A.S. Etaski

Why the Changes?

With each Sister Seekers book I’ve published, I have also been asked a question by many readers in many ways. With the release of “Surfacing” (Book 4), Odessa reached out and articulated this question well:

Why the shift in Sirana’s behavior between the original pieces published on Literotica and the finished books published on Kindle? I’ve noticed a number of moments in the plot where Sirana originally violated another character’s consent having been replaced with an equally well-written but significantly more ethical action. I’m curious as to your reasons.

Thanks for being curious. ūüôā¬† The simplest answer is I didn’t open my Patreon page in 2015 just put free content into book form. It took me 7 years to finish the story, and I’ve wanted to rewrite it for 5 of them.¬† Now I am.

The full and thorough answer to this has a lot of facets, and I’ve offered each facet as its own reason to different¬†readers, depending on how they asked and what the conversation was like. For those interested, I will try to summarize them here.

Reason 1: Author’s purpose. This is the final draft of the story.

I’ve been saying for years that¬†the typo-laden, speed-written posts I was putting on Literotica was my “pretty good second draft.” I’ve been saying for years that I was going to rewrite the beginning of my epic.

It’s unusual that many readers get to see the semi-final draft of a single book, much less the semi-final draft of 20 of them, but…¬†Here we are. That’s what I’m doing, and that’s what you’re seeing.

Neil Gaiman has said:¬†“The purpose of your second time through the story is to make it look like you knew where you were going all along.”

I’ve made it through the complete journey once with basic navigation tools, at night, with one headlight; I had a pretty good idea where I was going,¬†but the way had patches of fog. Now I’m retreading the same journey during the day, with accurate survey equipment, and I’m prepared to build the road to¬†last.

Reason 2: Character Journey, Relationships, and World History

The early Sirana had one purpose on a free sex story site: as a vehicle for naughty and mean-spirited Drow fan-fic shenanigans. (Readers often called it “Sirana’s shenanigans.”)

I wrote a Drow assassin who was young/dumb/full-of-cum, 10-feet-tall and bulletproof for sass and for intentionally lowering the literary threshold required to justify some of the kinky and evil stuff I wanted to write at the time. I also didn’t take it that seriously for a while; I was exploring and tinkering with character development and true world building after I wrote a lot of smut in a copyrighted world. Alas, I could only go so far or patch so many holes when I found my real love of the story.¬† I’ve also seen how authors and their fandoms can take self-insert, self-indulgent¬†characters extremely seriously, and I don’t want to be that kind of author.

For Lit, I wrote ego-driven wish fulfillment, using the usual tropes of Drow badass indulgence I’d gleaned elsewhere and giving it my own spin on a sex story site. There’s nothing wrong with such fantasies as¬†long as you recognize that. But I’m also bored with it, and I’m tired of¬†people in general taking ego-centric stuff as any ideal standard for a strong character or strong writing. There’s always room for improvement, and there’s always potential for greater self-awareness.

To be clear, I’m not writing Drow anymore. I kept the word for consistency in the story I planned to take down anyway, but they haven’t been Drow to me for years.¬† I’m writing the Davrin with a long history in their setting. I’ve given Sirana an actual family of 4 generations; I understand what drives¬†each¬†of them. I’ve watched that family change over 7 years and 30 books going into a second epic. I’ve reconsidered where Sirana came from, what kind of world might produce her if she were a grounded and believable character.

In exploring this, the trajectory changed in the rewrite for what was reasonable for a Davrin survivor of child abuse among a partially corrupted population vs. sexy Drow shenanigans with a flat culture of casual rape in a fully corrupted population.

Now, I¬†want the¬†tone consistent from the beginning. In the end, the story and world overtook the shenanigans.¬† I know where I’m going and what the big picture is.¬† Ergo, I need characters and relationships that will support the story and world.¬† The shenanigans were fun for a time, but I’m redoing this the way I want to do it. I’ve worked for and earned the opportunity to do so.

Reason 3, Talking Shop: Why do a rewrite if you can’t strengthen the weak spots and do more with less?

I’ve listened to reader feedback for a long time and have engaged with many,¬†especially on Discord; it is one of my favorite parts of being an indie author. I hear different perspectives and, in some cases, identify a weak spot in the story or the writing that provoked the comment. Sometimes the reader is able to articulate that for themselves and offer fascinating insights.¬†¬†

Most perceived weaknesses had to do with character or lack of clarity, and both arose from my taking “shortcuts” to get to the shenanigans (author motive) or from not having as clear an idea what I was trying to convey until later (journey); I couldn’t always tell what was or wasn’t important to the¬†story¬†(not to me).

To fix some of these areas, to mature and grow as a writer, I have to take my ego out of the story and rewrite what is needed to aim where I am going. That means less word count; I plan to cut 25 books down to 20 and tell the same epic.  That means cutting dead-end or meandering scenes, or rewriting them into something that serves the story. That means watching the sexual indulgences like a hawk, and balancing them with the big picture.

The best example so far would be the “Sirana and Kurn in the canyon” scene.¬†

Originally, it was a mean-spirited and kinky scene, an author-indulgent way for the main character to strut around, tossing her hips in victory. It made sense for the (not serious) Drow character and the work that came before it, but I will say I have heard no positive feedback on it over the years. It was never a favorite scene for anyone (who spoke up) and also it wasn’t a pinnacle or direction-turning scene in the journey.¬†¬†

I introduced an antagonist, I humiliate him quickly, and then he remained in the story far too long afterward. The only constructive criticism on it was that readers were tired of the character after the canyon, found him ineffective and pointless, and my writing him out of the story came in the nick of time as a relief, not a payoff. 

This is something that’s ripe for change and improvement from any writer.

What happens in Sister Seekers 4 is backed up by the new story, not the old one.¬† Given the room to maneuver, Sirana made a different choice in the canyon, matching the character and serving the story.¬† The change was not to water anything down from the old version, but to save something for later. Because of what’s still coming in the new version.¬†

So, comparing Sister Seekers 4 by itself to similar scenes in the old version will show you the differences,¬†but not the big picture. Not until the next story arc is complete. If you¬†evaluate¬†a book based on how closely it evokes the “old feeling,” you’ll be disappointed every time.¬† They aren’t the same work written by the same¬†author at the same point in time. These are different books with different motivations backing them up.

I love what¬†I read last year, in the forward of Stjepan Sejic’s¬†“Mercy”, because I relate so well.

There is value in forgetting, if only for a little while. Forgetting makes you sink into a story without asking the dumbest of questions. That question being: “How does this compare to…?”

I can answer that question before it’s even finished.¬† It doesn’t.¬† It won’t compare until the storyline is finished and you can competently see each story for what they are.

This is why I began publishing. This is what I have wanted to do for a long time and am doing now. The goal was never to keep the old version. The goal was to go through the entire epic again, free of its original conception, early trappings, and expectations and begin the journey anew.

It’s a familiar story, but it is a new story as well. It’s a unique opportunity in my lifetime which I’m taking. I hold the greatest gratitude to those who believe I can do what I claim.¬† Thank you.