Evolution of The Novel, Prt 1


In keeping with the  “How to Write a (Fantasy) Book” premise that some of us, some of the time, are blogging on, this year, on MagicalWords.Net, I thought I’d revisit the First Page. I’ve blogged about this before, but not like this… (Yeah, I have a *new idea.* Scary, huh.)

As some of you know, I mentor writers. I used to have the energy to mentor 5 at a time, but I’m getting older, if not wiser, and am down to 3.) I have one writer’s permission to tell her story and share where she is with her work.

I met…we’ll call her *Tiffany* or *Tiff*…on my !Yahoo group, long before I came out of the closet—the *Faith is also Gwen* closet. My reason for coming out? There were 5 or 6 writers in the group who might want to attend a writers con where Gwen was teaching. I took the plunge. It has been well worth it!

I met some wonderful people at that con, including David B Coe, which led to the creation of this blog, but that is another story. Back to Tiffany. Tiff was this charming woman who wanted to write, but hadn’t found her voice. Her work wasn’t bad, but there was no spark, no life to it. The agents and editors she talked with at the con were universally lukewarm to her style, her work, her project. I was concerned that she might be crushed, but instead, she went home thoughtful and energized.


Some months later she sent me this … this new set of pages. And she had begun to find her voice! OMGosh, it was so much better!  Not necessarily the work, which was raw and rough, but the concept she had come up with, and that lovely, fulsome voice. I suggested that she write the book and get back to me.

Some 2 or 3 years have passed. She has written an entire book, rewritten it couple of times, and then rewritten it again. This time, she is nearly done, and … well, there was still something not quite right about it. I took another look at the first 30 pages of the work and slept on it and reread it, and then it hit me. Since she started this novel, she had changed direction, grown, and expanded. Now she was writing two different books. One was light and frothy and girly. One was dark and violent and edgy. Guess which one I liked? More importantly, guess which one *she* liked.

As she wrote, her character and the story had evolved in her mind and on paper, evolved and grown and diverged from the original thoughts and concept. She had been holding back, not letting the character and the story free, but reining them in to fit the original concept. My only advice – tell the story you *want* to tell. She is. And it is wonderful. The evolution is dramatic and insightful and intense. So, with her permission, I will share three versions of her first page.

This week we are showing her original first page, with my comments at the bottom. Next week will be a recent revision with my comments. Then, week three, we’ll share the *new* first page. This will let you follow the changes and see what made Tiff’s work sparkle like the diamond it has become.

Original Chapter One

The diamond necklace glittered in the flickering light from the fireplace, the warmth in the room failing to thaw the coldness in my heart.

             “My Lady, do you wish to reply to My Lord’s request?” Jameson, the butler, stood inside the doorway, unease in his countenance.

Under other circumstances, this necklace would elicit gasps of delight and lead to a pleasant time in the marriage bed; security and affection translated into reality by my husband, Lord Richmond,  in the bed beside me. But the gesture, like so many from my husband now, reeked of expectation -devoid of the warmth, the caring, the tenderness so characteristic of our  early marriage. 

He didn’t even give me the gift himself. We were so estranged, separated like opposite poles, that a servant handed me the wrapped box on Christmas Eve. I held the sparkling gems in my hand, allowed the cool stones to cascade through my fingers, and wept. Wept for all the disillusions of a society wife thinking she married for love, that her marriage would be different from all the rest. Wept when I realized I was wrong, that I misjudged the character of the man I married.

Despair coursed through my body, limbs trembling to act on my distress, not cower in the corner like so many frightened wives.  I threw the necklace into the fire, the smack of the stones on the hearth more satisfying than the gasp from the maid and Jameson’s shocked face.  I straightened my spine, turning from the hearth.

This reads like a Regency romance from the first word to the last. It reads like a love story where the two principle characters are in love, are driven apart, and then make it back together at the end after facing some obstacle.

After I read (multiple times) this section, Tiff and I talked, and I shared with her my thoughts. The opening above is technically okay, with two caveats: 1) Had this indeed been a Regency novel, and 2) Had it been written by a well established author with a large following.

But for a new writer trying to catch the eye of an agent? It has no sparkle, no conflict, no bait and hook. And, worse, it is a total lie. Romance is *not* what Tiff was writing, *not* what her heart was calling out for. It was also *not* what the next 30 pages had begun to hint at.

Tiff didn’t want to write a Regency Romance. She wanted write an edgy, violent story about witches set in Regency London and the islands of the Americas.

Next week, see what happened when Tiff’s writer’s soul was set free.



12 comments to Evolution of The Novel, Prt 1

  • This is fascinating. I look forward to reading the next draft of the page.

  • Great, Faith. And timely. I am trying to write (rewrite) the opening of my first Thief Taker book. I’ve been staring at a blank page for two days now. Well, staring at it and then retreating into more research, and then coming back to stare at it again, and then checking my email, or this website, or doing anything at all other than write, and then coming back and staring some more. I’m hoping to have something written before your next post in this series goes up, but in the meantime, thanks for giving me something to think about.

  • Intriguing, Faith. Am looking forward to seeing the revision. Can you link between the different versions so we can look at them next to each other?


  • FHH — the next version was amazingly different and the third one — I want to read that book. Like NOW!

    David I have had an awful 7 days of trying figure out how to totally rewrite Mercy Blade. I finally sat down and did a series of bubble (grape, whatever) outlines of
    1) main plot
    2) subplots and where they are dependant on the main plot
    3) backstory
    4) character relationships.
    I had papers everywhere, all with text in circles and arrows everywhere and…
    And it hit me that I had the empasis on the wrong minor character, with an opening that was too…light. The rewrite is going to be a massive undertaking. And soooo much fun!

    AJ — Um…I’ll try… Not sure how to do that here… Maybe my computer skills are good enough to set it up on one of my own webpages and link to it. OR maybe Todd can show me how to set up colums…? Hmmm. Intriguing concept.

  • Mia Scozzi

    This does sound exactly like a Regency romance ><. The psych part of me would be interested, but you described an edgier more violent story, and I want to see what Tiffany has come up with. Next week should be interesting to see.

    A thought, if ya'll ever run out of topics to cover, or just need a random one away from the series that ya'll are doing, could you cover your ideas on plot? How to track it, as you've all described at different times? Seeing it from the view of writers, rather than readers, or English teachers, would be interesting. (No insult to any of the English teachers 🙂 )

  • At this point it definitely is lacking a distinctive voice to it. I look forward to seeing the next draft.

  • It gets better and better, Y’all…

  • Deb Smythe

    Yep, it definitely reads as Regency Romance here. It’ll be fun to see it transform. Mmmwa ha ha.

  • This is very timely for me. I think has been an issue in my own story and I am eager to see how to improve my own voice/book. Thank you for posting on this! *smile*

  • Cool evil laugh, Deb!

    Mark, finding that first true voice is a wonder. For Tiff, that voice was Regency Romance. But as she wrote, she found it was getting darker, more intense, and it turned into something much more marketable. That part is from good, long hours BIC…

  • Faith,

    Thanks for sharing this! 😀 I look forward to reading the changes. 😀