To Hunt a Manuscript

Well, an update on Part Two of To Hunt a God is long overdue.

Upon release six months ago, I hoped to have it out early in the second quarter of 2022, or at worst, by now! The simple version is that stress in my non-writing life has made writing grow difficult, and it took me a while to recognize that. Without going into the details—I want to focus this blog on writing, not my personal life—my workplace has become a source of anxiety and stress, and in addition there have been some family difficulties. On a given day I have the energy either to work on tasks for Akhelas, or to continue my search for new employment. Not both.

That said, I’ve been reticent to discuss Part Two’s development until now, because I’ve not had much news. But now, I’m pleased to share that I’ve finally got a complete first draft of Part Two. I’ve line edited one chapter, Encounters, and sent it off to my editor for further revision and critique. This chapter currently describes thirteen scenes encouraging the gamemaster to personalize the adventure’s heroquest, which is the bulk of Part Two. Presently I intend to release this chapter as soon as Life permits, in a simple and art-free format.

It’s important to me that I get something out, and soon. Those of you who purchased To Hunt a God in December have been very patient. I am grateful, and want to meet your belief.

For some context about the delays, my edits-in-progress Part Two manuscript is nearly 29,000 words (including Encounters). This raw number will get chopped down in line edits, but probably not in dramatic fashion. While page-count after art, layout, etc. will vary, this manuscript length is comparable to that released in December.

This isn’t exactly scope-bloat, although if I were to scrap the adventure and begin writing a new draft, I would do it differently. My original conception for the adventure was to create a sort of “Hero World dungeon,” a map of different moments in the heroquest which the adventurers could travel between in their search for the insane monkey god, Hrunda. I tossed this aside while writing Part One, because it was too broad in scope. Instead, Part Two of the adventure is a linear version of that story. Combined with Complications sidebars and the Encounters chapter, I aimed to provide a flexible scaffold for the gamemaster’s use.

I don’t think my material is bad. But, if I were to go back in time, I don’t know that I’d write the adventure this way again. I over-fixated on avoiding railroading, on trying to provide narrative flexibility and complexity, and this led to me spending too much time and energy on the piece. In the future, I think my work will be better served by creating a linear narrative which the gamemaster can use as they wish. This adventure is good—and we had a blast playtesting it—but it’s not “six months of Austin’s writing energy” good.

And that length of time spent on To Hunt a God—elongated by non-writing stressors—contributed to creating a writer’s block. The more energy I devoted to the piece, the bigger Hrunda grew as my mind’s obstacle. How to present this, the final monster of MOTM, in a really exciting and gripping way? As I wrote myself closer and closer, he loomed over my mind and made the keys clack slowly. I even skipped him, jumping to the Encounters—and then my mind zoomed, writing all thirteen in the joyful blur I typically associate with writing.

Ultimately, it was just in the last month or two that I figured out the self-wrought nature of this writer’s block. I don’t need to try making Hrunda exciting. I don’t need to try making Hrunda exciting. Like other antagonists I’ve published, he just needs tactical advice, behavioral description, and a few lines of descriptive text. (Many thanks, by the way, to contributors in the Jonstown Compendium Creators Circle on Facebook for their advice, which triggered this head-slapping epiphany.)

It’s the gamemaster’s job to make him exciting. It’s my job to give the gamemaster tools. There is nothing I can do to evoke some special “perfect boss monster” feeling which I sought. Hrunda doesn’t need something new from me. Just description, and a little advice. Yes, this revelation has made me feel incredibly stupid.

So as I said before, if Life permits we’ll have motion coming soon on To Hunt a God. I’m working on edits and art direction, and I hope to move to be laying out new text soon (even if just in a quick-and-dirty version, so I can get you the long-promised content).

As thanks for reading through this blog, I’d like to share this illustration from Part Two, by the wonderful Yulia Zhuchkova. It depicts the Wise Beast, an entity the adventurers will meet during their heroquest. I’d love to commission more artwork of this quality for Part Two, but in large part that depends on revenues from the sales of Part One and other releases from Akhelas on the Jonstown Compendium.

Once I’ve published any section of Part Two, the cost on To Hunt a God will increase to $14.95. This is still discounted from a planned $19.95 price point for the complete illustrated PDF. I fully expect the final release to exceed 100 pages (and wouldn’t be surprised if it breaches 120 pages).

After the Hunt

I’m not sure yet.

I may take a break from Glorantha. While struggling with writer’s block over Hrunda, I started outlining a new novel, loosely connected to my Fall of Jiharel material. It’s tentatively titled Stillness. This process was enjoyable and exciting for me. As I mentioned at the start of this year, I’ve begun itching to write fiction again. Further, one option I’ve considered is trying to start some sort of serial release—supported through revenue streams like Patreon—to cover part of my “pays the mortgage” income. I don’t know that I can write novels quick enough to break into the self-publishing game, but I think there’s a chance I can write an episodic novel, then release a chapter per week (or two weeks, or month, or whatever) while working on a sequel novel.

Stillness is basically a Homeric samurai story about the titular swordsman, and his adventures. I don’t want to talk about it a lot just yet, but I think after To Hunt a God is fully published, I’m going to return my focus to outlining his story, maybe for a NaNoWriMo attempt this November.

I would consider writing Gloranthan fiction instead (and I’ve actually got a few files of story ideas for the setting), but currently I feel unable effectively monetize it. The setting really needs a good action-adventure novel.

In connection with Stillness, I’ve also re-applied to my MFA program. Around the time the Jonstown Compendium began, I was burned out on fiction from failing to complete my thesis novel. The failure, I’ve learned, is largely because I didn’t complete sufficient prewriting. While writing MOTM I’ve learned a lot about how much prewriting I need to really fly through manuscript pages, and how inconsistent my work is when discovery-writing. (Much as I do love to discovery-write some genres, like mythology.) If I’m accepted, it’s unlikely we’ll see another Akhelas release on the Jonstown Compendium, this year.

Otherwise, I have two main projects to pick back up: Mason Street’s The Infected Fortress manuscript, and the second volume of Treasures of Glorantha. I’ve talked about both of these for some time, and they’re both works I feel are worth publishing. This year so far has just been too much for me to handle.

Hopefully, I’m seeing some light at the end of a long, frustrating tunnel.

Christmas in July

It’s Christmas in July over on DriveThruRPG! If you’re interested in supporting my work—and, let’s be real, contributing to my art budget—a lot of my publications are currently on sale:

The omnibus bundle of MOTM Volume 2 is probably the cheapest you’ll ever see To Hunt a God, by the way. So if you haven’t picked it up, and the book sounds interesting to you, give it some thought!

Until next time, then.


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You can also find Austin over on Facebook, and a bit more rarely on Twitter.

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