It all might have been so different.
Writing a novel is a strange process. It’s a sort of self-induced hypnotism- getting your mind into a daydream state where you can tap into all those ideas and images we all have already stored up somewhere in there. I usually start at the beginning of the story and work through it, but events can change radically as I go along, so I often have to go back and revamp earlier sections. The worst dilemmas occur at places in the story where several equally interesting but different things might happen. Only one can be chosen, and so the other options are ghosts of stories. Echoes and shadows. As I go on they fade away, and the book becomes slowly more solid. The whole process of writing and rewriting and editing takes about a year. By the end, I’ve forgotten all the doubts and vagueness of the beginning, and most of the indecisions and worry. Like the reader, I tend to think this is how it was always going to happen.
So it’s fascinating to be reminded how far changes can go. The other day I came across one of my notebooks (I have lots!) with early notes on what would eventually become Incarceron. I had thought the Prison’s name was there from the start, but no, here was a list of scribbled titles. /Captivia? Incarcerax?/ Lots of irritated variations on/ jail/, and /wing/, and /chain/.
Then, who was the prisoner? My notes suggest things. /Girl inside/ boy outside?/ I do remember that was my first idea, that the one trying to escape would be a girl, and the one Outside, the privileged one, would be the boy. Obviously it didn’t work, because a few pages later there’s a sentence in large underlined letters. SHE IS THE WARDENS DAUGHTER!! That was a big decision, and totally changed the shape of the book.
Finn was sometimes called Giles. Claudia was always called Claudia. Her tutor, Jared, also always had that name, but he was meant to be a very minor character. That soon changed. And the Warden, Claudia’s father, became, as soon as he stepped out of his carriage, far more interesting and challenging than I had expected.
I suppose my point is that stories are not fixed until the last word is written. They are not inexorable. There might have been, very easily, a novel called Incarcerax about an imprisoned girl which would have turned out wholly differently.
Maybe better, maybe worse.
Maybe somewhere, in some other dimension, you are reading it.
*Brenna here—Thanks for the wonderful post, Catherine! I relate to this so much. I have countless notebooks full of directions that stories never went in—but could have!
Once again, I have two finished copies of Sapphique to give away. All you have to do is comment (make sure to include an email address if you don’t have an lj account) and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Sapphique. You’ll also have a chance on Friday, when I post my interview with Catherine, so stop by and comment on Friday too, if you want to increase your odds!
*adds Incarceron to wishlist. It sounds great!
I won an ARC of Incarceron back in February. I loved it! And I really mean it, the story was so captivating and the cover is gorgeous. The cover for Sapphique is even more gorgeous than Incarceron ;)
Hafsah @ http://www.iceybooks.com
I absolutely loved Incarceron! I can’t wait to read Sapphique! I had withdrawl for weeks after finishing Incarceron.
Wow, what a fascinating guest post. Thank you!
I think it’s fun to go back and see some of the earlier versions of stories. I, too, am a keeper of notes (LOL). And it’s always crazy to see where things “might’ve” gone.
I believe I saw online that Incarceron would be made into a movie! How exciting is that? Look forward to book 2 (grins).
rebekahg22 (at) yahho.com
This is just what I needed to read right now. I’m going through a stage in writing where I’m flummoxed by the possibilities. But I just need to get it down, then I can come back and fix whatever needs to be fixed later. Thanks for the post!
I’m really looking forward to reading both of these books, too!
zandila at gmail dot com
I can relate to this post a lot. I wonder all the time about my own WIP, how in the world did I ever think Character A should go through Ordeal 1, when Ordeal 3 is so much more interesting and relevant to plot and theme? And what would have happened if Character B didn’t exist? Character C wouldn’t be the same person he is now. In fact, without the decision to create Character B, not only would Character C’s arc no longer exist, the whole theme I’ve been trying to cultivate would never have emerged.
Also, Sapphique. Want. I cannot describe in words how much I want Dec 28 to come sooner.
Awesome! I like Incarceron best out of all of the names.
This is me commenting and therefore entering in the contest.
It’s always so interesting to me to get the “behind-the-scenes”
scoop on books I’ve read and how they came to be the book I read!
Great stuff! I loved Incarceron -can’t wait for Sapphique
Cool!! Incarceron!! I actually picked this up because I love YA and I work for the MN Dept of Corrections :)
I’m borrowing Incarceron from a friend soon. It sounds wonderful, so I’m a 100% sure I am gonna love it ! Phenomenal post :D Please enter me in the giveaways!
That was a great peak into the writing process. I think it is fun to look at my notebook and early drafts and see how the story has changed and stayed the same.
Great guest post–and so spot-on! My book ideas never, ever resemble what I first imagined them being in the early stages of writing. Heck, they hardly ever match what I imagine them being in the LATE stages of writing, haha. Such a crazy process…but a fun one, too. :P
That was a wonderful post.
I liked learning about Catherine’s writing process.
I loved Incarceron so much! It was really neat to be able to see some of your early notes for it. Thanks so much for the giveaway! :)
stephanie n pellegrin at gmail dot com
Thanks for the giveaway. It has been added to my goodreads to-read list, sounds great.
Fantastic! *is excited*
brenna.braaten at gmail dot com
I loved Incarceron
I cannot wait for Sapphique. I’ve already pre-ordered it. I absolutely oved Incarceron. Thanks again!
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com
Thank you for the contest!!
Catherine Fisher is great. I’ve been reading her since I was a wee thing.
these books have been on my to read list for awhile now, hopefully i’ll get to them soon :)
Thanks so much!
I’m reading Incarceron and it’s so great! I can’t wait to read
And I think Incarceron is the best name choice for the Prison.
Thanks for the chance.
eli_green22 at yahoo dot com dot br
I loved Incarceron and can’t wait to read Sapphique. Looking forward to seeing what happens. :)
Now that sounds like a book I’m going to love! Congratulations! You’re the Clint Eastwood of breaking news. This is the second time in a week I’ve felt like crying for happy news. Way back when I first stumbled onto the fates blog I knew you all were destined to be best sellers. It’s cliche, but meaningful, I love you guys.
I love Regina Spektor! I was having dinner with my sister, father, stepmother, and stepbrother, and my stepmom and dad were making fun of my stepbrother, Connor, because he liked one of her new songs. I immediately rose to his deffense because I also love Regina Spektor (they didn’t know that because they don’t see me very often) and said, “There’s nothing wrong with Regina Spektor.”
But I guess the teasing had done its damage because Connor just slouched in his chair and said, “I’m not a big fan of music.” Sorry that was probably too much information. That just seems to be the little anecdote I tell when I’m talking about Regina Spektor.
Congratulations on The Space Between coming out in three months. That’s extremely exciting! And there’s nothing wrong with a dysfunctional main character. It adds depth to the story, I think, and I also love things that are tragic and whimsical at the same time. Some of my favorite stories that I read/write are like that. Even my favorite music and movies are like that.