Over morning coffee today, we discussed evolution. (I know, what wonderful things to talk about when the brain hasn’t yet kicked in to full gear. What kind of dorks are we?)
Anyway, like most things, it got me thinking. Everything evolves. And this includes novels and writing. As writers we are always trying to make our writing better. What we wrote 5 years ago isn’t the same as what we write today. The finished novel is nothing like the first draft, except perhaps the bare bones. To me, this transformation is beautiful to watch and brings me unspeakable joy.
Every novel starts with the idea, that single-celled life form as it were, and from there it grows into its own living, breathing complex being. Each stage can be track and documented and studied. We comb over every aspect of the work to find out what works and what doesn’t and we weed out the weak parts so stronger characteristics can thrive. The novel not only grows within itself, but we force it to adapt to the changing climate.
What would have worked in the market when we frist started the manuscript might not work once it’s finished. Take my work for example. When I started it over two years ago, I’d never heard of Twilight, my novel was about vampires living in secret in the modern world. Then I read Twilight and my heart broke. The stories were nothing a like, except for the vampires. Though mine didn’t eat animals. Yet I couldn’t go on with the original unless I jump on the band wagon. I didn’t want to ride the vampire craze that I knew would follow. So I adapted the work to the changing climate.
Now the same manuscript is wholly unique. It has nothing to do with vampires and you wouldn’t know that it started as such with how it reads now. The idea is the same, but it evolved. Survival of the fittest you could say. I could have turned a blind eye to the craze and kept it as is, but go the book store and count how many new books are out that deal with the vampire. I’d have a hard time trying to sell my book with so many other choices out there. So I created a new dark monster to stalk the pages. One with enough familiar markers that readers will be comfortable with it worming its way into their hearts yet still stand out from the crowd in new horrid ways.
With each draft I wrote, the work grew stronger. As it should with any work. From the first draft to the second the back bone devolved, changing it from a shapeless goo to a free-standing being. From the second draft to the third unnecessary appendages receded into backbone and stronger adaptations sprang to the forefront. And from the third draft to the final it went from primitive animal to a tool using intelligent creature. In just a few weeks it will be ready to fight for its place in the world all because it evolved.