before and after
February 29th, 2012
This is part of the awesome Maggie Stiefvater’s series on dissecting drafts:
Some books come out in draft form basically in tact. Of course, they will require revision, but the essentials of character and plot are set. Others require much of the heavy lifting in revision. Or, as was the case with Where She Went, the sequel to If I Stay, multiple revisions. I went through more than a dozen revisions before I even turned the book into my editor, and it was only after talking to her about it that the book opened up for me and I rewrote large portions of it, as you can see from the following chapter.
One of the major sticking points was Adam. He was so angry in the early drafts. Angry because, he—and I—were seething over why Mia had left him. But once my editor pointed out that wouldn’t his promise to Mia at the end of If I Stay loom over him (he promises her to do anything, including let her go, if she stays), it changed the tenor of his anger from bitter and caustic to tinged with sadness and regret. And that changed everything.
1. In the initial draft, only a handful of chapters had lyrics preceding them. My editor thought that seemed weird so I wound up writing several more lyrics. I’d already written this lyric, but wound up moving it to a different chapter, where it fit Adam’s explosiveness.
2. We need to see Adam being both paranoid and rock-stary. His fear of crowds, his need for anonymity, all encapsulated in his shades, but this also felt a little showy.
4. Adam asks Mia to go bowling. Which makes sense on a certain level because he reads her yearning and would do anything for her and to prolong their time together, but at the same time, this invitation as it is in this draft just doesn’t work. It felt forced somehow.
5. Dude, Adam is SO angry. It just leaks out is sarcastic asides like this. The caustic anger was a problem.
6. In the early drafts of WSW, Adam’s girlfriend was Brooke Vega, the rock star from If I Stay. My editor was on the one who made the wise point that by having Brooke be the girlfriend, it cast retroactive doubt, like maybe they’d been fooling around all along. The important point was that whoever the girlfriend was, she was somehow connected to Mia.
7. This is a first hint at how Mia has coped with the loss of her family. The ways she keeps them alive. And that it freaks Adam out causes her to clam up a bit. Note how this impacts pacing, two steps forward, one step back.
8. I wanted Adam and Mia to go bowling because I have gone on some very romantic bowling dates myself and because I love the bowling alley in Port Authority, finding the hidden things in plain sight. But I also knew that this section would have to somehow touch on Mia’s injuries/rehab. The final version does the same thing, but does it differently.
9. Some hints here as to how estranged they became from each other during her rehab, and how music became the sole source of comfort for her.
10. When I was writing WSW, one of my inspirations for Mia was the cellist Alisa Weilerstein, who plays very theatrically and intensely, especially when she does the Kodály. I initially had Mia playing that in her recital. I changed it for the final pages. See why below.
11. Mia is the one who asks Adam to bowl for them both. Note how the dynamic changes in the final version, when it’s Adam who offers this.
12. Adam’s anger is so caustic in this draft and that anger fed lines like this, which make him unlikable. When the reason for his anger shifted, the tone changed. See the finished pages.
13. I’d wanted the interplay between Adam and Mia here to seem tortured because they can’t communicate with each other. He doesn’t know what’s going on with her and she isn’t explaining it well. But Mia just came across as annoyingly coy so some of this had to be spelled out earlier—the fact that she was graduating early—and then in the final draft, she explains this before they enter the bus station.
14. All of this is important. Adam’s frustration with being ejected from Mia’s life, his feeling that he cannot simply ask. But by having it come this late in the story, it sort of prolongs the bitterness. In the final draft, this comes earlier, so that he has these feelings early on, and while they continue, what goes on in the bowling alley is something else entirely. See the final pages to see what I mean.
15. This tracks back to If I Stay, when Mia’s decision to go to Juilliard was a source of tension between them. Juilliard has always been Adam’s rival, and now she dumped him when she got there, so of course he feels conflicted.
16. Another hint here about Mia’s state of mind, her dislike of being coddled.
17. This is such a throwaway line. It’s empty. In the final draft, Mia asks him a question about being on the road and Adam’s answer, or lack of one, is revealing.
18. I hadn’t done my Juilliard homework yet. This is not what first-year cello students would take.
20. There’s a delicate dance going on here as Adam bowls for both of them. He is reading so much into what he thinks she thinks and he’s adjusting his own performance accordingly but when he sabotages himself, he is angry at himself. Which is basically a small-scale version of what’s going on with them on the larger scale.
21. This is Angry Adam again. Pissed off at anything. Notice how this changes in the revised pages.
22. This is a pivotal moment for Mia. She really is reaching out, acknowledging that she and Adam have this shared thing, this shared understanding. Which works. But all the stuff that comes after it—Adam’s purposely guttering her ball, Mia realizing it—it actually undercuts the reaction I wanted Adam and the reader to have.
23. Here’s another example of Angry Adam who’s still seething at the WHY Mia dumped him and therefore wishes her ill, even if he’s conflicted about it. Notice how this changes in the final pages.
24. Here we get a sense of Adam’s ongoing conflict, his desire to protect and punish Mia, which is understandable. A little bit of this can be sexy. Too much can be annoying. I cut some of this here and saved it for an explosive scene later on when Adam thinks he’s recognized on the subway.
25. This is a pretty weak ending. I like to end chapters with a kind of emotional wallop if possible. Give you something to chew on. See the final pages to see how I did.
1. The lyric changed. The previous one went before a different chapter, one in which Adam’s anger explodes. It felt more appropriate to have a lyric here in which we see Adam’s innate understanding of Mia saving herself, at his own cost.
2. The opening to this chapter is so much tighter. Because of the episodic nature of the book, it’s easy to get bogged down in “transportation,” not literal transportation, but a bunch of unnecessary exposition between chapters. Miss it? Me, neither.
3. You see Adam being a jerk a lot but his hearing the word reprieve in footsteps is a glimpse into his vulnerability.
4. The idea of the urban Easter Egg hunt came in the final revision and became one of my favorite descriptions.
5. Also, by introducing this urban Easter Egg hunt, it clicked a tiny little flashback of Mia’s family. I wanted to go very easy on the flashbacks, just glimpses here and there, like this to show how enmeshed Mia and her family still are in Adam’s fiber.
6. FYI: This is why I love New York.
7. There is a disconnect over Adam’s life. How Mia sees it versus how it is, which is key in explaining some of her behavior. It’s hinted at again here.
8. Adam sees that Mia is nervous. Neither one of them has any idea what is going on with the other.
9. Major change from earlier draft: Mia is the one inviting Adam to hang out for the night. Because Mia is so mysterious—we don’t know why she left him—and kind of coy, it was important to see her do something active, to show she wanted to be with Adam, too, even if he didn’t fully see it.
10. The why? Why is she inviting him. The why is really the whole point of this book.
11. The announcement of Mia’s pending departure from NYC came later in the earlier drafts. Important to have it earlier, to raise the stakes and ratchet up the tension, sense of clock ticking.
12. Here again we see the two faces of Adam: How he really feels and the persona he projects. Which adds to Mia’s confusion.
13. All that stuff in the earlier draft about his glasses and cap is condensed into this.
14. It makes sense that Mia would not bowl in the first place, given her elbow and her career.
15. The flashback of rehab, a glimpse of Mia’s steely resolve.
16. Now the jealousy is more specific. Adam is jealous of Ernesto.
17. Adam’s suggestion that they go bowling makes more sense, given Mia’s injury, given his desire to one-up Ernesto. But it’s also a generous gesture, in response to her gesture to extend the evening. It tempers the rancor to have them doing sweet things for one another, so you don’t get overwhelmed by negativity.
18. Brooke has become Bryn. There are more details of the charity event, which make Adam’s life pop more
19. I like olfactory descriptions, what things smell like. I find they, along with aural descriptions (what things sound like) are so powerful.
20. Note how with Mia inviting Adam and Adam offering to bowl, the entire tenor of this scene now changes. Adam doesn’t find Mia diva-ish but kind of endearing.
21. Mia asks Adam to take off his glasses. It’s a subtle request to reveal himself. Also, the context thing is a seed planted for a later scene.
22. Important to show Adam’s embarrassment with the glasses, insight into his character.
23. This is all much tighter now that we’ve handled the confusion about where Mia’s going in earlier chapters/earlier in this scene. It no longer bogs down the pacing.
24. Adam’s “no” is a first clue to Mia—not the reader—that Adam does not really enjoy his rock-star life. It’s also a baby-step, the beginning of being honest.
25. But just a baby step. The chasm between Adam’s life, Mia’s perception of that life and how Adam communicates that life, is a major motif in the book. It really begins to break down later on.
26. Further hints of the claustrophobia of his existence.
27. The bowling provides a way for readers—if not Mia—to see Adam’s frustration physically manifested.
28. Therapy: Again, more tiny clues into Mia’s rehab. I did not want the book to be a rehab book. Little brush strokes let the reader fill in the bigger picture.
29. Instead of being angry at Lemsky, as he was in the earlier draft, Adam is now in agreement with him about Mia’s talents. This doesn’t really mean that Adam likes Lemsky. Adam, released of some of his anger, can see that Mia, in spite of his crazy conflicted feelings for her, is an incredible musician. He won’t deny her that.
30. By bringing up the band, the estrangement Adam feels toward them, toward music, becomes much less abstract. There literally is an ocean between them.
31. The Kodály from the first draft became the Dvo?ák. On the page, Alisa Weilerstein’s intensity read as anger. I wanted music to be a place of escape and peace for Mia, so I had to find a fitting piece.
32. This paragraph crystallizes all the things that killed music for Adam. And they all track back to losing Mia.
33. The kicker. So much more powerful than the earlier one. And it just hits on what this chapter is about: Mia finding solace in music (and life), Adam losing it. It also segues well into the flashback, which is about Adam and the band falling apart.