Back in 2011 when I started this blog, I named it “Gods, Witches, Space & Stars” as an encapsulating summary of the type of stories I was working on at the time: switching back and forth between what I called my “Gods & Witches” secondary fantasy world and some science fiction.
I first created my “Gods & Witches” world in 2009 for Brandon Sanderson’s SF&F writing class. As part of that class, we were to begin a whole new writing project rather than continue working on any pet projects. So, I began a Rapunzel-inspired story set in a secondary world of–you guessed it–gods and witches, where “gods” had creation magic and “witches” had destruction magic. The repercussions for using their magic were inspiring awe, reverence, and a compulsion to worship or follow (gods) or inspiring intense fear and hatred in anyone in the vicinity to the point of their wanting to kill you (witches). There’s a bit more to it than that, but my idea was to take folkloric trends and human tendencies and press down on them, exaggerate them, or make them a bit more concrete and a bit less abstract.
I ended up writing something like 76k of the first book of my planned duology (The Witch’s Tower (Rapunzel retelling) / God’s Arrows (Cupid & Psyche retelling)) before running into several problems I was unequipped to solve at the time.
One, The Witch’s Tower was far bleaker and more tragic a story than I actually wanted to write. And although I retooled the ending and overall arc several times to make it lighter or more hopeful, I kept running into the fact that although I mentally wanted to write something more uplifting, I emotionally couldn’t. Frankly, I was carrying too much emotional baggage from my own life that I needed to confront, work through, and heal in order to be able to write anything else. Writers write from our hearts and our subconscious as well as our minds, after all.
Two, even though I’d been writing collaboratively with friends for over a decade by this point, I had comparatively little experience crafting plots solo. The 76k I’d written barely scratched the surface of the story I wanted to tell, and I was frustrated by its lack of substance. I wasn’t sure at the time if this was due to my intense love of long-story formats or if I simply didn’t know what I was doing. I suspected it was more the latter, (although frankly it’s probably both).
It was really hard for me to reach the decision to set the world and these stories aside, however I don’t regret it. I spent the next several years experimenting with and learning from short fiction, from 1k one-offs to my 44k novella. I won’t say that I’m a master of plotting now, but I’m increasing my ability to tell if my pace is a plot problem that needs solving or if I simply need to go ahead and indulge my love of wandering through character and worlds.
Then in 2014, my friends at World Weaver Press did a #SFFLunch Twitter chat on my birthday and I jokingly suggested they create a dragon anthology for me. Aaaand they agreed! Haha, I’m still highly entertained and pleased by this.
After looking at the worlds and stories I had to hand to see where I might craft a dragon story to submit, I eyed my Gods & Witches world and characters and realized that allowing the mentor-figure of The Witch’s Tower to encounter a dragon in her backstory would set her on a much less lonely, wearying, tragic path. It would also unravel a good deal of the resulting situation and plot I’d written out in that 76k, and sort of create a “what if something else had happened” alternate direction.
In other words, if I wrote a dragon-and-girl friendship romance story with this character in this world, I could not only practice my plotting, but I’d create much more light and hope and a greater potential for happiness within my own inner worlds. It felt like a much more suitable way to say goodbye.
I took up the challenge; I wrote the story. I saved it a couple years to submit to the anthology, but unfortunately due to a few things the anthology never got off the ground.
However, I’ve also sought help and feedback on the story sporadically over the years, and I’ve learned a lot from my experiences revising. From cutting a scene on one reader’s feedback, to putting it back in with a different approach on the very next reader’s feedback, revising this story has given me a lot to think about concerning what’s right or wrong in regards to storytelling and the relationship between a writer’s intent and readers’ expectations. Especially since, in my quest to write a lighter story (despite the protagonist’s difficult past), I originally undercut the protagonist’s emotional arc and made her a bit colorless and the ending weak or difficult to understand. I’ve definitely grappled a lot with the balance of dark and light in this story. We will see what impact my revisions have made.
Now it’s time to share it with the world and move on to the next big adventure: another world, another novel that’s now well over 100k and pleasing me much more.
I should probably change the name of my blog to something more suitable to what I’m writing currently, but first, my announcement!
I’m giving away this story, “The Dragon’s Gift, Once Given” for free to start off my new fiction-writing and releases newsletter. The story clocks in at roughly 12k, right between short and long, haha. I’m still happy with how I wrote their relationship. A dragon with a sense of humor? Check!