In the Beginning: How Their Story Became My Story

I started writing How Their Story Became My Story in 2009. Back then it was called Miss Cleo: A History of Our Future. My first draft was written in second person, as if I were writing to the main character, who remained unnamed. The main character was a charming philanderer who captured the narrator’s affections before she realized he had no intention of following through on all of his promises. The chapters were quite short, no more than one scene each, and sometimes only part of a scene that was spread over several chapters. It was about the time I finished the draft of Miss Cleo that I realized I couldn’t go anywhere with the story, at least not in the form that I wrote it in back then. I intended to write the whole thing off, give the draft to the guy in my life who inspired me to write the story in the first place, and never think of it again.

But as I looked around I saw more and more people whose lives were affected by guys like my muse. I knew the story needed to be told, but I still wasn’t quite sure how to change it. Luckily for me I was reading The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the time, and also lucky that I am huge nerd who always reads the introduction, and prologue, and forward, and so on. Before the story began I read about how the book came to be. Apparently Robert Louis Stevenson originally wrote the story as a simple thriller, with the intention of selling it to magazines as a serial tale for some quick cash. His wife proof-read it for him before he submitted it to be published and told him it was a very entertaining read but that she believed it would be better if it were an allegory. Well, he agreed with her. He burned his original manuscript and rewrote the entire story from scratch in three days. When I read that I knew that I needed to start from scratch and re-write my story, too. If Robert Louis Stevenson could do it, so could I!

I didn’t do it in three days, not even close, but that’s another blog post for another day. I now know that there is an industry term for the first draft of my book. It’s called an updraft, basically it’s a draft where you throw all your thoughts out there on paper, then once you’ve done that you go back and re-organize them. Some elements of my first draft made it into my second, the story is still told out of chronological order, it’s still partially epistolary (including letters and other documents as a way to advance the plot), the narrator is still unnamed. But I set out, starting in 2010 to completely re-work my first draft.

That updraft has been an incredibly useful tool, reminding me of some of the details I wanted to include, and it has also shown me many times what needed to change to help readers connect with my story.

Tune in next time to hear about the long process that was the second draft of my novel!