The Evolution of a Story

As I think I mentioned, I gave the most recent draft (version 7 draft 9, to be specific) of my first novel to my husband. His task: to review it during November so that once December hit, I could look through his feedback and see how successful my last round of editing had been.

For the past couple of years, I have known that it has been on the right track… finally. I was actually proud of the story it had matured into, and I was most focused with doing all the perfecting to it that I possibly could. Nothing would embarrass me more than to learn that there was a gaping plot hole I had somehow missed.

To my surprise, he returned it with only three comments: two that the glaring rough spots I had been working with were finally polished and the other noted a relatively minor tweak that I fixed within twenty minutes.

So, I suppose that means that, after about fifteen years and God-only-knows how many drafts and complete revisions, I’m done.

Or, at least, this story contains the best of what my current skills can produce. And I don’t think that I will be too embarrassed about it fifteen years from now (I hope). Which means it’s time to harass some friends and family members who are avid readers and seek their opinions.

When I was thinking about the possibility that I really might be done this time, I started thinking about how the story has changed throughout my life. And I figured you might find it amusing to see where my juvenile mind started, where I was in high school (when I thought that I was done the first time… I even tried to find a publisher!), and where it has all ended up.

The Setting

  • In the 1990’s: Space
    The story was born after watching Star Wars for the very first time, so it’s theme: space and a rebellion, of course!
  • In the 2000’s: A medieval land
    Everything changed after I read The Lord of the Rings and saw the depths of the world that Tolkien created.
  • Now: Still a medieval land
    A better developed one than when I was finishing high school, void of the fairy tale creatures that no longer seem to fit. : )

The Protagonist

  • In the 1990’s: The prince
  • In the 2000’s: The prince (with a new name)
  • Now: Still the prince (but with worse attitude problems)

The Antagonist

  • In the 1990’s: Ever heard of Darth Vader? Because he used to be the antagonist’s twin. (Not literally.)
  • In the 2000’s: Your stereotypical evil king, including the black cape and evil laugh.
  • Now: You might get a bad feeling about him, but he’s actually rather kind and truly thinks he is doing the right thing.

Biggest Changes Since the Beginning

  • It slowly morphed from third person to a first person narrator/false protagonist.
  • It’s not in space.
  • The whole plot is completely different. If you read the original version, you would never guess that the current one is based on it.

Things Thing That Stayed the Same

  • Rosen
    The character has changed from being the prince’s younger sister to just a daughter of a lord, but that name has been in every draft since the beginning. For a while, I kept it because I honestly thought that I had made it up and really liked it. Now, I keep it just because it’s been in the story for so long and it’s an inside joke for anyone who knows that I thought I had created the name.

What is the longest that you have been working on one story? What sort of changes has it gone through between when you started it and now?

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10 responses to “The Evolution of a Story

  • taureanw

    Sounds interesting! Good luck wrapping everything up.

    I have a story that I started when I was a freshman in college (2001). I finished it a couple years ago but I have plans on turning it into a series, IF I get the chance :-)

  • Colleen

    Congrats on attaining the next level!

    I have never stuck with anything with that kind of persistence! Keep going, girl! :o)

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  • Lissa Clouser

    I love seeing the evolution of your story, and may it go out into the world strong and triumphant! A story is never done, it just reaches a point where you are proud enough to release it to others and point and say “That’s mine. I did that.”

    • Bryna

      Thanks! That’s so true. I do think I’ve finally reached the point at which I’m proud enough to claim it without blushing and shying away from the topic. Guess we’ll see… :)

  • Anthony Lee Collins

    It is funny how long it can take to get it right. My first novel took fifteen years, and then I did a word count and it was only 45,000 words, not even technically a novel. Well, I still call it a novel, because it took me fifteen years to write. :-)

    • Bryna

      We’re in the same boat: fifteen years and just barely in novel territory. (With the narrative style I chose, I wouldn’t have made it past 50,000 words without some of the unexpected plot changes that have popped up in the last year and a half.) I think if you’ve worked that long and are sitting at 45,000 words, it deserves to be called a novel. It’s close enough in my book. :)

  • C.B. Wentworth

    I just recently pulled out my first novel notebook and paged through all my notes. I am literally in shock over how much the story/characters changed over the last three years. The base storyline is the same, but all the nuts and bolts have changed multiple times.

    I’m in the midst of fixing one glaring problem the all four of my beta readers noticed. It’ll be a busy Winter Break. :-)

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