To those who’ve been reading Gisborne as it appeared on the blog, I thought you might like to see how its changing as it travels through its first edit. The first thing to notice is that the story now begins right when Ysabel first meets Guy of Gisborne at the time she receives news of her mother’s death. That convoluted back and forth style of previously has now been replaced by a plain linear narrative.
By way of comparison, I also include the opening of the rough draft.
Which do you like best?
The first edit of the second draft:
‘I dwell by dale and downe,’ quoth Guye,
and I have done many a curst turne;
and he that calles me by my right name
Calles me Guye of good Gysborne.’ Child Ballad #118
‘And all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.’ Julian of Norwich
The parchment rolled back upon itself. Looking down at it, it reminded me of the Death Rolls so beloved of our troubadours. Even last evening, before this packet of doom had arrived to change my life beyond measure, Passebru of Sologne had plucked a name from his roll and had sung the virtues of the deceased knight written thereon. Not to be outdone, Linnette de Grismond, the trovairitz they call The Linnet, sang of Isolde of Nevers, a woman whose attributes had the men sighing and the women crying. As I stared at the hateful piece of parchment I wish they had chosen the name Alaïs de Montrachet, a beauty who was my mother, a cousin twice removed from Eleanor of Aquitaine. The Lady Alaïs deserved to be lauded by the troubadours across the land because Eleanor had thought her a jewel beyond measure and had not been happy to give the hand of one of her favourite ladies to my father. He was Joffrey of Moncrieff, an English baron and the man who had sent the parchment which lay before me.
It was my family’s habit from when I was born, to make the arduous journey to Aquitaine once yearly so that Alaïs could enjoy the southern climes and renew her interest in the arts and the troubadour traditions which were so well developed in the domain. And of course to meet with our Montrachet cousins.
Joffrey loved Aquitaine and would sink himself deep in the mountainous society of his wife’s family. I sometimes wonder if he preferred it to Moncrieff which is far northeast of London, as flat as a trencher of bread and surrounded by the blurred edges of the fens and marshes. On the slightly higher ground, Moncrieff had valuable pasture and its forests were sought after for reputable hunting. Moncrieff Castle itself was considered a well-appointed place and my mother filled it with acquisitions from Aquitaine, my father’s purse strings always open. He was a loved man… ingenuous but loved.
When I turned twelve, my mother sent me to Aquitaine to join the slightly fractured courts that existed between Queen Eleanor’s frequent imprisonments. Everyone knows what she suffered with King Henry’s tantrums; it is more than idle gossip. For myself, in Aquitaine I enjoyed the Montrachet atmosphere and whilst I became sophisticated and educated in the courtly style which was what my mother intended, I missed the pale colours of my home – the mystic trees and reed-frilled fens, the forests that wrapped around me and whispered legends in my ear.
Despite such longings, at fifteen I was ‘finished’ and becoming objectionable. By twenty, and still in Aquitaine, I was bored. Worse, I was unmarried. No man would have me because I was sharp, opinionated and as accomplished as all of them at hawking, archery, poetry . . . even gambling. I was every man’s best friend but most definitely not their lover.
Each year Alaïs would arrive at the beginning of the English winter and she would find her daughter a little more polished. At eighteen, I was concerned when an ague kept her at Moncrieff. At nineteen, I fretted that a further ailment kept her from Aquitaine. At twenty, a messenger’s packet informed me my lady mother, Alaïs of Moncrieff, had died.
That solitary piece of parchment crackled when I opened it and I angled it to the light at the window. ‘To Ysabel, Lady Moncrieff, my daughter,’ it read. ‘It is with sadness that I inform you of the death of your loved and adored mother, Alaïs de Montrachet-Moncrieff. It was signed in my father’s name with his seal and dated eight weeks previous. As the writing blurred and I held hard to the stone window sill, some rational part of my mind thought that in eight weeks my mother had died, been buried and had a mass said for her soul every day whilst I sang, danced, hunted and gamed with my Montrachet cousins and friends. My heart ached with the tawdriness of it all and I found I was weeping, the tears leaving blots upon the green cut velvet of my kirtle. I glanced at the packet again, in the hope there would be more words… something, anything. But my father had sent no message of comfort or orders for my future and I was bereft. I drifted around the Montrachet demesnes in a dark and distant mood because I adored my beautiful mother and had lost my way with no one to show me the path back…
The rough first draft:
My knees hurt. The floor was overly large, stretching too far in four directions before my eyes. Why did it need washing? I had swept it, concentrating on the corners where the dust would lie and I had wiped away the footprints left by a pair of boots worn in the wet.
But it was an imperative… the floor must be clean. So I collected the cloths, filled the bucket with warm water and began at the furthest corner. As I worked, I allowed my head to drift to better things. Walking in a leafy wood with two dogs at my heels, listening to the birds, free from care and worry.
My knees pained and I pushed myself up for a moment to ease them and in so doing knocked the bucket of water which spread across the floor in a dirty stain and I could almost hear the shouted comment. ‘Stupid. Clean it up. Now!’
I began again and resolved to eat my dinner off the floor because surely it would be clean enough. I reversed on my knees to the kitchen door, dragging the cloths and the pail, swearing under my breath, raising a hand to push falling hair away from a sweaty forehead.
A deep voice spoke. ’You do not answer your door, Lady?’
I crawled around like some invalid to face my interlocutor. He looked down at me, his wild hair lying on his collar, his black leather tunic and hose the mark of a greater house than the one in which I currently sat on my haunches.
I stood. My heart beat enough to make the fabric in my shirt tremble I was sure. ‘Sir?’ I looked down at his toes rather than at his face… (The rest of this first rough draft is posted on the Gisborne page if you wish to read it there)
*** Would love your comments about the two openings and thank you…
(Images all from BBC/Tiger Aspect Productions.)
Just a quick comment, before reading the edits.
I first encountered Dame Julian in Seton’s Katherine – I assume many of us read that in our early teens. That quotation has stayed with me throughout, and while agnostic, it always comes to me. It is always lovely to come across it again.
FitzGJ, I’ve been thinking about Katherine and don’t think I’ve read it and am off to seek it out.
I agree. I actually can’t remember where and when I found the quote but is my mantra at times of high stress and emotion.
I’ll admit that I really liked the first draft, but I think that it was more appropriate for the abbreviated writing style of fanfic. I agree that you need a bigger canvas as it becomes a book.
I think you might be right, Servetus. It needed (and needs) just a little more gravitas if its going to cross the line as a hist.fict. or even just a historical romance.
I’m not a writer so I hope it’s OK to comment as simply a reader, who followed-and loved- all of the original Gisborne and who is really excited at its re-development. It’s going to be a different animal, inevitably, but I’m sure it will be equally as spellbinding as I found the original.
I loved the original draft, mesemered: it really drew me in, but I am thinking that reading a fanfic is a very different proposition; you are starting with things known, the characters established at least in some cases, and the canvas partly drawn, if that makes any sense. The Gisborne you are writing now is different since it must be ‘bigger’ and must appeal to a far wider audience than does the fanfic, amazing though it is.
On reading the new opening my sense is that it is appropriate for the novel that Gisborne is to become. It is compelling and is a ‘bigger’ scene setting, which is needed.
Oh yes, and I loved it, too, in a different way.
As indeeed I loved the quote. I read Katherine in my early teens. But I know little of Dame Julian.
Ladyj, its the readers’ comments I value more than any others, so I am really grateful for your comment. One can write for other writers, for editors and agents, but in the end one should really only ever write for readers.
Right from the very beginning I felt that first opening lacked punch and it has grated on me ever since. Sure, the inspiration came whilst I was washing floors, but was that enough to hook a historical fiction reader from the get-go? Something kept whispering to me that it wasn’t. Having said that, I am keen to find out what readers like you feel; hence the post.
Rest assured the story doesn’t change at all. Guy is still exactly the way he was, as is Ysabel. The storyline is still the same… but hopefully what I am slowly doing is adding in the depth and detail the fanfict. may not have had. Not gilding the lily exactly, but maybe putting in a defining stitch here and there.
Like everyone, I loved the first draft. It was exciting and immediate but as Servetus and ladyj imply, would it have had quite the same impact if we hadn’t known who the guy in the black leather was?
The new opening gives us something just as intriguing but that will draw in a wider audience. A delicious portrait in miniature of twelfth century society, a spirited heroine and the moment when her life changed for ever.
Thanks so much for letting us have a peek, it made my day.
Giselle, hallo. So glad you commented. I can see great readerly thought and depth in those who have taken the time to think my question through.
I’m hoping the mood will still be as immediate, that Guy will still have that electric effect as he gallops down the hill from Montrachet chasing grief-stricken Ysabel as she tries to flee her demons…time will tell.
You make such a profound and valid point about the original opening: ‘would it have had the same impact if we hadn’t know who the guy in black leather was?’
Personally I doubt it… who really cares about a woman washing floors and some thug who comes and takes the silver? As I said earlier, there was just this thought that it needed more gravitas.
And Giselle, I just knew you especially would appreciate the mention of the troubadour, trovairitz and the Death Roll. I just need someone like you to write a ‘chanson’ for Alais!
Agree with the insightful comments of your readers. You’re taking the story to a bigger canvas; not just to reach a wider audience, but beyond actor-generated fan fic to imaginative and atmospheric historical fiction.
Keep going – join the ranks of Maurice Druon, Mary Renault, Dorothy Dunnet et al!
Fitzg, you have just enunciated the dream of this writer. And all from a simple fan-fict. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to say it all started from a fan-fict.
Dear Mesmered, it’s your choice of a writer.
Only a couple of consideration: the draft opening has a strong visual impact, it is highly cinematographic. A girl cleaning the floor in a manor and a tall dark handsome figure is approaching her. We still don’t know but they were connected in the past.
Your novel is packed with turnups: the servant is not a real servant, but a lady in disguise; the tax collector knew her in the past; they had a relationship (flash-backs I like very much); is Guy betraying her or helping her, instead?
Perhaps your draft opening is more in line with the turnups effect: we start thinking something that the following chapters will reveal is different. It is very exciting.
Lady Cassia, I take on board what you say. But the turn-ups won’t change. Maybe the tone might but not the setting, not the characters and most importantly NEVER the plot. All the same. Its just that the flashbacks will be gone. The story might now begin at the beginning and that beginning tries to set the scene whereby Ysabel’s and Guy’s journey commences.
Although I love the original draft, it was written by you in a casual fun way more like a fan fiction. Keeping your beautiful style, the changes you have made are the appropriate ones to transform this wonderful story into a novel.
The beginning of chapter one is beautiful, I want to read more!! I’m eagerly waiting to read the finished story as soon as it hits the stores.
Thank you Summer, I’m glad you like the proposed changes. The difficulty will be continuing that more serious tone through the novel. Having said that, there’s always room for a bit of a smile. I love your enthusiam!
I can’t say anything different from anyone else as I agree with all of it. I love both versions; the original first draft is my favourite because I have such a great visual of Guy coming through that door! But of course that’s my personal opinion.
All I can say is that I look forward to reading the entire story. I love it and I love your writing style. It’s so beautifully descriptive! 🙂
Thank you, Nikalee. Perhaps I should publish 2 versions?