As I revise the outline for my third book and am preparing to draft it, I want to look back at the many years between my first inklings of The Lantern-Lit City and today.
When I first brainstormed ideas, maps, and world-building for the series, I was still in high school (this was 2009/2010). Some ideas managed to make it from these very first notes all the way to the end: character names, plot threads, general world elements. Most were scrapped after the first draft (written around 2012), while others made it to final edits before being discarded.
Today, I’m going to dive into my old notes and drafts to examine my favorite elements that had to be left behind, many of which I’d forgotten about over the years. It’s an exploration into a much more juvenile me, with all the edge and tropes that a teenager can produce.
Let’s start with characters. In early drafts, there were many more factions and characters that I tried to weave into the storyline. This, of course, led to a disjointed mess.
One of the characters that wasn’t scrapped, but had his part severely cut down, was Olfrick Kron. He’d always been plotting against Wullum, Gwen’s brother, but he used to be an entire Point-of-View character that schemed against Wullum and worked with Mavian. Once I realized that his part was redundant and bloated the whole book, I minimized him to “distant threat” and catalyst for Gwen’s storyline.
It may be surprising to hear, but Cara once had a brother: Jer’my. He was married to Tambrey and had twins named Eaton and Elvy. He was spurred to hunt down the man who murdered Tambrey at the start of the book, as well as reclaim his missing children. He didn’t add much to the main plot, so I gave his family to Sandu and cut him completely. If you’re wondering about how much Cara’s backstory changed, I’ll get to that in another post.
Finally, there were the Nightcats. These were later renamed Fauste’s Shiv and became a background organization for Jagger. In early drafts, though, they were a school and spy society working in the service of Earl Hawk. Many characters were directly involved with them: Jagger, Raven, Sandu, Renna, and Cara. Their purpose was to recruit Cara as a spy, send her on a mission with Sandu, and have Jagger figure out the mystery of yet more murders. However, they dragged down the action of the first third of the book, and I eventually remade them into a more sinister group that remained firmly in Jagger’s backstory.
Some cool world elements that I had to scrap include a race of goblins that turned out to be half-elf, half-dragon hybrids that lived underground (these were gone by Draft 2). There was also a beautiful, magical forest right outside Riverfen called the aratire. It was a sacred place for the Valadi and was involved with an abandoned plot thread for Sandu, Alex, and Cara. Many of its mystical elements were reworked into the Whispering Woods.
While it’s been fun to look back at Drafts 1 and 2, I’m so happy I had brutally honest beta readers who told me what was and wasn’t working. All the above ideas have some merit to them, but just weren’t right for the story I ended up telling. What surprised me the most, though, were all the changes that occurred with the main characters, especially Cara and Gwen. Stay tuned for posts devoted to these ladies and the other PoV characters, as well as updates for the third and final book of the trilogy, The Enduring Flame.
Bonus: here’s a drawing I made back in 2012 when writing the very first draft. What part do you think she would have played? (And please forgive the less-than-stellar artwork: I quickly discovered that my talents lay in the written word and not in visual arts.)