And if you do, never write out the whole thing in the first draft. And if you do write out the whole thing as a first draft then do not break it up into parts to make a series. And if you do break it up in parts to make a series…buy yourself a big bottle, box, jar or pinch of something that keeps you calm.
I’m serious. Because when you’ve split the draft in two, polished the first half, dished it out as your glorious First Book to the world and gotten admiring reviews bordering on worship (and some bad ones obviously from critics with bad taste) and it’s time to fine-tune the second half to dish that out as your glorious Second Book in the series – you’ll kill yourself. And by you I mean me.
If I didn’t have kids, I would’ve allowed myself to smoke like a chimney (my previous experience of never smoking regardless) and I find myself frequently wondering that when God forbade alcohol, did He mean for writers too. I mean surely He understands the pressures of churning out good ideas and wording them so they strike a chord with the readers and everything...
Anyway, I had to soothe myself with chocolates.
Why all the drama? Because while polishing Book One of the Aoife & Demon fame, we changed it quite a bit so that now when I read the first draft of it – I weep. I was all happy that Book One was very nicely received. The readers said it was well-written and they enjoyed the characters, no cardboard heroines lusting after perfect heroes there blah blah blah – yes, all very nice until we sat down to work on Book Two and were suddenly faced with a host of issues.
The characters had evolved and comfortably settled into their skins, and those skins did not match the ones in the first draft. That called for a major redo of dialogue, scenarios and relationships.
The story had evolved and become more mature than how it was written in the first draft. That called for a change and rethinking of the various twists and turns, chapter splits and climaxes.
The new story opened up more avenues for our characters to venture into and we couldn’t let them not go there. Hence, we had to and still are working on adding lots of things that weren’t there before and deleting many things that were but no longer fell in sync with the new developments.
In all, Book Two calls for a complete rewrite. By the looks of it we have very little from the first draft that will find its way into the finished sequel. While the storyline remains unchanged, it seems the way the characters journey towards the end of the book will be significantly altered.
If we hadn’t written the whole book before, I wouldn’t have felt so cheated out of comfort. I thought it’ll be as easy as pie to just look at the second half of the first draft, polish the language, add a few descriptions here and there and be done! But when I read it, I realized the entire language, demeanor and opinions of the characters looked out of whack compared to what they had become now.
My cardboard Aoife was no longer cardboard in the published book. She was a strong headed, badass heroine who loved to speak her mind and constantly put Demon in his place. Demon, who had started off as someone right out of the second century, was cool and not primitive at all. Azure had a more defined role to play and Salaar had been given the importance he deserved but which was lacking in the first draft.
To give you a better sense of what I’m whining about, I’ll post two scenes here. One from the first draft and the other from the published book – my very own Before & After piece on my own book.
One man, in particular, refused to look away from me. Even through his mask I could feel his stare. My cheeks felt a little hot as he started to walk my way.
"Bonne soirée, Mon Cher," he said and kissed my hand.
Ooh French. Sexy. I smiled but something about that voice alerted me. I knew that voice. But I could be wrong…
"I’m sorry I don't understand French." I studied the eyes behind the mask and decided to play along for a bit.
"Peut-être, je pourrais vous enseigner. That means, perhaps I could teach you." he said very suavely.
"Oh yes, that would be really nice." I smiled and took a deep breath. "Would you teach me?"
"Oui. Laissez-nous danser et je vais vous montrer ce que d'autres choses que je peux faire." He said and translated before I could ask. “Yes, let us dance and I will show you what else I can do."
I took his beckoning arm and he drew me close with a pull. He put one of my hands on his shoulder and he held the other near his chest. Any other situation and I think I would have gulped out loud. He smelled divine. I'd forgotten where I was and what was around me.
We had only begun to sway a little when he let my hand go and started to walk towards the end of the room, turning only once to look at me to tell me to follow. I did. He pushed aside long drapes and entered a small balcony. As soon as I walked in behind him, he pushed me towards the wall, and kissed my neck. That sent shivers up my spine. I was so exultant, I couldn't even move. Suddenly, I felt his hand move up on my thigh. This was more than I had bargained for. I pushed him away.
"Why are you pushing me away? Isn't this what you came here for?" he said.
I was stunned. "What...what are you saying?"
"Why else would you lurk in dark corners with a stranger?" he said with a rude twinkle in his aqua eyes.
"Stranger? I knew it was you Dee," I said in a small voice.
"Then why not come here and let's get it over with,” he said, running a finger around my neckline. “Let's fulfill your fantasy."
“This is just so typical of you.” I jerked his hand away. "You are one obnoxious excuse of a man. I thought you were joking but no! You think women are disposable like candy. You were practically undressing me with your eyes!"
"Doll, I don't want to burst your bubble but there isn't much to undress." He said.
I yanked off his mask and was about to punch him straight in the face when the drapes parted and there stood Nivis. He looked more shocked than us as he looked from me to Demon.
I was looking around when I spotted a man leaning against a pillar in a corner. He wore black and the cool manner in which he just stood and stared at me completely gave him away in spite of his mask. I wondered how idiotic the Ducimus were to not notice him standing there in plain sight! I rolled my eyes and continued my search for a way out in the opposite direction.
And why hasn’t he left yet? I told him I wouldn’t go with him! Stubborn jerk!
If I wasn’t in such a foul mood I would’ve actually gone towards him but just then I needed to get away from everyone and anyone.
A nice young voice filled my ears, speaking French.
“What?” I blinked a few times to focus on some man’s hand on my arm. Where had he come from? I realized he was trying to help me up. Had I ran into him? Curse the Demon!
“Oh, I mean – are you okay?” The man, a Richesse soldier of course since they were the only men there, had the most amazing French accent ever possible!
“Yeah – yes!” I said gaining composure. “I’m fine.”
“Can I get you anything?”
“I just need to get some air.”
“Oui, la terrasse – I mean the terrace is that way – behind the curtains there.” He smiled and pointed in the direction where I’d seen Demon standing a few seconds ago. But he wasn’t there anymore. “Would you like me to accompany you?”
“Non, merci.” I smiled back at him and went in the direction he had pointed. And after being smiled at and stared at all the way there, I was able to get on deck without further drama.
“Bonsoir, me chere.”
I stifled a shriek before I recognized his voice. I turned to look at him and sighed – more with annoyance than relief.
"Why are you still here?” I frowned. “I thought I told you to leave.”
“And since when do I take orders from you?” He paused. “Oh wait,” he said adjusting his mask. “Do we know each other?”
I rolled my eyes and yanked his mask off. “Pardonnez-moi, Monsieur! But your eyes and voice give you away! What if somebody sees you?”
“Fichu!” He shrugged. “That means ‘damn’.”
“I know that! What I don't know is why are you wasting your time here? I’m not leaving. I’m staying here and helping the Ducimus with their plan.”
“Why?” He asked it calmly this time.
“I’ve told you why!” I felt vexed.
“Tell me again.”
I was exasperated! A storm of words bubbled up to my tongue but all I had the strength left to do was shake my head and look away. I wrapped my arms around myself and felt his stare melt my skin but I didn't look at him.
Stupid Demon! He could go to hell for all I cared. And it would really help if he stopped staring!
“She is right by the way,” he said.
“Who is?” Aoibheann? He decided to agree? I was suddenly all ears.
“That Nancy.” He smiled. “White really does make you look very angel –”
“Don’t!” I raised a finger. “Don’t ever say that word to me!”
“In that case the only alternate I have is what we call fesch in Akina.” He smirked.
“What does that mean?”
“Demon!” I felt a wave of a dozen seething sparks run up and down my entire body. “What the heck is a pornographic angel?”
“It’s a compliment!” He raised his hands.
“For a whore!” I snapped. “Which is perfect since that’s what you think of me!”
“Come on pumpkin, don’t be so moody with me.”
“I’m not moody!” My lid was off and lost altogether. “You know if you just, a tiny bit like me – no not like since that’s too huge a sensation for anyone with your idea of romanticism so if you have even a shadow of an iota of an emotion even in the vicinity of like – for me – could you please be civil with me just for tonight? Or is that really too much to ask?”
He smiled. “Okay,” he said and stepped closer. Then taking my hand, placed it on his shoulder and took me by the waist.
“Demon.” I glared at him. “This is exactly what I did not mean when I talked about you being civil to me just now!”
“Well, your appearance isn’t helping. And also!” He raised a finger to check my oncoming protest. “We dance.”
“I do not dance!” I frowned.
“You do on ice.”
“That’s not dancing. That’s skating. And that’s totally irrelevant and different. Are they playing tango? I don't know tango!”
“Then don't tango!” He chuckled. “Sway with me.”
“I don't sway!” To my dismay, I had begun to sound like a brat, even to me!
“Don’t fret now pumpkin, you already are.” He smoothly spun me around away from him then reeled me in. Then, he smiled.
I didn't object anymore. He continued to lead and I swayed with him as some very cheerful notes filled the air. There were drums and trumpets and it was a very soothing and peppy fusion of fast and mellow tango beats that did invite a nice dance. The terrace we were on must’ve been very close to where the orchestra played indoors as I could hear the music just as well as if I was on the dance floor.
Demon held me close. I looked up at him expecting to find either a mean or a sensual smile or expression but there was none of that there. Instead, there was a sincere look in his eyes and a playful smile on his lips. He spun me around, led me and dipped me and held me as the music flowed from inside the ballroom out to us. And I, for some uncanny reason, felt liberated. I wanted to spin round and round and round and never stop. As long as his strong arms held me I wouldn’t fall no matter how far I bent backward.
Somewhere in those moments, I found him.
I saw him as Aoibheann had shown him to me. I hugged that man – and the demon I loved. He would never know the tears I secretly hid in my eyes as I buried my face in his shoulder. He didn't push me away. He did not lock me in an amorous embrace or smell my hair or kiss me. He simply let me hear the soothing beats of his heart as we danced. He simply let me be.
And then, I gasped and stopped.
He stood there at the entrance to the terrace.
Wishing all my writer peers luck and strength be to you all :)