Hi, friends! ✨
This is going to be the start of a new series of posts that I like to call “Origin Stories”. Essentially, I’m going to be talking about how certain stories of mine came to be!
To kick off the series, I figured I’d start with the first story I ever wrote: Once Upon a One Night Stand.
Genre(s): YA, humor, romance, drama
Series: The Fairytale Series, Book #1
Summary: Several years and a handful of scandals were enough to make Taliana Avilla forget all about her sworn enemy, Sebastian Phillips. Too bad a one-night stand and a lost diamond ring made her remember all over again.
I was 13 when I started the first draft of this story.
Back then, I was still writing Draco Malfoy fanfiction on Quizilla, but I was quickly realizing that I wanted to write original fiction with my own characters. (Still love ya though, Draco! I’ll return to you eventually!)
That was the age when I started reading more adult fiction as well. I had aged out of middle-grade fiction many years before and the popular YA of the time was focused on super popular rich kids with frivolous problems—think Gossip Girl, Private, The A-List, Pretty Little Liars, and The Clique. I absolutely loved those books, don’t get me wrong, but when I was able to get my hands on books with older characters, it was like a new world had been opened to me.
Let’s just say it was an era of discovery. I probably read things back then that I’d be appalled to know that a thirteen-year-old these days had read. But all those books, especially the YA I read, shaped who I was becoming as a writer.
It’s been over a decade since then, so I couldn’t definitively tell you where my inspiration for this story came from, but I knew this: I wanted to write something about promiscuous rich kids. And, somehow, it also ended up being a Cinderella retelling.
I had the title before I even had all of my character names. Once Upon a One Night Stand. “Once upon a” because of the fairytale connection, and “one night stand” because, well, they had a one-night stand.
Allow one of my characters—who miraculously survived to the final draft while many others didn’t—explain the basic plot.
And yes that does say he narrowed his eyebrows, your eyes did not deceive you. (But his eyebrows deceived us all!!!)
That basic plot line also survived—to some degree—over future drafts, but obviously the stakes were raised in the form of a diamond ring being left behind. There was also the introduction of a new trope: enemies-to-lovers.
By the time I was 14, I was onto Draft 3 of this story. I didn’t even finish Draft 1 or Draft 2 because they were both So Bad, and thankfully I was smart enough not to post them anywhere. (I think. I can’t quite remember… oh, God, I hope I didn’t post them anywhere)
(My method of naming drafts was so creative)
Draft 3, however, I wanted to show to the world. I started posting it to FictionPress on November 24, 2007. One year later, pretty much to the day, I finished it. But the thing was… I’d already started writing Draft 4 before that story was even done.
Sometimes you know when a story has gone off the rails and there’s nothing you can really do to save it except for start over. So while I finished Draft 3 and posted it, I was quietly working on Draft 4, knowing this was finally The One.
Unfortunately, during that time, The Great Plagiarism Fiasco began.
The Plagiarism Haven Days
I’ve been aware of plagiarism since I started reading on Quizilla. As it turned out, one of my favorite Draco Malfoy fanfics hadn’t actually been written by the person posting it. No, they’d stolen it from a writer on another site and uploaded it to Quizilla, taking credit for the whole thing even though they hadn’t written a single word of it.
I think I vaguely knew and understood what plagiarism was before then (you know, teachers telling you not to copy from other people) but it didn’t really click until this drama went down.
I haven’t been able to escape or ignore plagiarism since then.
While no one stole any of my (terrible) Draco fanfic from Quizilla, OUAONS sure was a popular target on FictionPress. By the time I left, it had been stolen nearly 20 times.
I didn’t handle it well. The first few times I discovered I had been plagiarized, I was mad as hell. I ranted and I raved and I threatened. I sent my small but loyal fanbase to rip those people a new one. I made sure that no matter what corner of the internet they fled to, someone would be there to tell them how much they had messed up.
I know now that this isn’t the way to handle things, but when you’re young and angry, and it feels like the whole world is trying to screw you, you do the only thing you can. You lash out.
Back then, I hoped the example I’d made of these people would reach the others who considered stealing my work. But alas, it stopped no one.
Plagiarism kept happening.
And I was getting tired. I was getting sick.
There’s only so much anger you can hold on to before it starts to sour your stomach. The headache behind your eyes never seems to go away. You twitch every time someone sends you a link to a story, dread and adrenaline seeping into your bloodstream as you click and pray it’s not another copy of your work out there. There’s a sick relief when you realize it’s not, but that buildup is enough to make you lightheaded.
Eventually it became too much to handle.
I never wanted to leave FictionPress. I loved it there. I loved my readers. I loved the people who reached out and told me—me some weird, anxiety filled teenager who really couldn’t write—that they loved my work, that they couldn’t wait for the next update. It was so encouraging.
I left FictionPress with a few other writers, all much bigger names than me. These were people with thousands upon thousands of readers. They were my role models, girls (and a guy!) I had looked up to writing-wise for ages. I was honored to be even mentioned in the same breath as them, let alone be asked to join them in a private community of writers on a website called LiveJournal.
That community was called Plagiarism Haven.
Let me repeat: the plagiarism we faced was so bad that we started our own reading/writing community called Plagiarism Haven. If that name doesn’t explain what we all went through, I don’t know what else I can say.
We still wanted to share our work with people online. We still wanted to know what they thought of it. We still wanted to have that community of people who loved to read and write… but we wanted our work to be safe.
I was barely 16 at that point. 16 and able to say that the number of times my work had been plagiarized was higher than my age.
And I was only counting word-for-word plagiarism.
I tried to ignore the ones that stole my ideas, copied my characters, and mimicked my style. I will never claim that everything I write is wholly original—that’s literally impossible for any writer, because we’re always inspired by the things we read—but when it feels like something I could have written? When it feels like the chapter I’m reading is an idea that came straight from my story? Don’t call that inspiration, that’s plagiarism.
I will never claim that my older stories are anything to write home about, but they were mine.
They still are.
They always will be.
Eventually, Plagiarism Haven closed and we all moved on with our lives. I had writer’s block so bad for a little over two years that I didn’t write anything. When I finally pulled myself out of it and decided I wanted to try posting online again, despite everything that had happened in the past, I moved to Wattpad in 2015—one of the sites I had found my plagiarized work on before.
It was like starting all over again.
The Wattpad Era
I am very lucky that a lot of people like trashy YA, because that was what I had to offer.
OUAONS has gotten a fair bit of attention on Wattpad since I started posting it in January 2015. Here’s a screenshot from May 2015.
Yes, I had 56 followers and 55k reads, so I really did start from the bottom—and now we’re at 91k followers and nearly 22 million reads. Most days, I can’t believe it.
It’s sort of funny to see that people still like something I wrote as a young teen. But the thing is, a vast majority of my readers are young teens, and they still like the same things I did as a teen.
Speaking of my young readership, they’re partially why I don’t write explicit sex scenes. I don’t think that kind of content belongs in YA anyway. And when I say explicit sex scenes, I mean smut, the kind of stuff you’d find in a steamy adult romance novel. But on Wattpad, it’s all over the place and in a lot of stories, especially ones in the Teen Fiction genre.
I get it. At that age, a lot of people are discovering their own sexuality and writing is a way to work through it all. But there’s a dangerous amount of misinformation out there and I fear what the 10, 11, and 12 year olds who aren’t even old enough to be on these sites—but lie about their age in order to sign up, just like I did back in the day—are learning about sex and sexuality.
Anyway, I could write an entire essay on this (and maybe I will another time) but this is why OUAONS only has heavy hinting and fade-to-black scenes, despite its scandalous title. Plus, I was 14 when I started writing it, remember? A teen. A child. I knew then that it wasn’t something I wanted to put in my story, or even write. Sex in YA is fine and deserves to be explored. Incredibly explicit stuff though? No thank you.
Now, back to people liking OUAONS. That means they still love to steal it too.
Back in 2007, I could Google the title of my story and pretty much only three results would pop up: my story, someone random person’s blog that chronicled their sexual exploits, and a Twilight fanfic.
These days, I feel like it’s a pretty popular title. All of that is harmless though. It’s not like you can copyright a title in that way.
But it stings when people use that title and take my plot lines. That’s malicious. And it happens way too often. I honestly think it’s worse than word-for-word plagiarism, because there’s very little I can do to stop it.
So I think it goes without saying that the sick feeling never really goes away when you post your work online. If you’re considering doing it, I hope my experiences offer you some insight into what the risks are.
I’m very grateful to Wattpad for giving me a platform and believing in me, though. That’s something I’ll always be thankful for.
I finished writing Draft 4—the one you see posted on Wattpad—when I was 18.
It took me for-freaking-ever to get it done. It was mostly because I had started high school and it went wayyyy worse than I thought it would. My favorite YA books had tricked me into thinking I could cut class and party on the weekends with no consequences! How could they!
Of course, Draft 4 has been edited over the years, but only for length and grammar, never for plot. That plot you see is straight from 14-year-old Simone’s brain. And, like, I’m sure you can tell, honestly.
I’ve been asked if I would ever rewrite it again, try a Draft 5, give it a complete and total overhaul. My answer?
Ha!!!!! Ha ha hAAAA!!!
Some things are best left alone. Sometimes you need to move on and work on a completely different project, one that you didn’t start when you were 13 years old. Especially one that doesn’t have the best messages for a variety of reasons (another essay for another day).
Besides, if I took out all the problematic stuff and changed my characters, it wouldn’t be Once Upon a One Night Stand anymore, it would be a completely different book. And honestly, besides not having the time or the patience for that, I don’t want that. I want it to stay what it is so we can learn and grow from it.
It’s trashy teen fiction because that’s what I wanted to read and write when I was 14. It’s entertaining. It doesn’t mean it’s good writing, but entertaining does not always mean good writing. Sometimes entertainment is all you want.
It might sound like I’m hating on this story, but I’m not. I’m acknowledging what it is and not pretending I think it’s some great work of art. It’s not!! It’s entertaining garbage and it will always have a special place in my heart.
I highly doubt I’d ever try to self-publish this, and I would never query it. Dear God, no. I have too much respect for agents, interns, and the slush pile itself to do such a thing.
I respect that this is the story that I’m most known for. It’s definitely not my best writing, but I’d say it’s pretty decent for who I was back then. Plus, it’s nice to see where I started compared to where I am now. Not to mention, this story spawned one of the better things I’ve written, Book #2 in the series, Arabian Nights.
So this story may not be a personal favorite of mine, sure, but I’ll always have a soft spot for it.
- This series wasn’t always called the “Fairytale” Series. It was actually the “Georgetown” Series back in the PH days. I used to name all of my series after the neighborhoods they took place in, and this one was set in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
- I knew I wanted to write original fiction (instead of fan fiction) after I started reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. A lot of my writing style is influenced by hers, especially when it comes to humor and dialogue.
- In the very first draft, Taliana was blonde and Sebastian was (very briefly) named Richard, pretty much only so that Taliana could make dick jokes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this first installment of Origin Stories! I plan to go in chronological order, so next time I’ll be talking about my story All That is Gold.
Is there anything else you’d like to know about Once Upon a One Night Stand and its origins? Leave a comment below!