the final product stronger.