On a clear day in October, Bethany Caleb decided to bring a gun to school. It was only Tuesday.
She has been bullied. Her friends have betrayed her. Now, she holds the power to make them pay. Will she use that power for revenge, or will the gun show her what is really important?
Available exclusively on Amazon.
(written between 2001-2002)
I began writing Bethany Caleb back in 2001. This is after I graduated from college (the first time), and after my self-made deadline of writing a book before I graduated from college. In these days, I used to name my stories after racehorses–yes, there was a racehorse by the name of Bethany Caleb, and I liked the name so much I decided to do a character study.
I took a blank (well, mostly blank) notebook, and told myself I was going to write a little bit each day until the notebook was filled. It was a five-subject notebook, and I started in the second section, and kept writing until I was halfway through the fifth section and the story had wandered so completely off the track that I had to stop and revise before I could keep going.
What I was TRYING to write was inspired by the Columbine shootings. I wanted to understand what life was like for one of these teenagers who feels that bringing a gun to school is the only way, who feels so much anger, hurt, or whatever inside to want to kill people and themselves. The title of my first draft, the draft I was okay with passing around to my friends to read, was actually called Bethany Caleb: The Story of a Depression. I had this idea that Bethany was really a poser kind of goth girl. In the original draft, I even had a scene where Bethany got the black dye out of her hair and starting dressing in Abercrombie & Fitch. Most of the story had started to focus on the relationship between Bethany and James. A story where some girl gets all depressed over a guy was NOT what I had intended.
And so, nine drafts later, I came up with the final product. I went from close to 200 pages to just over 100. The story went from a span of months to one day. That means a lot of stuff got cut. Not to worry, it’s all here for your reading pleasure. Some of the scenes were also rewritten for The Art Kids, too, but sometimes it’s interesting to see those scenes from another point of view.
Here’s my 8tracks playlist, which includes some (but not all) of the following songs:
- Staind – Epiphany
- The Deftones – “Elite” and “Passenger”
- Good Charlotte – “Hold On”
- Killing Heidi – “Class Celebrities,” “Mascara,” and “Real People”
- Papa Roach – “Last Resort”
- Pink Floyd – “Comfortably Numb” and “Us and Them”
- Rehab – “It Don’t Matter”
- Silverchair – “Suicidal Dream”
- Slipknot – “Wait and Bleed”
- Smashing Pumpkins – “Today”
- The Juliana Theory – “August in Bethany”
- Live – Overcome
I included the following quotes with the third draft of Bethany Caleb.
ABANDON ALL HOPE: Your life is meaningless anyway, why not end it? All your dreams and hopes will never come true and like everything else you will be nothing, forgotten by the selfish people you call friends. -A public service announcement by Cyrus.
-found in an Old Navy fitting room stall
“You’re into depression
cause it matches your eyes”
“It’s not nonconformity for nonconformity’s sake (which ends by being conformity in reverse) that is deserving of respect or even of acceptance.”
-Donald W. McKinnon
The fourth draft had only this quote preceding the text:
Black mascara smudges your face
You sit in your grassy place
The grass is oh so greener on the other side
but then I wonder why
Its never gonna be that way
cause you got a pretty face
Not gonna be one of those girls
Don’t wanna live in that world
-Killing Heidi, “Mascara”
This being my first novel, Bethany Caleb went through the most drafts of any novel I’ve written to date. For all of you struggling writers out there, I wanted to share my own personal struggle and describe the journey through the various drafts.
Draft 1 (handwritten, incomplete): This first meandering draft got to a point where Bethany’s ex-boyfriend James and ex-best friend Genn had a heroin problem. Not exactly part of my original intent.
Draft 2 (36,582 words, incomplete, February 2002): This was really just the typed up version of my first handwritten draft. Got about 10 chapters in before needing to start over.
Draft 3 (51,984 words, June 2003): The first full final draft. With it, I included the inspiring quotes above. I had also titled the chapters and sectioned them off. In the climax of the novel, Bethany brings the gun to James’ house and shoots at him, and misses.
Draft 4 (20,649 words, incomplete, May 2003–don’t ask how this draft precedes draft 3): In this draft, I changed the first paragraph quite a bit. Instead of describing how the gun was hidden in Bethany’s backpack, I talked more about the weather, described Bethany’s outfit, and Bethany’s plan for opening fire in the school cafeteria.
Draft 5 (47,313 words, incomplete, April 2003–again, don’t ask): Reverted to the original opening paragraph.
Draft 6 (45,925 words, August 2003): Changed the opening to current opening. The plot followed more closely to its current incarnation and ended almost exactly the same, but there was still a lot of drama where Bethany and James got back together, then he cheated on her with Genn.
Draft 7 (52,084 words, October 2003): A major cleanup of draft 6.
Draft 8 (1,971 words, incomplete): This was a short experiment where I strayed from the original first line and began with: “The silent girl who glared through her thick black eyeliner sat in the back of the classroom. She had no words to express the anger and frustration she felt.” I was sort of looking at Bethany from the outside, and only wrote a couple of pages in this voice before scrapping the idea.
Draft 9 (25,131 words): Events from the year condensed into 1 day.
Draft 10 (23,862 final published draft)
Obviously, in writing so many drafts, I had to cut many, many scenes. Here they are!
Fits and Starts – The first paragraph, and then immediately revised.
Lockers – In the first draft, Bethany actually talked to James and Genn at their lockers in the morning instead of avoiding them.
After School – This bit was originally what Bethany did after coming home from school after carrying a gun around all day.
The Halloween Party – This scene ended up in various parts of The Art Kids, being split up between Emily’s Back to School party and her Halloween party.
Lunch – A completely random scene where Bethany eats lunch in the library.
Bethany’s College Weekend – Bethany’s big sister, Darlene, played a much larger role in the original drafts, since more than a day actually passed, and Darlene came home for winter break. But even before that, Bethany spent a weekend at Darlene’s college and went to a frat party.
College Weekend Aftermath – There was a little bit of fallout from Bethany’s weekend…
Thanksgiving, etc. – Originally, this was when Bethany got drunk and burned her paintings.
Christmas Shopping – Darlene drags Bethany into Abercrombie & Fitch… very similar to a personal experience… (beware the Cult!)
Christmas Eve – A family dinner.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve – More family fun. Plus the New Year’s Eve party from The Art Kids is here, but different events take place.
First Critique – Most of this scene made its way into The Art Kids.
Art Class – Bethany works on a painting.
Bethany’s Transformation – As previously mentioned, Bethany ditched the goth gear in early drafts. Here is her transformation.
Cleaning – Bethany decides to clean out her life.
Lunchroom Humiliation – Humiliation from both friends and enemies…
Bethany contemplates suicide
Walking – Bethany goes for a nighttime walk.
Driving in Cars at Night – That’s the title of a chapter in draft #4 (approximate date: May 2003). I really liked these scenes, even though they were kind of pointless. Mostly they were cut because I thought Bethany was smoking too much pot. The one scene from this chapter that I did keep, which is not included here, was the scene where James and Bethany head to a concert, then end up at Bickford’s.
In the first and second drafts (approximate date: Feb. 2002), James and Genn have a drug problem, namely heroin. These scenes are from that discarded plotline. References to James borrowing money from Bethany in the above scenes come from this too.
- Pep Rally / James needs money
- Genn Gets Caught – A very short scene.
In many of the first drafts, Bethany and James end up back together for a little while:
- Bethany and James back together – A few random scenes, including the one where James gets beat up (which I later changed to happen in the past), and Bethany goes to a party.
- Bethany visits James – You get to meet James’s mom and stepfather… At the end of this scene, I cut out a part where James and Bethany have sex. Don’t ask me to post it up, either! It’s horrible.
- More James and Bethany – Getting closer to the two of them breaking up agaain…
- James gets back with Genn – You knew it couldn’t last long… here’s where Bethany finds out about it. Here is also where I had to stop writing on the very first draft, because I had no idea where to go from here. You may end up seeing pieces of this scene, especially where Chester (or possibly another character) takes someone into the band room to tell them bad news, in some another book… but I’m not saying anything more.
The first cover for Bethany Caleb featured, basically, a selfie. Then I Photoshopped eyeliner and blue eyes to make myself look more like goth Bethany. The intent was a cover that matched that of The Art Kids’ original cover, since they are essentially companion novels.
The current cover features a photograph by Laura Galley, who gave me permission to use it. I was psyched to find a photo that so closely matched the theme of my story and had a model who matched Bethany’s description.
The lyrics to the song James wrote about Bethany actually come from a poem/song that one of my friends wrote in response to an early draft. Here are the full lyrics:
Ode to Bethany
Empty walls on a cold black night,
She can’t find the words to write.
Stained memories of long past days,
Hate breeding and feeding the haze.
Broken places that couldn’t change,
Puzzle people to rearrange.
All the pain that would not go away,
Tore her soul and she stayed that way.
Monsters roaming the halls… murder on bathroom stalls.
Killing in her head… mockings from the dead.
Freaks, geeks, and jocks… whorish debutantes.
So much evil lies therein.. where does one fit in?
Don’t be sad over twisted lives.
Don’t let them make you agonize.
Take your fear and gun it down.
It’s just life in everyone’s Smalltown.