King of Swamp Castle: When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.
–Monty Python and the Holy Grail
“Beginnings Chapter 2 — Overboard” came about after I read Mark Gardner’s “Beginnings.” In the comments he indicated that he wasn’t going to take up anything else with the story, so I inquired if I could give it a shot. He gave me the go ahead and I wrote away. Within a couple days I had a draft, did a revision and had what I thought was a final draft.
My ex wife regularly reads my stories before I post them. I gave this to her for a read and she really did not like it. Some of the criticisms I didn’t necessarily agree with, but I certainly saw where she was coming from. The first version took up the events immediately after Steve went through the door. There were, I think, some cool concepts in my draft that I can use later, but I started to see how this wasn’t the right place for them. We talked about it for awhile more, but when she summed it up as, “You can do better,” I knew I needed to give it another go.
I decided to take her advice to heart and I tried going in a different direction with the second version. It was wholly different from the first, but still didn’t pass muster. This one took place on the dock the day after Steve received the coin from James, early in the morning, but it spent far too much time giving detail, and not enough time exploring the relationship between the two characters.
So I started again. This time I only made it halfway through before shitcanning it myself. If the first two were merely collapsing in the swamp, this one truly had burned down and fell over and sank into the swamp. While I let her read it, I already knew it was past the point of saving. She didn’t think it was as bad as I did, but she definitely thought it needed work.
So, on it was to the fourth one. Much like Swamp Castle, this one was firmly built on the rubble of the previous four. Where I had struggled to write the first three (two and a half?) this one flowed naturally, and I was happy with it at the end. It didn’t try and do too much, but it gave a more solid base to both James and Steve, and opened a window into their relationship. Her smile after reading it was a reward in itself. All the things that my former wife had recommended were very much the perfect fit for the second chapter, and it shows.
The moral of the story being, more than anything else, honest beta readers are a Godsend, but only if you listen to them.
The story is now in the hands of Miss Alister, and I am excited to see where it goes after giving it my own solid nudge.