How bad was that first draft?
Here are the first two paragraphs of my published draft for Securing Aisling.
“Queen Brianna, are you listening to me?”
I looked across the council room table directly at Reilly. “Yes, you just told me that I have until my birthday to find a husband and get married. I am aware of that. Are you aware that my birthday is almost six months away, and the Session meeting we are supposed to be discussing today is just next week? We can plan a wedding after we get back from Gilvary. In fact, I will even allow you to coordinate it if that would please you.”
No doubt my irritation showed as I took in his dark brown eyes and gray hair, more on his thin face than on his head. He had been going on about this for the last year, and I had grown weary of the subject. I had inherited Reilly Cassidy as my advisor when I gained the throne a little over a year ago. He was in charge of relations between our own kingdom of Aisling and the rest of the world. He had faithfully served my father, but I am not sure how he felt about serving me.
This is what my first draft of Securing Aisling looked like.
As queen, a wrong decision can be disastrous, not only for herself but for a whole kingdom full of people. A good queen is supposed to know when it is time to go to war and be able to lead her men into battle when necessary. She must know when to follow her advisors and when to go her own way. And a teenager coming to the throne in the country of Kearnley is expected to marry by her eighteenth birthday, whether she is in love or not. This is the roll I have been preparing for since I was twelve years old. That’s how old I was when my mother died.
Queen Deidra Reaner was revered throughout the kingdom and adored by her husband, Niall Reaner, king of Aisling. Theirs was a marriage made of love, eventually. It wasn’t exactly an arranged marriage but they had been strongly encouraged by their parents. The important thing to know is that after a few years together they did fall in love. My father explained all of this to me during my training. He was a very practical man. Love can be found if you set your mind to it, is what he had told me.
What was so wrong with that first draft? Well, it is rather boring in comparison. I had started out with backstory—the telling of Brianna’s parents who were no longer alive at this point. There was also a lot of telling instead of showing how these past events had shaped Brianna’s life.
In the published draft, you get an instant picture of the main character’s personality through context of her dialog. You realize in the first paragraph that she is a feisty teenager who is not intimidated by her much older advisor.
These couple of paragraphs also immediately alert the reader to the dilemma that must be solved before the end of the book. The reader will start analyzing every male she comes in contact with from here on out, trying to decide which man is the right one for this character. Every encounter pulls them further along into the story.
This backstory goes on past these two paragraphs, so what did I do with it after deciding it wasn’t right for the beginning of my book? Did I just delete it and move on? No. I chopped it into pieces and dispersed it throughout the book, feeding it to the readers a little at a time, but only when it became absolutely necessary. That is the proper way to handle backstory.
What do you think? Did I make the right choice?