The Mountain of the Lord is finished! It ended up at 74 pages, and 16,211 words that’s really long for a short story, and is in fact well into novelette range, but the anthology’s upper limit is 17,000 and I just have to hope that they like it enough to accept something that large. If they don’t, well, sad me I guess—I’ll have a story that’s too long, and with too narrow an audience, to ever publish anywhere else. That’s the problem with writing stories specifically for collections like this: if the collection doesn’t want it, you’re not likely to sell it anywhere else. Short fiction editors know that as soon as the (for example) airship anthology makes it’s final selections, they’re going to be flooded with airship stories that didn’t make the cut. Watch out for the flood of Mormons and monsters stories, Asimov’s!
The main thing I learned writing this story is that I am not very good at writing short stories. Obviously the pacing of a short story is different from the pacing of a novel, but even knowing that and planning for it I still had a devil of a time trying to make it work. The final scene is a great example: I brought my hero to the second plot turn, where he makes his decision to use his powers and fight back, and then I sat down down to write the resolution in which he actually uses his powers, and I realized it didn’t work—it was too long, and too unfocused. In a novel it would have been fine, and in fact if I’d done it as a novel I would have lengthened it a little, but for this story and this length I realized I needed to combine the two scenes into one. The hero has his epiphany right there, in the moment, while the necromancer is getting ready to sacrifice everyone, and then as soon as he makes his choice he rises up and saves the day—no waiting, no stalling, just get on with the story.
I had intended to use the old lady, Mollie Hammond, as the character who convinces Silas that his powers come from God. Once I got there, though, I realized two things: first, I wanted Silas to have a stronger social redemption, since he begins the story as an outcast, and that meant I needed him to make a more meaningful connection to someone. The old lady didn’t work for that, but I still wanted her to get her own little redemption. The second thing I realized is that the necromancer already knew who Silas was by this time, and what he was capable of, and would plan ahead. He wouldn’t just tie him up and wait for his epiphany so he could fight back. Gideon would take and threaten a hostage, to help keep Silas in check, so I needed to figure out who. The answer was obvious—Mollie Hammond was not only the only prisoner without a family member in the party (making it very easy for her to lie and say Silas was her relative), but she could use the opportunity to redeem herself by actually giving her life—she knows that whoever is chosen as a hostage will die when Silas changes and attacks, so she’s putting herself in that position to protect the people Silas loves. Since she was gone, I let one of the girls have the big soul-searching conversation with Silas.
The story turned out well, and it was really fun to write, but what’s most interesting to me was the process of writing it like this, on the Internet, discussing every secret and plot point in detail. Anyone who’s read this blog will have nothing new to discover when they read the actual story, but I’ve heard from a ton of people who loved watching it come together and seeing what choices I made and why. If the story actually sells, I’ll make sure to let you know how and when to pick up the anthology, so you can read the final product.