good morning, cyberspace!
Okay, friends, I have a solid question: how on earth are we already in the final stretch of August? I feel like August started just yesterday, and then suddenly I blink and… POOF. We’re already so close to September? Somehow I feel like this shouldn’t be so. (someone grab the TVA because I sense a break in the sacred timeline over here…)
Ahem. Anyway. As promised, I still have so much that I want to talk about during my Blogiversary month, and I figured that with just one more Tuesday left in August, now was as good a time as any to get those posts drafted up and sent out into the blogosphere.
Today’s post, in particular, is one that is very near and dear my heart, because it deals with the book which essentially started this very blog that you’re reading right now. The funny thing, though, is that on this very date five years ago, I didn’t even know this book existed.
THE BOOK WHICH STARTED THE BLOG
everlost. If you were around this blog for any stretch of time for the first three or so years of its existence, you’ll know this name. (that, or if you’ve ever read the Neal Shusterman novel. but we don’t talk about that around here. XD) This, for the longest time, was the book of my heart. My magnum opus, if you will. Had you asked Past Kenzie what book would be her debut novel, she would have pointed at that particular
pile of steaming trash novel and said with all the confidence of her 17-year-old self, “this.”
When I started blogging back in August of 2016, I was in the strange “between” stages of drafting. I had just scrapped a Dystopian story I’d been working on for multiple months (it was titled RESET, and it was… very Dystopian. XD) and was looking for something new, exciting, and different to pour my creative attention into. November was quickly approaching, and I knew that, despite it being almost two months away, I needed to get my story pegged down soon.
And thus the brainstorming began.
I can’t pinpoint when exactly the idea for everlost fell into my head. I remember having a notebook with all my ideas scribbled out on the pages, I remember debating whether or not it was time to write my pirate story (that one still hasn’t happened yet), I remember writing down a list of pros and cons while sitting in the exact same chair that I was in when I hit “create” on Smudged Thoughts. And then amid the fog and haze of memories not quite solid, there’s the image of a little red-headed girl sitting on the edge of a mattress, her bare feet dangling towards a cement floor.
And thus Adaline–and essentially the entire vibe of everlost–was born.
Despite the fact that this book was the main heart for all of my writing-inspired posts for the first few years, I feel as though I haven’t exactly given much information about it. Which, I will admit, was done on purpose. I have a very difficult time oversharing when it comes to my writing–not only because doing so terrifies me on a level unheard of, but also because once my ideas and excitements are outside of my head, I no longer have the desire to write them. It is most definitely a curse bestowed upon me on my first birthday by a grizzled old hag, and I’m still looking for a cure.
However, as this is Smudged Thoughts’ 5th blogiversary and I’ve since realized some things about everlost that I have not yet mentioned here on the internet, I’ve decided to revisit this story and talk a little bit more about the behind-the-scenes, and also why I haven’t been talking about this book as much lately…
So go ahead and grab a cozy blanket, some cookies, and a glass of milk, because today we’re taking a stroll down memory lane and revisiting the world of
We’ll start where all stories start for me: the characters. It doesn’t matter how delicious the plot or premise is, if there are no characters for me to fall in love with and root for, I won’t want to write the book. Characters are at the root of all the stories I write. They are the meat and potatoes of storytelling, and without them, a story can hardly lift itself off the ground. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but my general rule of thumb is that characters are more important–to an extent–than the plot.
everlosts’s cast, in particular, remains to this day one of my favorite casts I’ve ever written. I don’t know if this is because the characters are any good (tbh, I think some of them are a bit cliche now that I’ve put some distance between us), but it definitely felt different from any other cast I’d written before. Adaline was the first POV character I’d ever written that felt as though she actually had depth. Thao and Peter showed me what a proper enemies-to-friends looked like, while still keeping a level of animosity for humor’s sake. Peter, Bella, Adaline, and Thao were my first ever Found-Family, and it was all completely by accident. All I had when starting was a vague idea of these four random characters who would somehow collide within the boundaries of a hospital, and suddenly I was looking at a quad of friends who’d never meant to actually like one another. It was comical and different and freeing, and I’ve known ever since then that Found Family is a trope that I will stand behind until my dying day.
I also had a plethora of side characters to learn from, but many of the characters I wrote for everlost didn’t actually make it into the fourth draft–such is life when editing a 200k+ novel, I suppose. XD But one character in particular–Liam Fitz–decided to jump both genres and lightyears to crash land into one of my more recent novels, Project Sunset. In everlost, he was a perky Scottish man who randomly appeared one fine day to help Thao out when he was most terribly lost. He got cut in draft 2 or 3 before randomly reincarnating into a plucky main character for Project Sunset. About 40 years older and still Scottish, Liam Fitz lives on as one of my favorite characters ever written–and it was all due to a boring plotline that I had no clue how to finish off.
everlost honestly taught me so much about character and characterization, stereotypes, flipping cliches on their heads, and crafting characters that I actually enjoyed writing. Before this book, my characters were flat caricatures of what I thought YA heroes should be. After everlost, I realized there’s a whole lot more to character creation than a name, a vibe, and whether or not they are on the side of “good” or “evil”. There’s a whole section between those sides where the black and white turns gray, and it is there where I like to place my protagonists now. It makes them realer, somehow.
It makes them human.
If I’m being 100% honest, here, everlost really didn’t have much of a plot.
No. Don’t look at me like that. It legit did not have much of a plot, guys. There was the potential for plot, of course. I’m a firm believer that any story has plot potential. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about storytelling over the past decade, it’s that some books are meant to be nothing more than experimental rights of passage. everlost was an experimental book for me. At the time, it felt as though I was writing the next great American novel. But in all actuality? I was learning. I was growing. I was finding my own personal voice and unique method of storytelling. And throughout all of that learning, I was writing a plotless story with some very loveable characters.
There may come a day when I revisit this book and completely revamp the plot of it, but for today, I’m content with it being the plotless lump of learning opportunity that it is.
Which brings us to…
Despite being my most referenced story here on Smudged Thoughts, everlost is probably the most secretive of any of my novels. There was so much that I was paranoid of sharing, but now that I’m a little older and wiser, I think I’m ready to divulge some of the nittier, grittier details that I never got up the courage to share in the past. The first of which is quite possibly my favorite…
everlost is actually a fairytale retelling.
Or, more specifically, a fairytale mash-up retelling. This isn’t widely known outside of my little social circle, so it’s a wee bit nerve wracking to actually admit this, BUT. I’m excited for you guys to finally know!
everlost first started off as a retelling of Rapunzel. Adaline was a rather unwilling resident of a mental asylum, which was an albeit odd symbolism to Rapunzel being trapped in her tower. I soon realized, however, that there was so much more that could be done with fairytales, and I decided to add in a second retelling: Peter Pan. This introduced Peter into the plotline, as well as “Bella”, who–if you remember–was a pseudonym. “Bella”‘s real name is actually Tink. (yep. She’s Tinker Bell.) And can we just appreciate for a moment the amount of sheer WILLPOWER it took for me to keep her name a secret all these years? Like seriously. I should get an award for this, y’all. XD
After I added in Peter Pan, though, I had this insatiable thirst for fairytale retellings, and I knew I couldn’t stop there. It was around this time that I stumbled across a rather underappreciated fairytale known as Snow White and Rose Red. As soon as I read that fairytale, Things just clicked. I knew Adaline had a sister. I knew that sister’s name was Rose. and I knew that I needed to add a bear into the plotline.
…and then along came Thao.
I already knew that Thao was going to be a character in this novel. He’d popped into my head long before this realization, but I was still trying to figure out how he fit. I thought he might be a doctor of some sort, and he most likely would run into Adaline and aid her on her adventures. But as far as where he belonged? Yeah, that didn’t come until I needed a bear. And Adaline running into him with a bloody arm stump clutched in her fists (yes, this actually happened) and hallucinating him into a bear just seemed… oddly fitting. The rest of their relationship fell perfectly into place after that, and it’s one that I still cherish to this day.
It’s crazy to me to go through and remember how each of these elements came into play. It’s like rewatching your favorite movie, or smelling something that reminds you of your childhood. I often forget how much I loved the writing process behind this book…
But, as with all good things, they do eventually have to come to an end. Which brings us to our final bullet point.
The more I think about this book, the more I realize how very lucky I am to have been its author. The characters, the terrible plot, the story world… All of that is, in a way, mine, and I spent the better part of 3 years on it. It would be easy to look back on those years and consider them as “wasted” in light of the fact that everlost hasn’t gone anywhere, but honestly…? I’m just so incredibly thankful.
I don’t foresee this book getting published anytime soon. I actually don’t know as if this book will ever be published. But going through the process of writing, revising, and editing it, I now know so much more about not just the writing process, but the revision process, as well. I know that a first draft isn’t anywhere near what the third or fourth or even fifth draft will be. I know that it’s okay to cut characters that no longer serve any relevance. I have levelled up as a writer, and it is all because of this little experiment of a book sitting in my hard drive.
So the future of everlost is unsteady at the moment. There’s a chance I could go back and rewrite it from the ground up some years down the line, but as of tonight, I don’t think it’s necessary. everlost taught me many things, but one of its greatest lessons was that some stories are meant to be written, but never shared. At least not in the way that most novels are shared. Through this blog, I was able to share so much more of everlost than I ever thought possible. I shared my dreams for it. I shared my writing process. I shared the journey of writing something that I was proud of. And that means an eternity more than any finished, published book ever will.
So for those of you who were here for the days of everlost, I want to thank you. Your encouragement and excitement pushed me to finish that novel–the first novel I wrote towards publication. And finishing everlost was the key I needed to finally know that I CAN do this. I can write books. Many books. And maybe they’re not perfect. And maybe they’re not even good. But they’re mine, and as long as I love them, I will keep writing.
talk to me, peasants!
have you ever written a book that has taught you to be a better author? do you write fairytale retellings, or do you trailblaze down the unmarked path? what novel (or novels) have helped you grow into the person that you are today? did you write them, or were they written by an author you love?
As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below! And until next time…
* flings cookies in the air and disappears *