I had nice little bit of nostalgia last night as I was re-working a scene on the current novel-in-progress. This was the climactic scene of the “first act” of the young-adult, urban-fantasy, secret-history novel I’ve been revamping for the past few weeks. I realized that this was the first piece of writing I’d ever started and completed. And I started it fifteen years ago!
Give or take a year.
I remember writing my first scene (which is now the opening to chapter three, go figure) with my 7th grade English class in Bancroft, Nebraska. We were working on descriptive writing, and I had them describe a character from their stories-in-progress. And I wrote about Archie the bum. I think I even read it out loud to them… My poor students!
That was a crazy time. I used the Nancie Atwell workshop style of teaching writing and grammar, from her book In the Middle. Basically, I had the kids write fiction stories instead of essays. Then I’d do mini-lessons on issues that kept cropping up in most of their writing.
I think that approach worked for my students and their writing skills, but what did I know? I’d been out of college less than a year in 1993, and I was all of 22 years old! But I do have fond memories of those writing classes, especially once the kids (most of ’em!) bought into the strange way Mr. Jasper was teaching 7th and 8th grade English.
So the opening to this novel was written fifteen years ago, but I didn’t finish the novella version of the story until ’94 or ’95, I think. Like I said, those 15,000 words were the first complete thing I’d ever written, and I kept working on it off and on over the course of the next decade.
Mostly off, but I did come up with a longer version in 2001, a novel-length version. I remember writing most of the last 2/3rds of the book right around the time of 9/11, and I’m curious to see how those sections hold up when I come back to revamp them in the next few weeks. I think they have a pretty apocalyptic ring to them, for a YA book.
Now I just wish I’d been more of a pack rat and saved my original scribblings for this book. The oldest printout I have of it is the third or fourth rewrite, I’d say (that’s the one with a dozen point-of-view characters!). Ah well. Live and learn… Later!