Back in 2013, I had the pleasure of earning a spot into Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. I was new to writing and workshopping, having only attended the Superstars Writing Conference the year prior (mostly as a fan of the presenters), and did not have any idea what I was doing.
As part of the workshop, we were to write a new story to be shared with the 11 other participants, and OSC himself, for critique. When the time came to write, I had no idea what to write about. No idea where to start. No idea if I could even produce a single word. So I sat in my hotel room away from the computer and turned on the television. I don’t recall if I had channel surfed or if the show was the first thing that came up, but there on the TV was a documentary about sineaters, an old tradition of people who would take on the sins of someone just before that person’s death so they could enter heaven without blemish. And suddenly I had an idea. I went to my laptop and typed out a very rough, and I do mean very rough (most of it doesn’t even make sense), draft of a story. The gist is as follows: an unnaturally long-lived priest aboard a generation ship named Heroditus (I spelled it differently than the historian, but not on purpose) performed esoteric rituals to pull the sins of the crew from their minds to maintain peace aboard the ship, but when those sins begin to overwhelm the priest things get complicated.
Somehow I managed to get 3000 words on paper in time for OSC and myself to make copies (I had driven to the workshop so was able to drive the two of us to the copy center) of my messy story, and everyone else’s works, so we could read and critique them. The critiques were interesting, some detailed, some merely correcting grammar, and the only thing I remember Orson Scott Card saying to me during my critique was, “I hate you.” I didn’t ask for clarification, but thought maybe he meant I had come up with a great idea for a story.
Sadly it’s been 9 years and I haven’t made progress on that story, for a variety of reasons. Mental health, lack of craft, lack of confidence. But I’ve found lately a better sense of how to write, how to finish projects. I’m still learning, but I think I’m further along than I was 9 years ago. I had always planned to get back to this story, once my skills were up to the task, but I wanted to share with you the original manuscript, so you can see just how garbled and crazy and awful a first draft can be. So here it is, Sins of Heroditus.