About a year and a half ago, I got an idea for what I planned to be the third book in my Touched by a Demon series. The thought was to write a Faust story–a tale of Megan Swensen, an author who sells her soul to the devil to make the New York Times Bestseller list. The romance would be a second-chance-at-love story. James, a third-year law student and her grad school boyfriend, helped negotiate the terms of the contract under the impression that he was helping her with a literary assignment for school. When he discovered the truth, they broke up. As the book opens, seven years have passed, the contract is coming due and Megan is panicking.
For its demon, the book would feature Lilith, the she-demon who was a player in the first two books, as Megan’s literary agent and Hellish customer service representative. I even had a title–The Demon Wore Stilettos.
But when I started researching Lilith’s backstory I got a little sidetracked. It turns out there are two creation stories in the Bible. In Genesis 1:27, it says “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” In this version, Adam and his wife are created at the same time, from the same clay.
But in Genesis 2:7, it says “the Lord God formed the man form the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” In 2:18, it goes on, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ And then in 2:21, “So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while we was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 2:22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man and the brought her to the man.” (All quotes from the NIV Study Bible.)
In the second version, Eve is created after Adam is well-established in Eden.
The Kaballah, the ancient book of Jewish folklore, explains this disconnect by saying that Lilith was Adam’s first wife. Because she was created at the same time as Adam, she didn’t think she should be subservient to him. She rebelled when he tried to force her to lie underneath him and ran away from Eden.
God sent three angels, Senoi, Sensennoi and Sammangelof, to retrieve her. When she refused to return to Adam, they cursed her, saying that she would lose “a hundred children a day” if she didn’t go back. She refused and from there she morphed into this evil she-demon who murders babies.
There’s a second story in the Kaballah that says after Lilith arrived in Hell she hooked up with a demon named Samael. Together the two of them became so powerful that Satan feared them, so he forced them to split up.
Somewhere along the line, I decided it would be fun to write two parallel second-chance-at love stories, so I made Lilith’s mission a joint venture with Samael, whom she’s never forgiven for dumping her (even though he had no choice).
And then I got the bright idea to add a pair of guardian angels to do cosmic battle with Sam and Lilith. So now I had six characters that needed goals and motivations–both internal and external–and all those interactions to manage. It was, to say the least, complicated.
The book was supposed to be about the human couple, Megan and James but every time Lilith and Sam got a POV scene, they completely stole the stage. When I’d return to good old Megan and James, they seemed insipid and colorless in contrast.
It’s very difficult to abandon a book after you have 200+ pages written, though. Aside from the time invested, there’s bound to be some really cool stuff in there you don’t want to throw away. So I kept plugging away. But the further I got, the more tedious my humans felt.
A month or so ago, I finally decided to junk the 50,000 words I’d written and start over, telling a story that starts out with Lilith on trial for murdering Samael. I hate wasting things, so it killed my soul to toss Megan and James on the trash heap, but it felt like I had no choice.
Which brings us to January 6, 2020, when I started a month-long Instagram class with Alana Albertson on how to sell books on Instagram. Alana, a very successful Instagrammer, says you need to have a freebie–a short story or a novella that you’re willing to give away–if you want to turn Instagram followers into reading fans.
Instagram is actually a form of social media that doesn’t feel like work to me. I’m an amateur flower photographer, so my Instagram accountis a veritable garden that had grown to 600 followers organically, but I was stumped. I don’t have any shorter stories set in my demon world.
Then I remembered good old Megan and James. I could create a version of the Faust story that revolved around M&J and cut out the other two couples. It would be short–less than 50K–and is already about 3/4 of the way to a finished first draft.
So now I’m engaged in the delicate task of surgically separating the conjoined twins that are my two stories. I’m relieved to note that they don’t appear to share any organs–certainly not any brains. I expect to have a draft that is editor-ready by the end of February.
Have you ever written a story that got away from you?
Totally did that once. Dumped 40K words and never looked back. Didn’t reuse it for anything, either. It wasn’t worth the effort.
Good luck with your surgery!
Thanks, Kay. My reluctance to dump wasn’t strictly because I have so much work invested, but also because I think there’s a good story there. Unfortunately, it was being overshadowed by the second good story–kind of like those twins where one subsumes the other in the womb.
Okay, I just grossed myself out.
I never (yet) had a story get away from me, but I have written multiple versions of a book that will probably never see the light of day–the Scottish contemporary that you know all too well. I have a complete manuscript of 100k words and a reinvented version that I wrote for last year’s Golden Heart. Both versions are locked in my trunk and likely to stay there. If I ever revisit that story, I’ll probably have to re-write the dratted thing from scratch.
Good luck with Megan and James (and good luck keeping it under 50k)!
Oh, my goodness. My stories get away from me all the time. My best case scenario is following them and hoping that they work everything out.
(-: If Megan and James didn’t share any organs (esp. not brains! LOL, great line!), maybe it’s best to separate them from the other couples. Good luck with it! I think a freebie is a great idea. There are a lot of authors who offer little freebies. I read one from John Scalzi that was about sentient yogurt . . . I didn’t feel it really had a beginning, middle and end, but apparently he turned it into a television script . . . . (IIRC)