In the section immediately below section I have posted a link to the first chapter of my current novel The Devil's P.A. as it stood in December 2010. In the following sections are five earlier drafts of the opening of the novel together with comments on how the main character, Minerva Milton is evolving across these drafts, how the style of the writing changes from version to version and also the evolution of the back ground concepts of the novel.
The Devil's P.A. Chapter One as at December 2010
- The protagonist is Minerva Milton (Min), a 27 year old American girl living in London. She has a famous, Noble Prize winning sister, Dr Katie Milton. The sisters have not seen one another in nearly five years and there are hints of some kind of dark dealings between them that have caused a rift.
- There is no preface before the first chapter; the narrative commences from page one.
- The entire chapter takes place on the banking floor of a London investment bank as a senior banker delivers an invitation to Min for her sisters birthday party.
- Her character and attitude are conveyed by the prose and style of the narrative.
The Devil's P.A. Opening as at 22 March 2005
The main character is called Katy Trevelyan. She is in her earily 30s and is English. She does not yet have a sister and indeed, hardly any history or distinctive character traits whatsoever. The style of her narrative is chatty and has many similiarities with English 'chicklit' novels; I had been reading a considerable number of these prior to commencing the novel.
There is no hint yet of a scene or chapter taking place in an investment bank, though later draft material not included in this extract does allude to her working as a secretary in that industry. It is also a preface, but not the preface that appears in later drafts.
The Devil's P.A. Opening as at 19 May 2005
She is now called Minerva Milton and has gained a sister and the first outline of a personal history including her having recently returned from travel overseas. She is however raised by her Grand parents which is not the case in the final version, where she has no family other than her sister.
The chapter consists mostly of 'info dump' and is centred around the concept of her name having changing as she passed through different phases of her life. In the wider draft of the novel as I am now writing it, this idea is also used. Although it is never overtly stated as it is here, rather each chapter that tells the reader more about her history and relationship with her sister, is a snapshot of a particular part of her life at different ages, when she was known by different contractions of her name or nicknames. There is still no scene in an investment bank in this version.
The Devil's P.A. Opening as at 4 July2005
The prose from the previous draft has been cleaned up somewhat and there is a stronger sense of her attitude and character in the writing. Not much has changed conceptually from the previous draft or regards her history, however towards the end of the chapter elements of what will become the preamble in the later drafts are evolving.
Here, as can often happen, I had a sudden ephinany of a completely different approach to the story. If I experience these epihanies I usually try to follow them up and work with them as seriously as I might the original idea, even though I know from expereince that it may only turn out to be a tangent or dead end. Regardless of its longeivity, exploring an alternative idea like this will tell me more about the conceptual unconcious space the story is developing within, reaffirm why the intial approach was the better one or perhaps suggest a better way of evolving my original approach.
Here, instead of taking place in 2006, the story opens 25 years later, when Minerva Milton is in an underground research facility in some kind of coma. Strange phenonema are taking place around her and she is being studied by nervous researchers. Although I did not stick with this future idea, I can see looking at this now, that this where I started to explore the concepts of her devil powers more deeply. There is also an image here of her sleep walking and curling up next to a nuclear reactor when starved of energy; I still have a inkling I may use this or something like it in one of the sequels to the current novel.
Note here that Minerva Milton has now become an American for the first time and her sister remains important to the story, but is called Dr Pandora Milton, not Katie Milton.
The Devil's P.A. Preface and Chapter 1 as at 29 October 2005
Here is the draft where the Minerva Milton of the current draft is truly born. The previous approach had run its course and I decided to retrackle the original concept set in the present day. I came home from work one day and when I sat down to write, found something had radically altered - I could suddenly hear Minerva Milton talking in my head, speaking out through me in her own voice and in her own way as I typed the words.
I wrote this entire draft in one evening, distilling the earlier draft material into a brief preface and moving on to write a completely new chapter set on the banking floor of a major investment bank.
Perhaps significant here is that I was working in an investment bank at the time and had just that week switched from working nights, when the bank was mostly desserted, to days when the banking was the busy place described in the final version. I had actually spent some time on one of the banking floors, trying to find a partiular banker earlier in the day, so the atmosphere of the enviroment was fresh in my mind, as was the concept of searching for someone on the banking floor, as the senior banker does in the chapter.