The very first long story I ever wrote (XIII doesn’t count because it’s not totally my creation) eventually came to be called Cain, after many initial title changes.
It was heavily autobiographical, as most of my stories are (at least in their first drafts), and it was inspired by just one sentence from the mouth of my then-boyfriend on May 26, 2005 – the summer after my junior year of high school.
He said, “Write a story about me and you.”
Then I began writing Cain with no thoughts in my head except writing about my first “real” relationship. I didn’t believe I would finish it, so I started writing with a runny pen in an old notebook with barely ten sheets left in it.
I had started a story that school year, a few months before, but I had not finished it. I assumed Cain would end up the same way, but I forced myself to write a few pages every day, only for the sake of my boyfriend.
I don’t remember telling him I was writing it until I had the ten pages in my notebook filled. I told him, and he begged me to read it to him.
This is one thing I cannot stand: reading any of my work out loud. I did not want to read my new story, probably because I was ashamed of how badly written it was. (The prologue was written in the second person, and it was all in present tense. My two main characters were called “the boy” and “the girl” and my antagonist’s name was “X”.)
He nagged and nagged at me to read it (one of the reasons our relationship fell apart) and I eventually gave in. He proclaimed it to be brilliant – of course he did; he was my boyfriend and he had just nagged me to read it. He wouldn’t dare tell me otherwise.
So I kept writing until four other brand-new notebooks were filled with my inky scribbles and the first draft was finished. I was determined to revise it into a second draft and that is exactly what I did.
In the meantime, my boyfriend was injecting more and more of himself into the story – the characters and incidents in Cain were highly based on him – and I was losing control over it (or so I felt).
(To this day, I believe he will not read any of my stories unless his character, or characters based on him or his friends, come out on top – that’s a rant for another day.)
“The boy” and “the girl” became Vince and Jeannie – two names of my own devising. Vince was the name of a boy from my high school who died in a car accident, and Jeanette was my deceased cousin’s name. I don’t recall ever explaining it to my boyfriend. The antagonist kept the name X – short for Xavier (what else) – and I added a host of other characters, drawn mostly from real life and from people my boyfriend and I knew at school.
In short, Cain was a fictional recount of our relationship – or at least, the first year of it. Cain ended idealistically, as most teen romances do. Jeannie and Vince lived happily ever after, but I still wanted to revise the plot.
At this time, I was seriously thinking of submitting the story for publication.
Cain went through nearly four revisions before I finally decided I could no longer write it.
I realized it reminded me too much of my boyfriend (who I had since then broken up with – for reasons I will not discuss here) and it carried too much emotional weight.
Perhaps, in the future, I may return to it – I still have a lot of ideas for it and I miss writing about most of the characters, who I absolutely fell in love with – but for now, I will focus on other projects.
What Cain (and my ex-boyfriend) gave me was the thought that I could write. I had essentially written a novel (Cain was over 100,000 words long in its third draft.) and I had the potential to write more novels and maybe even publish one of those in the future.
Cain taught me how to write through a rough draft, how to revise a novel, and how much characters can grow and change, and how much the author herself can change. I will always value that experience – it was frustrating, it was fun, and it was fulfilling.
It’s what made me love writing and was probably the main reason why I decided to major in English when I got to college.