A few weeks ago I uncovered the first chapter of the first draft of what would become Ambition. I was struck by a few things: one, that Jules was so self-centered it literally slowed the narrative down while Jules breathlessly described herself and her experience as a trainer. And two, that same breathless look, I can do this trainer thing! remained the core value of early Jules in the Eventing Series.
Now, as I poke around the edges of a fifth book in the Eventing Series, it’s interesting to look back at the way Jules was desperate to hide her lack of actual experience beneath a veil of completely unwarranted confidence. Things have changed for Jules–if you’ve read the four books currently out there in the world, you can see she’s been growing as a human as well as a trainer. And yet what lurks in the background of a trainer not yet twenty-five, especially now when she’s faced with so many clients and owners who have every right to question her every move with their horses and their children?
So yes, I was pretty delighted to find what I think is the complete first draft. It’s called Such a Clever Trainer. The last edit was April 26, 2011. This is as close to a time capsule as anything I own. It’s only 66 pages, about 38,000 words, and a lot of it is longish scenes with asterisks dividing them. This was my attempt to write pivotal scenes first. I didn’t love the process.
I’m not sure how much of this actually made it into the finished version of Ambition. Quite a lot, I think, and yet I think in very different context. In this version, Jules meets Pete at the first hunter pace she takes Mickey to, at Lochloosa–yes, halfway through the book!
I brought Pete back to the introduction of Ambition after doing some reading on romance construction and realizing that you simply couldn’t have a romantic interest show up 150 pages into a book. I am not big on “the craft of writing” as a form of study, preferring to tell a story the way it feels right to me, but this seemed like a pretty sensible rule. Pete becomes a goal and an antagonist to goad Jules along throughout the book–and of course, there’s the hurricane scene, which is still probably my favorite thing I’ve ever written.
Amazingly, that scene is in this version, missing a few key players–like Marcus, Jules’ beagle, who doesn’t exist at all yet.