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I write for the ones without a voice.

final draft of Anathema is finished - 197,000 words
And 769 pages for the paperback edition. The ebook is 653 pages.

It's cute that the paperback is ~37 pages longer than Black Waltz, yet about ~20,000 words shorter as a whole. Anathema only has 19 chapters to Black Waltz's 27 chapters. A typical chapter here is about the same length as my last book, but there are a handful that are much longer than the others.

Clearly I had a lot of work to do with additional scenes/chapters since I finished the first draft at the end of January. I honestly don't remember the last time I was so stressed out. I'm BEYOND relieved that this is all finished now. All I have left to take care of are minor edits here and there as I continue to re-read the manuscript, obsessively, until the day arrives. But, overall, it's done and ready to go.

Here were my biggest issues that I managed to resolve (spoiler-free):

1. The ending!
I must have written this and re-written it, with my whole heart, at least four different times. I would get attached to one "final draft", and then set it aside, and then re-read it later, realize it's shit/doesn't fit, and then I'd have to trash it and start all over again. The hardest part was admitting to myself was that something I had put a lot of effort into was bad. I felt like I'd failed. But then I'd look at the date and realize that I still had time to regroup and try again. Even the last post I made about the ending: I had to reset my progress with that attempt, too.

2. Spider Lily
I really wanted to add this chapter toward the end. It was supposed to be an unconventional night out for the main couple and their closest friend. When you read the book, this was supposed to happen after the chapter titled Sight Unseeing. You'll be able to figure out what this was supposed to be through contextual clues. In the end, I decided to scrap this chapter, even though I had already written most of it. I felt that it would have overshadowed the current chapter after Sight Unseeing. Plus, it would have introduced certain themes prematurely, before the main couple was ready.

3. Their closest friend
This character almost got out of hand for me while writing the manuscript. She is absolutely larger-than-life, entertaining as hell, and a force of nature, unlike anyone else I've ever written, save for Duchess Stella's daughter Venus in the upcoming Chauvinistic Coquette to be published next year. I had to deal with a precarious balancing act of giving her enough screentime without letting her hijack the whole story with her sheer energy and personality.

Love her or hate her, I'm proud of how she turned out.

4. Sex
This was the second-most stressful issue.

There is no "traditional" sex in this book. There is sex on the page, but it's... Well, you'll see. The main couple's relationship is more conservative than I'm used to writing. But I had to take into account that they are younger (ages 18 and 22/23) than my typical characters in their mid-to-late twenties. There was a pragmatic reason for this as well, as I didn't want the book to be too long for Amazon's publishing limits (828 pages max with my chosen trim count...which means I'm already pushing it with 769 pages). There's also more that you'll read about on your own.

It was stressful, not because of my war with the page count, but because of the constant editing I had to do to accomodate this. By the time I made this choice, I needed to go back and re-tune entire chapters to make sure that they were consistent with these restrictions that the characters placed on themselves (and that I placed on them for practical reasons). Not to mention, I really wanted to... I obsessed and grieved and went back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth on this. I was glad to have a resolution when I'd finally made up my mind, yet it still left me frustrated.

5. Memories
Being alone and isolating myself from people and relationships is a double-edged sword. My productivity, my stamina, and my satisfaction with my work are sky-high. On the flip side, my celibacy leaves me open to thinking too much, as I only have "real" work and video games to occupy my time when I'm not writing. I'm always thinking about Anathema and future books, and Chauvinistic Coquette as well, though everything and everyone that brought me to this place manage to slip through, somehow.

The memories mostly cropped up while listening to music, or picking songs to listen to as a way to shape the direction and structure of any given scene. I wouldn't say that I actively tried to remember anyone or anything. It just came up. Like this song that I have listed on the post: I started listening to it more while wrapping up final edits and formatting this week. It got me thinking about the language, Italian, and how someone I used to know loved the language and applied herself to learn it in college. I never got a lot of answers from her about a lot of things; the song made me think back to those unanswered questions and all those frustrations, and too much other shit that doesn't matter anymore.

I also keep having these strange dreams of people from my past trying to reach out to me, and deciding not to for whatever reason. I still feel their agony from how much they miss me or love me, like their hearts transposed themselves into mine. I have no idea if this means that the feelings are real or not. Especially since it seems to be one particular person cropping up more than the rest, over and over again, consistently. I knew her for a long time, and she is part of the DNA for how I write Stella's character, how I describe her physical appearance, and how it feels for Vespair to touch her.

I keep telling myself that it's all in my head, or that it's only natural, considering I think about my characters all the time.

Having to keep forgiving myself for thinking about the past is exhausting.

6. Acknowledgments - refusing to tolerate intolerance
Usually, the hardest thing for me to write is the summary on the back of the book. Summing up ~200,000 words into 301 words was a struggle, yes. It wasn't that bad this time around. The acknowledgments at the very end of the story gave me the most trouble this time. I thought about including something about this person that keeps inserting themselves into my dreams. There's no point, really, because I told her to leave and that was that. I can't go back to living my life for other people in the way that I used to. I didn't want to acknowledge her on the page. I didn't want to memorialize it.

The truth of the matter is that I wrote this story as a response to everything that happened while she was with me. I don't necessarily include direct references in the story. It's more in the way Stella and Vespair come together, stay together and love each other: they give one another unconditional acceptance, even when they're upset or confused or feel justified to the contrary. My ex didn't give us a chance to have that once I was ready to give it to her; I only ended up getting hurt whenever I tried. And back when I wasn't ready, she seemed to be. Seemed being the key word here.

The point is, silly me thought that she would understand my efforts and my pain and the choices I had made for her in my ridiculous devotion, because she went through that same pain for me before, back when I wasn't ready. There is a part of me that still loves her and always will. I don't love her ego and her hypocrisy and her superiority through her pride; especially not the way she uses her competitive fulfillment from her work to fill the empty void inside of her. Well, maybe I do, because that's what love is. But in reality, I don't tolerate intolerance. So that "relationship" had to end.

Basically, Anathema is what she and I could have had together if not for those disagreements.

My main focus, though, is the actual characters--Stella and Vespair, forever. I chose to put them first above everyone else. And I will keep making that choice, because it's meant to be.

"Based loosely on true events."