A week ago, I started the second draft of a book I’ve tentatively titled, The Vampire Skeleton. This book sprang from an idea I had while I was researching my short story collection last year. Essentially, the idea was this: what would First Nation vampires be like?
The Vampire Skeleton is about a girl named Rowen who is apprenticing to become the healer in her community. The story takes place in a world where a group of Indigenous Peoples have decided to retreat to a tight-knit community in order to revitalize their languages and ceremonies, essentially eschewing all contact with mainstream culture. The community is separated from the rest of the world by a magical wall built hundreds of years ago. For the most part, Rowen is happy there, but when a vampire attacks her best friend, Rowen has to journey beyond the wall to try and save him. Along the way, her values and beliefs are challenged by the people and situations she encounters.
I had no idea the book was going to be about any of this when I started writing it back in April 2014. I was nine months pregnant with my daughter and had just started my maternity leave. I knew I was going to spend the majority of my time with my new baby once she arrived and I had no writing projects to work on so I thought it would be cool to try writing 300 words of something a day. I kept up with the story after she was born (May 11) and I finished a rough draft of The Vampire Skeleton in mid June.
The only idea I really had in my head was that in vampire genre movies and books, Indigenous Peoples were always shape shifters or werewolves. I had just read the Haudenosaunee legend of the vampire skeleton and thought it would be cool to try and write something where Indigenous Peoples were the vampires. Plus, I love vampires and I’ve always wanted to write a vampire story.
Here’s the thing. I know there are literally thousands of vampire stories in the world. This still didn’t stop me from writing my own, even if publishers and agents aren’t looking for any more stories of this nature. I didn’t write it for publishers or agents. I wrote it for me (that’s okay to do!), and somewhere along the line it became the book that I associate with those amazing first weeks we shared with our daughter, when we were filled with so much love and hope and fear. So I suppose I wrote it for her as well <3!
I guess what I’m trying to say or what I learned from this experience is that it’s important to write the stories that you want to and that you love—whether they are going to be popular or not. I think I would have a super hard time finding representation for this piece but thats okay—I wrote something that I thought was fun and that I had passion for. That counts as a win to me.
The other reason I’m blogging about this book has to do with second drafts. I’m about nine chapters into The Vampire Skeleton and it’s a bit of a mess in that lovely way first drafts can be. But it’s interesting because even though I had no outline for this story (I pantsed it!), I can really see how the basic outline was created simply through the process of writing. It still needs a lot of work, though. Pantsing was a great experience but as I create the second draft I find myself struggling at the points where I must have been floundering in the initial writing. That’s okay too! That’s what editing is for. Writing. Cutting. Revising. Rewriting. After all, there is no one perfect way to write a novel. Even more important: no one will write a novel, of any genre, the same way you will. So write that story you are so passionate about! Get that first draft down and write ‘THE END’. Then go back and edit and fall in love with your story all over again.