One thing every author will hear at some point is this: writing is rewriting. So it follows that most famous novels went through a few extreme changes before they reached their final form—and luckily for you, we’ve tracked down your favorite writers’ notes on their books’ first drafts. BEHOLD:
William Golding on Lord of the Flies (originally: Some Nice Boys Go on a Trip)
Showed the first draft to a friend 2night. She said the pacing is “slow”? Action too gentle, verging on sleepy? Pet pig is cute, but she thinks they should get out of the airplane at some point? What does she know! I’ll show them. I’ll show them all. You want action, huh? How do ya like THIS.
Harper Lee on To Kill a Mockingbird (originally: Boo Radley & Friends)
I’m pretty attached to the idea of Boo Radley being a talking, bespectacled horse that only the children can see, but it doesn’t seem to track with readers. “Why the horse?” they say. “Why is the horse so pale and frightening? Why does it leave the children gifts? What does this talking, bespectacled horse have to do with racial subjugation in the American south?” Unless I can answer those questions, Boo may have to get a radical makeover. We’ll see. We’ll see.
William Shakespeare on Othello (originally: Othello: Sings!)
There is absolutely no chance I am removing the musical number. Iago will sing to Othello on their last night together, and he will have the voice of an angel, and it will be beautiful. BEAUTIFUL. I don’t care what it says in my contract, the bastards can’t silence art. I AM THE BARD, AND THE BARD GETS WHAT HE WANTS.
F. Scott Fitzgerland on The Great Gatsby (originally: The Really Good Gatsby)
I’m beginning to think it’s too much to have Gatsby be a professional body-builder. Yes, he is meant to strive for perfection, epitomizing the ideal of the American dream. So, naturally, he’s got the looks, the clothes, the wealth, the poise, the library, the swimming pool, the champagne, the Rolls-Royce. But maybe doing 50 push-ups when Daisy arrives at the party = too much? Bit weird? Must ask Zelda when she finishes dancing the Charleston.
Wilson Rawls on Where the Red Fern Grows (originally: The Big Book of Tears)
Hm, not sure if it’s a good idea to have the dog die. Maybe there should be two dogs? Maybe two dogs and they BOTH die? Three dead dogs? What’s the right number of dead dogs? Also: needs more ferns.
Jane Austen on Pride and Prejudice(originally: Pride, Prejudice, and That Thing Where You Think Someone is Waving at You But Actually They Were Waving at the Person Behind You and You Have to Play it Off Cool)
I’ve created wonderful characters; intelligent subtext; and powerful, complex relationships. I worry, however, that the steamy 30 page makeout scene between Mr. Darcy and Lizzie Bennett will scandalize my readers. Perhaps I shall remove it, for the sake of maintaining our rigorous social contract? On the other hand, it is exceedingly steamy. Very well, I shall take a long stroll across the moors and think it over until I’ve reached a conclusion.