What I wanted to actually name this afterword: Stop, Drop, Roll and Play Dead: A Cosmic Retrospective.
So, yeah we're here at the end, not the end. But the end of this part of the journey, kinda like a pitstop of sorts, I guess.
I thought long and hard (not really) about how I wanted to do this Afterword. Should I keep it brief? Should I make it a little lengthy? Should I write it from Victoria or even Li's perspective discussing how she feels about the story so far? I think writing is sort of in-character was a riveting idea, but it might be too much work, and I don't know how I'd get the message across or what message I want to even convey in the first place, anyway. I guess it also doesn't hurt to make this its own chapter as me, myself the author to you fellas
So, yeah. One year and a half later, and some 328k words later, and we're here. I started with about 10ish followers and amazingly, we're around 171 now! and even though that favorite list is small, it makes me warm and fuzzy knowing it's displayed in people's favorites list. Honestly, stumbling across a random profile and seeing it in there firsthand makes me really giddy. It's not much but it is honest work. It's hard to tell how many followed me away back when I first started publishing the first draft of SotCH, and how many have actually stuck around to read through the story again with a new narrative on it. It makes me feel a little guilty, but it also makes me really happy that you guys are just as committed to this as I am. Honestly, I have no idea how I could ever thank you guys for sticking with me for so long.
Well, moving on, I toyed with the idea of doing a self-review of the story thus far, but I imagine that might come off as me having self-doubt and being negative, and from my impression, that's not something readers want to read. But I think what I will say is: the early story after ch17 had a lot of head-hopping, and I think that was something I could have done better. I feel like my amateur storytelling early on is a disservice of sorts for the later part of the story, and it leaves me a little guilty that Li's narrative overshadows Victoria's a fair amount since she has a consistent and coherent story with far fewer PoV changes. A friend joked to me once that Li was in fact the protagonist and not the deuteragonist.
Before ch51 and before focusing on Li, I had this worry that I wouldn't be able to establish distinct voices between Li and Victoria as I was mainly writing through Victoria. I think it was at first tricky, but it worked out well. As I dug deeper and deeper into Li's side of MoT/Requiem, the worry shifted to can I still retain Victoria's voice and find a way to satisfyingly conclude her narrative? I honestly did not expect MoT/Requiem to last as long as it did, so the worry grew with each passing chapter and each passing day. It's been almost 9 months since I last had a Victoria chapter and that concerns me. But after ch92 the focus returns to Victoria first and foremost.
Ch51 and the Jung chapters were a huge leap of faith for me. The shift to focusing on this Jung Lee character made me uncertain if it would still grab the reader's attention, and there was a funny gain/lost count when those chapters started being written. Jung Lee was not a character I suddenly conceived: in the original uploaded draft, he was the unnamed lieutenant who sacrificed himself in an explosion to bide time for the fleet, with half a sentence dedicated to his unnamed wife and child. That's it. I decided to expand on that because I felt I could give it impact as part of Li's narrative and I think I gave it some justice. Though, since Jung was technically introduced without any further acknowledgment in the Madame Gambit's chapter, it was tricky to have his PoV remain consistent with Li's PoV off-screen, but it worked.
That aside, I think from here on there won't be as much head-hopping compared to the Victoria-part MoT chapters. The first half of volume 3, Embers of Ishtar, will be a bit tricky because I did not originally intend for it to be in-depth. You may remember that Li exchanges some words about Brenaco and Li's realization of not factoring that in her calculations about a possible incursion there. I brainstormed about what I wanted to do with it so I won't be totally in the dark with that arc. Originally, I had in mind that it was going to gloss over EoI and focus mainly on the second part of vol3, Evergreen Golden Summer, but I felt that skipping over the action stuff which I think I'm better at would give more weight to the lighthearted slice of life stuff that's mainly EGS.
And that brings me to the last point I'll make in this Afterword. To put it simply: I'm burnt out. I think the realization that I needed time off and was experiencing burnout was around ch68-69: the last two Rouen battle chapters. The action was mainly out of the way, and what now? I think of my weaknesses is writing the falling action and resolution. I actually toyed with the idea of calling a hiatus back there, but I didn't, so I kept persevering. And I think I started to reach greater burnout right after the Fair Lady chapter. I made a bad call of not splitting it into two and it was so draining. And then, only then was I right at the finish line fumbling about did I start to struggle to conclude Li's character arc... but I made it, somehow. I wanted to finish it for your guy's sake and mine. I set a goal to reach a good stopping point in the story and then go on hiatus. You may or may not have seen me comment on the forums here and there going off like a broken record about burnouts and hiatus so this is like a formality.
I'm going to go on hiatus for the rest of August and maybe some of September. I'm a little nervous because I'm scared of immediately getting rusty, but I hope you guys understand. I don't ever want to drop this story, ever. It is my baby and I will find a way to finish it even if it means releasing it as an outline of stuff that happens.
I did toy with the idea of writing a little fun, head-empty light-hearted short story about a skeleton bro and a female kobold, but I don't have anything concrete for it yet. I like to write—it's one of my few outlets from work and life, but it can get a little draining. Or maybe a short story in the same vein of LISA The Painful game set in the immediate aftermath of the Nuclear war on Terra, and I do have a ending in mind for that, but no idea where I may go with that. I have a few SotCH ideas in mind, actually, but I dunno if I want to do anything with them. I love writing SotCH and I can't imagine writing anything else, honestly.
So, yeah, I think that covers everything I've wanted to say. Here's a art I commissioned mossacannibalis for.
Also, before I forget. This is not the last time Li will never be seen. One day, she will come back, but who knows when that may be? I'm running out of things to say. All I can say is be safe out there. And remember to be positive. Don't be sad that things have to end, be happy because it happened. As some engrish dragon lady once insisted, don't cry, be positive, guys!
That about covers it for the Afterword. in the mean time you can check out these stories that I'm following and enjoy a lot (nudge nudge, check out Aoi, it's such a hidden gem and he's a amazing artist).