Discover more from The Cascadia Chronicles
Final Update: It’s Over
Week 14? 15? 478? All I know is the first draft is finally written.
The first draft of the first Cascadia Chronicles book was completed on Christmas Eve, around 1 pm. The final word count was 47,032. The working title is The Path to Bridge City.
I finished the main narrative on December 23, and that felt satisfying enough in its own right, but there were still two epilogue chapters, one which introduces the series’ main antagonist, and another, final bit which ties the story back to the first scene. I had these both well-written in my head, knowing they’d serve as book ends, so typing them out didn’t take long.
I felt sad as I closed out the chapter with the companions. I’d spent so much time getting to know them and watching them unfold that I’ll miss them as I set the book aside for a bit. I keep thinking about all that action unfolding only over a couple of days. My little fellas went through so much!
This was a genuine question for me about the book. Were there too many action scenes over a 24 hour period to be believable? Then I received affirmation in the form of an old Onion article: Study Finds Average Squirrel Lives Through Human Equivalent of Seven Action Films Every Day.
The Act of Naming
I heard once that a disproportionately large amount time in writing should be focused toward the final fourth of the story. Finishing this book showed me why. So many threads to tie up!
What ended up being most painstaking, especially as the narrative moved into Cascadia’s Capitol District and pronouns proliferated, was how often I had to carry out my own species’ original task: naming the animals. Where previous characters were slowly introduced as the companions moved along, the final chapters are a firehose of Councillors and Generals and organizations. And it’s not like I’m just gonna name ‘em Barry or Charlize or Monkey Joe.
My quickest resources for deciding names are the animal’s Wikipedia pages, where Latin and other associated words often serve as inspiration. More often, the names are geographic, so I’ll scan over the region I imagine, say, a mountain lion is from on Google Maps for interesting words which might make sense to call a mountain lion. Ophir, Arrick, and Eola, for instance, are all based on geographic places.
My biggest resource, however, is a massive tome penned by a friend of my great grand-father, Lewis A. McArthur. Oregon Geographic Names is consider a classic of Pacific Northwest history, and it’s sat next to me at my writing station throughout this quest. Sometimes I’ll have a sound or letter in mind for a character, and I’ll just flip through the pages and get waylaid reading about how Montavilla came to be named, for instance. But other times I emerge with wonderfully obscure Oregon words and those are some of my favorites names of all.
The Surprise Last Attack
You know at the end of action movies when the villain’s been vanquished and the hero’s hugging whoever they rescued, and then it’s like, Oh no! The villain had a Derringer in his boot!
Well, for me that attack came from Battlefield 2042, which sucked me into too many rounds on the Sunday before Christmas. (Though in my defense, I was really locked in and just decimating fools.) Then the next morning my neck twinged and I got that little hooked/tight feeling where you hope it’ll go away but it doesn't, and I was like, No! I’ve done it again! The injury is back!
So I disavowed Battlefield and returned to my regimen of icepacks & CBD & Ibuprofen & walks. I gritted through the pain to keep hitting my word counts through the week and by Wednesday my neck and nerves felt back at 100% and I was ready to push through. Get behind me, Resistance!
Now that the first draft is complete, I’m being asked what’s next for the Cascadia Chronicles.
Since this project is an unmitigated success (and since we’re one of the top fiction Substacks), I’ll keep this place going, posting sample chapters, character profiles, and other Cascadia-related material. This is a world I’m only beginning to explore.
The first draft, meanwhile, will go into a barrel and ferment for a bit while I move onto other writing work.
My three main focuses in early 2022 will be:
Building out the Green Room (which will include a subscription service, lots of posts, and drafts from two other developing book projects);
Seeking out a foothold in the freelance copywriting world;
Launching some experimental Amherst Writers & Artists groups.
Meanwhile, I will keep working toward finishing and publishing the first book. This will mean:
Polishing up three sample chapters so they’re more final draft than first;
Gathering data for a book proposal;
Deciding whether to find a publisher or self-publish;
Deciding what sort of publisher would work best.
Finally, I’m thinking about novel no. 2. I keep picturing Eola and Ophir and Bajo and Arrick heading out to new adventures. There are so many story threads set up and I want to learn what happens next.
At first, for a while, this will mean dreaming and exploring.
What I Learned
I learned I can do this.
I’ve always known I could imagine worlds and stories. What I didn’t know—not until Christmas Eve—was that I could merge that all together and actually tap a coherent story out onto keys.
But that’s what happened these last few months! And along the way, I learned a lot about how I work best, how to structure my word counts, and more about trusting the Holy Spirit to take my writing places I never could alone.
Speaking of alone, none of this would’ve been possible without the community and encouragement I had in all of you. Every step of this process, there was some insight to prod me along, some comment to lift me up. I’m especially grateful for the young readers who’ve read along. I want these books to be especially fun for you.
I found my original Cascadia note cards the other day, jotted down fourteen years ago while cashiering at the Terwilliger Market of Choice. The story I finished on Saturday is so much cooler than what I imagined then. If 14 years took me this far, then who knows how future decades in Cascadia will unfold?
I’ve asked for prayers throughout this process, and so that’s what I’d like once again. Pray this series continues, that more of the story is told, that this novel finds its right readers.
In my tradition, we close with a benediction, a blessing at the end of time together. So here’s one of my own:
Holy Spirit, thank you for the work accomplished this year. Thank you for hourly insight, for daily carrying me toward my goal. Thank you for the community around us, the people you blessed me through, and especially these readers. Bless them mightily.
In Christ’s name, Amen.