So, an interesting thing happened two nights ago, as I sat down and went to type up my “at least a page” of Serpent in a Cage. I was typing away, frowning a little to myself because things weren’t panning out as I thought they had. At first, I chalked it up to that distance one gets between drafts, when the details need a lot of attention and hemming so that they fit in with the rest of the piece better. As some of you know, this version of SiaC I’m working on is actually the third draft. I had the first draft that I finished sometime in 2007 (I think), and then I was rewriting it in an attempt to revisit it. Then I decided toward the end of that draft that things weren’t working right and I scrapped the entire thing and started putting the pieces of the plot together in a different way, one that worked much better, made more sense, and was generally more enjoyable and better crafted. The evolution of this book has been astounding, and I’m pretty sure there’s more evolving ahead, too.
I’ll be honest, though; I was troubled. Anyone who follows this blog has a good idea of how important SiaC is…it’s the opening act of an opus I’ve been crafting for over a decade. Yes, as I was transcribing the draft, things didn’t seem right. Here I had restructured the whole thing to avoid the wavering plot from collapsing, and yet I was getting those same feelings that made me stop with the second draft. What was happening? Did I need to reconsider and restructure the plot yet again, as the opening was struggling to reach the pitch that I thought I had accomplished in the rewrite?
And then a thought hit me: was this the rewrite?
Cue frantic flipping through the pages, hoping to find a part that I knew for certain was cut or completely changed. I find the evidence and realize that this whole time, more than 20,000 into transcribing it, I was working with the second draft the whole time.
And then another thought hit me: wait. Where’s the third draft???
Cue frantic scavenging through the library, which is currently still covered in strewn-about notebooks as though some literary hurricane swept through. My heart sank to the bottom of my toes as I realized I had located all of the little notebooks I used for that draft to discover that none of them contained the rewrite. It was gone. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Maybe it was elsewhere, but, right then, I had to bolster myself for the hard truth that Serpent in a Cage might have to find itself facing a fourth draft, and this one relatively from scratch as I wanted to follow the new plotline, not the old.
Maybe I knew things would work out well, or that I’d eventually find it, because I didn’t feel too stressed about it. Maybe it just hadn’t registered yet. But when I sat down at my computer and looked over and saw two other notebooks I had previous forgotten about because they weren’t in the library, my heart leaped. I reached for one, flipped it open, and let out a relieved sigh to discover those familiar words of the third draft staring back at me. The clouds broke and sunbeams burst down, despite it being night time by then, and the angels were a-singing. Hallelujah!
I only have to retype 20,000 words to be back where I was…
Considering the third draft is in tact and I don’t have to completely rewrite it, things turned out well, but it was definitely one of those moments that encapsulates, for me, what a weird profession this is. Has anyone else ever had this happen to them? Or other similar stories about missing drafts, working on the wrong thing for a certain amount of time, or just plain stupid things while writing?
I have to say, one happy side-effect of this whole adventure is that I”m even more excited to get to the actual transcribing now, with the scrapped second draft so fresh in my head! Wish me luck!
And don’t forget! There are three more days left for submitting your poems and stories to my autumn anthology! Will I receive enough to publish them? Time will tell! Get those submissions in!