My favorite part of a book is the acknowledgments. It’s almost as if knowing the story behind the story is more entertaining. At the very least, it adds a degree of meaning. When I was ten-years-old, I vividly remember reading Bruce Coville’s Acknowledgements for his final book in The Unicorn Last Unicorn Chronicles. It took him over a decade to write the series of four books. At the time, I recall thinking, I would never take that long to write a series! My ten-year-old self thought this because she didn’t know how easily it is to become entwined with a fictional universe.
I finished writing the first draft of The Pretenders on October 31, 2013, at 9:41PM (I know this because I was weird about recording as much information as possible back then). In 2013, my book was titled The Chosen One. I wrote it by hand in a little orange notebook, which filled 114 pages of it. The Corolla and Castan (my protagonists) who existed in that “world” were so flat and under-developed, I laugh every time I glance back at that draft. Everything was such a cliche. However, no matter how atrocious it is, that’s where my roots began.
True Account: I came up with the bones for my book while lying in bed one summer night. Maybe that’s why, ever since, I fall asleep plotting my next scenes.
For a couple years, my book relied heavily on environmentalism and talking animals. But at one point, I scrapped both these aspects because I remember thinking, What would my dad think? He’s one of my harshest critics, I like to believe, even though he hasn’t read any of my work yet. My first draft was totally unbelievable. No one was going to take that seriously. I am someone who sees (used to see) things very black and white. Talking animals really began to feel purple. And from there, I had a lot of rethinking to do. I guess speaking creatures were more of a backbone than I realized.
By 2015, I had too many drafts to count, and I disliked every single one. I would write about half of the story, find something fundamental I didn’t appreciate, quit, and start over. I think, had I known better, that writing my plot out on paper first, would have saved me at least ten failed drafts worth of time. I didn’t have a completed manuscript until last year. But even that one wasn’t sufficient enough. There was always something missing, which I have only just discovered in my final manuscript: maturity. I used to joke and say that I wrote a different version of the same book every year. Which was, essentially, the truth.
Part of the reason why I have so many different drafts is that I changed dramatically over the years. This is due to some significant life events that transpired, specifically in 2016. One of my softball teammates was killed in a car accident, and my own perspective shifted. That was the first time I had lost anyone I knew personally, which was a ground-breaking, earth-shattering moment. I set writing aside for a long time. I had taken breaks from writing in the past, but I always knew I would come back to my work. In 2016, however, I believed that break would be permanent. Somehow, I found my way back to writing, and it has been a critical outlet ever since.
I always wanted to make my book a trilogy, like The Hunger Games and Divergent. After I completed the second okay-ish manuscript and began on the sequel, I knew a trilogy was not for me. Not only was I at a loss for continuing the plot, but my first book didn’t set me up nicely for a sequel. That was a problem. So. I scrapped the 200+ page manuscript, and I wrote the book again. Finished it. Wasn’t satisfied with character development (Corolla was a b!tch, and Castan was a huge question mark). Started over once more. And thus, the final copy I have today was conceived. I finished writing it two or three days before I had to move into my dorm at college. And this time, I am so delighted with every aspect, I (for once) can’t imagine starting over and reconstructing anything fundamental again. This is it.
I don’t count any one of my drafts a waste, though. Each one served a purpose, even if I can’t precisely identify how. I will say, however, that it’s strange to think that I will never write this story again. After six years of destroying, reconstructing, and plotting it, I can’t imagine setting my universe aside for good. The book I originally planned in 2013 evolved in ways I would never have been able to comprehend at age thirteen. I am fortunate, though, that I continued with the process, no matter how many times I thought I would never have a draft I loved. The Pretenders is a story that needed to be told, and my brain wouldn’t allow me to scrap it for good.
Writing this book did not take me over a decade, but I see now how it very easily could have. Over time, it became an obsession, so that every family vacation was stripped from me, due to the need to write all my ideas down before I lost them. To this day, that’s really all I remember about our family trip down to Florida: me, my Google Docs, and enough singer/songwriter music to translate the emotion in my head to words on my phone screen.
So, Reader, you’re probably wondering how you can find this work I keep rambling about. Well, I just got my ISBN yesterday, and my cover art is currently processing… I gauge paperbacks will be available by January of 2019, at the latest, thus truly making this process six years long.
And I know I said The Pretenders was a stand-alone novel, but recently, I’ve been thinking…