My normal method of writing is to push a draft through until I hit a wall. It usually takes me a few days to realize I’ve hit a wall, but eventually it becomes apparent that I can’t move forward, that what I’m writing is shallow and unwarranted. Since I’ve never been the type to plot out an entire story arc – my concentration level can’t handle this type of organization – the best way to put this is that I run out of story. I don’t know what happens next. I can’t find my way out of a conflict. I’ve painted my way into a corner.
When this happens, I start over. I read from the beginning, editing and adding as I go, and by the time I get back to the wall, weeks or months later, the way has opened. Either a character becomes clear, or a wrong turn becomes apparent, and I’m able to press through some more words. This means that while Bearskin officially went through 15 drafts, not every draft was a full manuscript. It’s better to say that Bearskin has been through 15 “pushes”.
Bearskin’s main character – Moiria – did not exist until my 3rd push through the manuscript. Up until then, my villain had been an archetypal evil stepmother. She was uninteresting and existed mainly to be fought against. Honestly, the character was only a place holder. It became obvious to me that the villain was lacking, and that she kept the tale tied to a fairly strict script. If I was bored with her, how could I expect the reader to care? There’s a lot of literature and opinion-spouting when it comes to writing young adult literature, but a common theme revolves around the importance of dismissing adults from the scene. Kill them, lose them, consign them to the dungeon – it doesn’t matter. Just get rid of them. And so, I tried it. I cut the evil stepmother and I replaced her with a girl: Moiria.
In Bearskin, Moiria often refers to herself as a girl hidden in the shadows. And it’s true, she came from the shadows. At first, she didn’t exist. And then, she was the villain. And finally, she was much more. Moiria became the pivot that the entire novel turned on, the point of the story of Bearskin. Funny that the story existed before her. I guess it was waiting for her to arrive.