Monday, November 12, 2012

On Revision: Aaron and Amber's First Conversation

So how did our star crossed lovers Aaron Harper and Amber Lilian meet in Entanglement? The answer is nine different ways--depending on which draft you read. Believe me, there were plenty of embarrassing attempts at flirting before our stars got cool (many of them so pathetic they simply couldn't be reproduced here).

Below is the evolution of the opening 100 words of Aaron and Amber's first contact through nine rough drafts.

Draft 1 – At a party

“Hey there pirate.” A girl was standing next to him.

Aaron set his drink down and turned to see Amber, who was pouring cherry juice into a cup. She was looking at the puffy frills around his neck and wrists with a teasing smile. “Nice shirt.”

Aaron’s heart gave an extra loud thump, like it was trying to jump out of his throat. He picked up his drink again, and didn’t know what to do with it, so he raised it in her direction like some kind of toast. “Hey,” he said, tossing his head back and taking another sip of his wine.

Draft 5 -  At a party after a fight (Aaron had given Amber a fake name)

“Robert?!” Amber had been walking behind Aaron, and she stopped. “Hey, where did you go?” She looked curious.

“Um—” Aaron’s phone vibrated in his pocket, and he pulled it out. Buff was calling him. He silenced the call.

“People are talking about you,” Amber said. “Jason thinks you go to Laguna Blanca, but he doesn’t know you.” She looked at him quizzically. “But Tina said you go to Santa Barbara and that you snuck in.”

So Aaron had been ratted out.

“Then it’s probably a bad idea to be seen with me, right?” Aaron glanced frantically behind him. He couldn’t get rid of the feeling that everyone was looking at him now.

Draft 7 – At a party, Aaron waking up after getting knocked out

Aaron started climbing to his feet, the tips of his fingers itching for Clive’s throat, but he felt a hand on his knee.

“He isn’t worth it—trust me,” said the girl, and she held out a big glass of water. “Are you thirsty?”

Aaron looked closely at her for the first time, and her bright green eyes caught him by surprise, as if they were lit from behind. He shook his head, and she set the cup down.

“By the way, I’m Amber Lilian,” she said, as if that settled things. Aaron noticed her nostalgic smell, like she had just been to the beach. Sunscreen mixed with Vanilla.

Draft  9 – At a bonfire after a volleyball game

Amber Lilian was way more than just pretty, he realized, when she finally glanced up at the sound of his approach, the gleaming whites of her eyes warning him not to take another step. Caught in the girl’s predatory stare, Aaron felt his pulse quicken as he covered the last few feet.

“I need to talk to you about your boyfriend,” he said, sitting next to her.

She eyed the narrow gap he’d left between them and, without a word, edged away from him.

He tried again. “You know, that guy in the hoodie—”

“Why are you even here?” she said, interrupting him. “You guys lost.”

Writing is revision

The truth is I couldn't have written the final draft unless I had gone through each of the earlier drafts. There are no shortcuts. For the writers here: revise lots. Small improvements multiply over time. You'll get to the good stuff, but you have to wade through the garbage first.

Living is revision

And this is for everyone else: revise lots. Small improvements multiply over time. Cut out a bad habit. Start a good one. Go right now and set your alarm for fifteen minutes earlier. Spend the extra fifteen minutes reading, jogging, or doing a hobby you've neglected.

The difference between a flop and a bestseller might be one more round of revision. Don't let the difference between your life and the one you want be one more round of revision.

Thanks for reading!
Dan Rix, author of Entanglement

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