I’ve been editing and rewriting my first novel that sparked promise in me. The early few novellas I wrote at the end of fifth grade and into sixth are important in the sense of a toddler’s first fingerpainting. I proved to myself that I could make something.
The idea behind the novel I’ve been working on for the last couple years was created in seventh grade. I didn’t want to go back and reread that version of it, so I rewrote it as the 23, 24, and 25-year-old me would like it to be. When I thought about it later, I realized I managed to keep the foundation of events I forgot were even in the original book.
Our minds are amazing. Even without trying, they can recollect once forgotten tombs. I’ve enjoyed making this novel into something soulful (it is, after all, about soulmates). After writing dozens of novels, I’ve never been able to go back and rewrite one. Maybe it was pride. We like to think we’ve created a masterpiece, and we often do create masterpieces. But now I have the tools to create a better one.
The fingerpainting I thought was a masterpiece eventually only brought me shame. But the story was there, and I couldn’t let it go. I never forgot my characters of dark and light. I loved them too dearly. I loved the story of gods forced to acknowledge they can’t go on as their forefathers.
When George Floyd died and BLM picked up momentum again, I picked up this book with new purpose. Before rewriting this one, I had been working on a Civil War novel, which helped me lay the groundwork for this rewrite. In a world that seems so divided by light and dark, I wanted to create something meaningful for all. Fantasy is a lovely escape from reality, but I didn’t want to fall out of touch with the reality so many of us live with. I also don’t want to get fully entrenched in it like I was with that Civil War novel.
With my first attempts at this saga (which I’m not entirely sure I’ll keep it four books), I struggled to write in Felicity’s perspective. Felicity is my protagonist (her name used to be Jenna), and she is a dark goddess. Her skin has always been like the night sky, and her hair is ombre black to sapphire. Back then, I knew she had to look that way, but I struggled with how to represent her.
It’s comical to go back and skim the old work. It’s as if an ignorant white boy wrote the novel. If that doesn’t tell you anything about how I conformed to American society before I knew how to decide for myself, then I don’t know what will. In the prototype saga, I had them drink blood like vampires because Twilight convinced me I could write a book (those toddler fingerpaintings were about werewolves). I’ve deleted blood drinking in the rewritten rendition (for the most part). Somewhere in that original saga, I had Felicity drink enough of her soulmate’s blood that she is no longer dark. I hate that I even wrote that.
I hate many things about the old work, especially the weakness Felicity had and the fact that she had to change to be accepted. At the time, I was obsessed with reading a spin-off sequel series based off Pride and Prejudice. Felicity was a fragile Victorian flower, and I loathe that version of her entirely. Now, I’ve developed this persona she pretends to be to navigate the patriarchal society around her. See, I told you there was a touch of reality, even if it is about a goddess who controls darkness and ice.
The meatiness of this book comes from the racial disparities between her and her soulmate. Kellan is a light god (I kept his name from the original, but I don’t know why I can’t let “Kellan” go). I didn’t have the capacity at thirteen to even try tackling the racial conundrum between them. I wanted to pretend society would go along with their love, but that’s far too fantastical. The first interracial couples were lynched, and some people still grimace at interracial couples today (an internalized lynching). So I didn’t want to get out of touch with reality by letting them have an easy go of it. It’s been the hardest lesson to accept I must make my characters experience pain.
While rewriting this series, I’ve created pride out of a shameful ghost. Together, the prototype and the rewritten, represent my metamorphosis as a writer and a human. It’s gloriously satisfying to have this documented.
I’m lucky to have the privilege to have been writing for so long to even have this evidence (I can’t wait to see what I think about all of this in a decade: “Garbage, Emily, it’s all garbage!”). But for now, I’m exceedingly proud of my rewritten masterpiece I’ve managed to create with the tools I have now. I hope to be proud enough of it to capture an agent and send it off to a publisher, but I’m still editing. Every day I live a dream. I’ll begrudgingly admit even the days I get too distracted finessing poems and creating babbling blogs I’m living a dream.
My newest poem was forged from the twigs of kindling I’ve collected from this rewrite phase. (Is it still a phase when it carries on over years?) The poem is centered around the human dilemma of dark and light. We’ve formed an unhealthy stigma around darkness, and I try to uproot that in my poem and my rewritten work. This is also a poem I imagine Felicity reading to Kellan beneath the stars on a moonless night.