It’s been an eventful six months for me, this first half of 2022. At the end of last year, I left my job with a radio station where I’d been working for roughly five and a half years, and volunteering at for even longer, and in January of this year I started work at another station but in a very different role. In February, I got married! Still very happy with that decision by the way, and my wife and I are looking to purchase a new place to live in the near future (Marriage tip: It’s very difficult at first to say ‘My wife’ without slipping into a Borat voice – if you’re engaged or thinking of getting engaged, start practising not doing that now!).
And of course, most importantly, this week marks six months of releasing a short story each and every week for my self-imposed ‘All There in the (Monster) Manual’ challenge! Every one of them inspired by a different creature from the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. I haven’t missed a week yet even with all those other things going on, and I’m hoping to keep that streak going until the end of the year.
The six months of short stories so far amounts to roughly 97,600 words – that’s not bad! I literally just went through my notes and added those up for the first time ever right now. 97,600, that’s novel length, written, typed, edited. I will take a moment to pat myself on the back for that one.
Something that might be worth knowing, I conceived of the idea to release a short story based on a D&D monster every week in November of 2021. And at first, I really thought of trying to do it on a week-by-week basis, try to write, edit and release the story all in the one week. But, for one thing, it’s generally beneficial to get some distance before trying to edit anything. I do believe you need to let something rest for a little while between the first draft, the second draft, and the edit. And for another thing, I couldn’t hold back the absolute tsunami of creativity this idea inspired in me. In that two month period at the end of 2021 I was absolutely exploding with ideas, and I had a lot of time on my hands given that I was between jobs during that period so a lot of stories were genuinely still only written over one or two days. The vast majority of what’s been released so far was written during that period – it wasn’t until The Birth of Cities that I crossed from 2021 into this year.
I’ve learned a lot going through the process – firstly, that I’m not the author I thought I was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but as I put at the top of every one of the stories I’ve released, my intention was to write more ‘creature features’ this year. I’m a huge kaiju fan and a fan of old monster B-movies. I read a lot of cheesy creature features on Kindle Unlimited. The kind of stuff where an inexplicably mutated monstrosity comes out of nowhere, slaughters a lot of people, and then gets killed in an appropriately explosive manner. Genuinely, that’s what I intended to mostly set out writing.
Another thing to point out, if you’ve read all the Monster Manual stories, they’ve been, by and large, released in the order I wrote them in. So it was a surprise to me, after conceiving this idea for a bunch of bloodthirsty monster stories, the first one I wrote was a quiet, downtempo little piece set in the American Depression mostly about how we should, as people, be helping each other out a little bit more. Okay, I thought I wanted to write about giants battling tanks, stomping people into the ground and throwing them through the air really, really far, so they splatter all over the place as they hit the ground, but it’s a good story and I guess it’ll make a fine introduction to the idea even if I don’t think it really represents me.
The second story I still love for its perfect brevity, and it’s got that nasty streak I was looking for even if it’s not exactly a creature story. But then the third story is a cutesy, comical slice-of-life with some magical realism weirdness, and again I really, really enjoyed it, but I could already feel things sliding off the rails of my expectations.
That’s not to say I haven’t written some pretty horrifying stuff as well. Some monstrous twists on creatures, more in line with my initial expectations. Some stuff that is obviously less about the story and more about the splatter. But I set out to write pulpy horror and somehow I find myself yearning for… plot? Characters you actually care about? Morality? Where did this come from?
Secondly, I’ve discovered a real love for the short story form itself. Before setting out on this challenge, short stories were an afterthought for me. I concentrated my effort on novel length works and I’d conceived of a few short works that largely connected back to my ‘Kill Switch’ series. While there were a few others that came to me largely at random, or were maybe ideas that didn’t quite work for a novel, but maybe a novella, short stories just didn’t occur much to me.
I think toward the end of last year, I might have been feeling more burned out on writing than I gave myself credit for. I’d been writing really consistently all year but even then I felt like I had so many ideas and never enough time to explore them all. That I would never have enough time to explore them all. I kind of envied people whose creativity took them to music or visual art (I never picked writing, writing picked me) because they could pack so much emotion or story into such a short space of time without the commitment of writing a whole novel.
But I’ve found with a short story, you can create a whole world or explore so much story in a really short space if you pick the right idea. It’s really helped reignite a passion for telling stories and given me some hope that there is time enough to explore all that I want to explore in my writing!
In saying that, after six months I am really starting to come to the pointy end of this challenge. As I mentioned, most of the first drafts of the stories released so far were written in that two month period at the end of 2021, when I had a lot of free time. My first drafts are all written pen to paper by the way. So beyond that, there’s been typing and second drafts, third drafts, edits, rereading, and of course each week I’ve got to come up with descriptions, banners and covers, and actually release the things. I’ve been watching that buffer of stories I have yet to release shrink rapidly over the last couple of months. And my life seems to get infinitely busier some weeks. So here’s where the challenge gets really challenging. I haven’t missed a week yet and I don’t intend to but I’m intrigued to see whether I can keep up the pace and keep this streak going until the end of the year. And then next year, who knows? Watch this space? In fairness, I have enough of a buffer right now to get to the end of August, and last night I wrote an entire story start to finish based on the Shambling Mound, so I’m not too stressed yet.
Finally, I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported my writing so far, in ways big and small. A single short sentence review or a little engagement on social media can really make my whole day. These stories have been finding more and more of an audience each week and that audience has just been awesome, I’m really grateful for that!
Special thanks to my wife who has been my number one beta reader, and reads every single one of my stories before they go out into the world, even when they really freak her out.
And a shoutout to sopantooth on WordPress, who almost from the beginning has liked every single one of the Monster Manual stories as soon as they’ve gone up on the website. I wait to see that email come through every week as an alert and it always gives me a bit of joy.
If you’ve only just come across this site recently, please do check out the content from this year (and earlier)! And if you enjoy what you find, please drop it a review someplace, tell a friend, or share it out there in the zeitgeist. Every bit of support does mean the world to me.
Trying to pick favourites is like picking a favourite child, scrolling through them I am like, oh, I like this one, and this one, and this one. So here are a few that I guess stick in my mind more strongly than others:
And if you’ve read everything on the website and like some kind of degenerate you still want more, maybe consider checking out my books on Amazon?