Doing the Thing

Yesterday’s work on “Beasts” involved giving the draft a deep reading, making some notes on where I see problems, creating a checklist of adjustments that need to be made, and starting in on the first section (which totals about 2500 words, give or take).

I’m taking the actual rewrite/revise process pretty slow, and really only focused on the first couple of pages, neither of which I’m entirely satisfied with today. Still, they’re far better than they were yesterday morning, and I have a good sense of the changes I want to make. Today continues that process, and I’m hopeful that, if nothing else, I’ll step away from the keys today happy with those first two pages, and maybe even make some headway into the third.

It’s quite fascinating to me, looking at this manuscript now, how much I’ve grown since I last spent any time on it. The initial draft was written in 2009, the final draft of the original was published in 2011, and I made a stab at reworking it just a bit in mid-2012, before I started on Oath of Blood. When I put it away three years ago, I couldn’t see any way to help it out or make it better. I was just plain blind to its problems.

Now, working my way through the text, I find myself making a variety of unpleasant faces at rookie mistakes, gaping plot holes, and an unhealthy attachment to adverbs, among other things. I’m sure there’s plenty I still can’t see, but just the fact that I can pick up this old piece and see how to improve it now, when I though there was no more improving it, is hopeful. It shows I’ve made substantial progress.

But there’s also good in the old draft: it has a fairly tightly scripted story, and while there are some rough spots, it isn’t fundamentally broken. I still wonder how in the world it ever got published to start with, but I’m not going to question that. It was my first sale, and it served its purpose in that it put me in a mindset where I could say, “Yes, I can do the thing.”

Oh, and readers said nice things about it then, even if I have to hold my nose a little when I read it now.

And for that reason alone, if no other, I’d like it to be accessible in its more refined form. I’ll probably give it a new title, to distinguish it from the 7500-word short story in Jeff’s anthology, as one does, but again, I’m not putting much thought into that right now. Titles are almost always best for me when I assign them last, and/or when they arise organically from the work. For now, the working title will do.

In terms of the work itself, I’m also finding working in a shorter format (10-12k words, projected max) to be a breath of fresh air after the almost 90k sprawl that Oath grew into. I don’t have a lot of room for expository shenanigans or twisty subplots, and there’s no real estate for wasted words at all. Like the pulp stories that originally inspired the setting, it has to hit the ground running and earn its keep quickly.

(Which—that’s true of novels as well, but short formats really turn that demand Up To Eleven.)

In any case, though, I’m going to stare at my page allotment for the day, and after that I have some freelance work to do. Then, this evening is the D&D game in which I actually get to be a player, so I’m excited about that. We’ll see how my hapless half-orc wizard fares in his continued trek through Out of the Abyss.

Demon lords loose in the Underdark! Madness and fell sorcery all around! It’s like every session offers brand-new ways to go insane and die! If he somehow survives, I will be very impressed.

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Onward, Upward, and Sideways

As I observed yesterday, I spent Monday afternoon making some decisions about this quarter’s side project. I have, at this moment, a total of four stories in various stages of progress, including one that’s entirely drafted (but needs some serious love), one that’s half done, and two that are maybe a quarter drafted with accompanying outlines.

I spent a good bit of time stewing over which to work on, since I like them all—I mean, I wouldn’t have started them otherwise—but in the end I decided to work on the fully drafted one first. It’s a short story that’s flirting with novelette territory, and it’s seen publication before, but the anthology where you can get it has limited availability, and some folks on Amazon seem to have very high opinions of what it should cost.

($293.18? What?)

Which, you know, that’s no fun for me or you. I want you to read my stuff, and you probably want to pay less than multiple hundreds of dollars to do so. Though if you do want to pay that much, I think I have a personal copy or two around here…

Ahem. Anyhow.

(As Jeff points out in the comments, though, and as my sadly undercaffeinated brain apparently failed to recall, you can still get the book direct from him right here at the Strange Worlds main page. So if you want some Sword & Planet goodness and you don’t want to pay like three hundred dollars, go check it out! )

Ideally, what I intend for this story is an eBook rerelease, pending some fix-ups and minor changes. I have grown significantly as a writer since it was first published and, well, it needs some assistance in certain areas, as well as some expansion that existed in the first draft, but which was cut because of the word count limitations in the anthology. And since that universe itself has now expanded to include Oath of Blood, some of the text in the original needs a bit of adjusting to fit the bigger picture.

In any case, the editor of the anthology (Jeff, over at Barsoomia) and I have talked about it, and he’s given his blessing for the rerelease, among other things, so for the first quarter of this year, my main goal is to get the revised “Beasts of the Abyss” whipped into shape and ready to start earning its keep on Amazon, making me perhaps tens of dollars in the process.

Riches, I tell you. Riches. I’ll be able to take a bath in…pennies or something.

Whether the revised Beasts will come out during the first quarter isn’t something I’m willing to say right now. That will depend on external factors over which I have only limited control: beta reader response times, editing, revisions, graphic design and layout, and so forth. But the idea is that it will be, at a minimum, ready for those things by the end of March.

At that point, it’ll be in-process at a minimum, with a goal of its being available by the end of the year at the latest, and I’ll move on to one of the other things I have on the list. As you might have surmised, these side projects are more or less an effort to finish all the half-finished things I have around the office, and to get them out to a wider audience.

Some of them, like Beasts, I’ll prefer to handle myself. Others I’ll shop to outside pay markets first. But regardless, there’s going to be a lot of shoveling through my stuff this year and putting old ideas to bed. They’ll get sold, or they’ll get pushed out onto Amazon to fend for themselves, or they’ll get trunked, but regardless, they will no longer be permitted to squat on my To-Do list.

Regarding the website and such, I didn’t have time to port any blog posts yesterday, so we’ll see what today brings. I will be starting the process of tying the main domain to this new site by the end of the week, though, so lisavtomecek.com will soon point here, and not to the old site. At that point, the old site will lie dormant until I can finish picking its bones clean, at which point I will take it down.

For now, though, I’ve got plenty of work to do. Look for another post tomorrow, in which I shall continue to let you know how things are going!