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I hurled a Fireball at the Ice Dragon. I watched as my game avatar, a maximum level mage, cast his spell on the computer screen and the fireball burned the monster to ashes. I breathed a sigh of relief when the damn creature with TEN THOUSAND HIT POINTS finally died! I glanced at my clock on the wall right above my computer screen. The clock was an unlicensed, homemade Final Fantasy VII clock purchased from an overseas eBay seller; it read three-twenty-five in the morning, or there about. It was hard to read the exact time with the hand dials.
Wait! Was it already past midnight? “Oh, no! I was supposed to finish writing chapter ten today! UGH!” I quickly saved my progress and exited the game. I had started playing the new fantasy role-playing game on my computer during my lunch break, after a ferocious writing session for four hours straight.
I KNEW I shouldn’t have started playing the new game “Merlin: Mage Supreme,” but I just couldn’t help myself. The temptation was too irresistible. I started playing and before I knew it fifteen hours flew right by! That was the problem with being a power gamer, or someone obsessed with making his game character as powerful as quickly as possible.
In my defense, though, I had a very good reason to try to breeze through the game so fast—for bragging rights against an obnoxious power gamer named “HiDeHo77!” in an online forum. And when bragging rights against a hated rival were at stake, nothing else mattered!
To make matters worse, the other forum users were very publicly egging both of us on! The forum had divided into two groups: "Team Mully" and "Team Hideho." People were constantly sending me private messages ("PMs") that either encouraged me to keep pushing or insulted me. The worse one was probably a PM from "LeyMoMo," who openly wished that I had cancer. I posted screenshots of my progress regularly to shut down the trolls. But Hideho kept posting his own screenshots to prove that he was ahead of my pace.
Now if only I didn’t need to make a living as a fantasy writer using the byline of “Lawrence Eugene Mulligan.” I know, I know. That was such a cheesy name for a writer. Unfortunately, that was what my parents decided to name me—Lawrence after my dad and Eugene after my grandpa; Mulligan was self-explanatory. Obviously. I was one of those slackers in school, who couldn’t decide on what to do with his life, career wise. On a dare from some school brats, I decided to publish my short stories online. It was just some LitRPG stories based on some (weird) fantasy world “borrowed” from Tolkien themes.
Somehow, the stuff went viral and people started downloading it. Eventually, a publisher came along and offered a contract for a new book based on that LitRPG world. Seeing the dollar amount being offered with all those zeroes at the end, I stupidly agreed to the contract without reading the strings attached—especially not the part where I had to submit periodic updates of my book to Cindy Loewman, the pushy, bossy editor from hell!
Cindy had one face to face meeting with me, looked me up and down, and quickly realized that I was a slacker when it came to meeting a publishing deadline. Gee whiz, was I THAT obvious? Well ma’am, Stephen King I ain’t! And so, after much cajoling (and threats to cancel the publishing contract), she finally got me to agree to submit one full chapter per week with a two thousand words minimum per chapter. Unfortunately, the tenth chapter was coming due in six hours and I was less than halfway through.
“Oh, Lord! How am I going to write and edit a dozen pages in six hours?” I moaned aloud. I was a Ph.D. in procrastination but rarely did I ever wait so long to finalize a chapter. I was one of those "messy" writers who needed plenty of time rewriting and re-editing my work. After a first draft, my work could barely qualify as English writing. It was usually that bad. And I was NOT going to submit my half-written work to my editor.
Cindy made it clear to me that the chapters I submitted had to be really polished; when I submitted the first chapter, she called me the same day to schedule an appointment. When we met in person at a coffee shop, she put a print out of my submission on the table in front of me. When I looked it, I was thoroughly embarrassed by the sea of red marks. It was much worse than the feedback I received from my Freshman Creative Writing class after my professor reviewed my assignments. As I quickly flipped through the pages, it was clear that almost half of each page required editing.
The lady, middle-aged with light brown hair but a very stern demeanor took a few sips of her coffee while politely waiting for me to review her edits. When I was finished, she practically read me the riot act. "I recognize that you're at the beginning of your professional journey as a writer and I'm going to cut you some slack—this one time," she said. "However, I expect much fewer red marks on your next chapter. If you don't take the time to polish your work before submitting it to me, then I will have no choice but to invoke Section Five, Paragraph Three of your publishing contract and start the termination process. In that event, we will ask you to return your advance. I don't want to do this to you, but I have a responsibility to my publisher to ensure that our authors act professionally and submit professional work on schedule. Am I making myself clear?"