(For real this time. ‘Scuse the premature posting way back when, if you caught it in the 20 seconds it took me to frantically revert to Draft status. When you’re chronically sleep deprived, “Preview” and “Publish” are way too close together.)
I’ve set a goal of writing one short story per month, both to build a stockpile of content for future Ko-Fi memberships and to give myself an occasional sense of completion that’s a long way off with this bloody endless novel. I thought I’d ease into it with a KotSQ-related bonus story that was already mostly finished. I changed nothing about the first scene, made minor alterations to the second, and the third had to be completely canned and a fourth added due to the way the book and series plot have evolved since the last time I touched this story in 2020. It ended up being twice as long as I intended and was very much not the one-day project I hoped it would be, but it illuminated something about Hero’s behavior that will help me on the next revision pass and gave me enough of a mental break to shake loose a major piece of the overarching plot puzzle, so we weigh the benefit against the wasted time and zero out the scale.1
140 rough draft pages have become 227 revised pages. What is that, a 60% increase? The embiggening draft is going smashingly.
In this section, our plucky couple leaves the city, where they had kind of a rough night, and returns to the cursed kingdom, where they should be able to relax for a minute because every living thing there is in slumber. Right? Lol.
This was mostly an action section, which plays well with the naturally unembellished nature of my writing evident in my rough drafts. Lots of short sentences to sling you along, not a lot of time for thinking profound thoughts, and the emotions are mostly fear and guilt, which Heroine isn’t going to have a therapy session about right now because she’s kind of busy trying not to die.
Momentary lulls between waves of unpleasantness did provide a couple of opportunities for Heroine to express some fondness for Hero.2 This isn’t the Beef Up the Romance draft, but this is the time for throwing in everything I can think of so I don’t get to that stage with absolutely nothing to work with.
One of my margin notes says “WHEN DID SHE GET THE NEW BOW.”3 The answer is “she didn’t,” and there’s nowhere in the sequence of events to go back and add it as intended, so Heroine instead got the excitement of plinking at a swarm of enemies with a dodgy bow and a limited supply of dodgier arrows, which is probably better in the storytelling sense than making her life easier while beset with midpoint misery.
I gave Past Me a rare pat on the back for recycling a tool that was used way back in Act 1. Yes, it neatly solves a problem within the plot here, but it also pulls this tool up from the abyss of memory so when a different version is used again near the end, it won’t have been completely forgotten. Often a problem with very long books is that a thing will be set up, but then it will be dropped for so long no one remembers it was ever mentioned, which feels like there was no setup. You cannot win an argument with reader perception—it doesn’t matter if you can point to “evidence” on page 2 if it was too unimportant for anyone to remember by page 502. So we haul things to the surface (or near enough to the surface to catch a glimpse) a time or two so, at the critical moment, readers think not “wtf if she talking about” but “is she going to—SHE DID!”
Like the last section, this one contained a future main character who had a ton of backstory (of which I am aware, not that I crammed into this book for no reason) but no name. In desperation, I resorted to a random letter generator, and it gave me, I kid you not, T O D D. Haha, random letter generator has jokes! Anyway, I got a little salty at that point and started yelling random syllables like a drunken wizard, and now this character’s “___” has been replaced (at least for now) with an absolutely punishing name that might be a new diagnosis or the medication to treat it but can, in my defense, be abbreviated to something easier for his intimates to use. I’m hoping the only other significant unnamed character who remains is quaking with fear that I’ll do the same to him and will come forward with a less extreme suggestion before I inflict similar violence upon him.4
Still to be addressed is the “jaunty FUCK-YOU-TO-THE-GODS SONG” that Heroine sings when she’s fairly sure she’s going to die and wasting her breath can’t do any harm. I know I had a plan for this at one point, but lyrics are hard. It’s an act of self-hatred to keep writing musically inclined characters. I will probably, again, end up cutting it rather than unnecessarily make a fool of myself, but oof, that’s gonna punch a big hole in the very first scene. For now, I’ve kicked that can into the future. I carved out a space in my brain for short stories and inspiration has found it a favorable nesting ground, so perhaps I just need to make a Profane Ballad hole and wait for something to hatch.
Next: The Truth is revealed, which satisfies the final requirement of How to Make Fake Identity Books Acceptable to Me, about which I have a whole rant I should probably save until then.
- It did actually feel good to get something done! My dopamine maker has a factory defect, so there was no big thrill, just a teensy, momentary lessening of the omnipresent crushing anxiety and failure, but we take what we can get.
- NOT a “danger bang.” I have actually been in danger, and though there’s typically shortness of breath, sweating, and an elevated heart rate, if you’re conflating that with sexual arousal, you’re either deeply fucked up or not actually in danger. Imagine a world so rotten to the core that someone can say “She was panting, she obviously wanted it” and everybody nods sagely and says “Well obviously, you’re free to go.” OH WAIT. Anyway, huge dealbreaker for me when reading, and I’m sure as shit not going to write one.
- Another margin note says “coconut pecan brownieeeeez” because all paper is scratch paper. I have Spanish lessons scribbled on a lot of pages, too. I must never become famous enough to warrant an archival collection.
- “It might be amusing,” he drawls in a voice heavy with cultured ennui, “if you performed your ‘boogle translation’ sorcery using the method of my attempted execution. I am, after all, perverse enough to reinvent myself in a manner that reminds me, each time someone addresses me by name, never to repeat mistakes made while in the thrall of youthful optimism.” Hmm. I… don’t… hate this? OMG IS THIS PROBLEM FINALLY SOLVED? *faints*