jaune_chat (jaune_chat) wrote,

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A Rant of Writing Expectations

So, in December I posted what I had intended to be the final chapter of a series I had started waaaaaaay back in 2006. I got some good comments on it, some great responses from people who'd been with me during the main writing of the long story of the series for two years. And then I got some other responses.

From 2006-2008 I wrote my first serious piece of fanfiction, a Sky High story called War and Peace In Mind (link to Ao3 series), originally posting it on FanFiction.net. I wrote several other short stories in the same universe, but most of my attention was on WaPIM, which ended up being over 330,000 words long. I also wrote three transitional pieces from 2008-2009, which were intended to bridge the chronological gap between the end of WaPIM and the start of its sequel, We Are Legend. I had intended to write We Are Legend several years ago, but about the time I finished up WaPIM, brighteyed_jill had tempted me to come over to LiveJournal, and I discovered the Heroes fandom.

Those of you who've been following my journal for a while know I wrote a ton of Heroes fanfic, and a lot of it had explicit sexual content, which isn't allowed on FF.net. Add to the fact that there was a better sense of community on LJ, as well as a relatively higher maturity level, I didn't feel a pressing need to immediately return to Sky High fanfiction. FF.net is usually the first stop for most young, budding, fanfic authors, and since Sky High was a Disney film that dealt with a lot of teenage issues, a large number of the people following FF.net's Sky High stories were teenagers. (I cannot tell you the number of Mary Sue-type stories that exist over there. I know it's a phase most writers go through; but once you've seen fifty variations of the same thing on one page, you start to twitch.)

Also, Sky High was a single movie, while Heroes was an ongoing show. There was new inspiration happening 22-24 weeks out of the year for four years, and I wanted to write in that. That led me into Supernatural fanfic, Firefly, Sherlock, and many other fandoms over the next three years, and the Sky High sequel to WaPIM faded in importance.

I really did intend to do a sequel, but once I started writing in other fandoms, I knew I was not going to be able to devote my full attention to a single super-long fic again.

War and Peace In Mind was written at a very different point in my life than what it is now. From 2006-2008 I was single, with a job that allowed me a great deal of free time. I also did not have a DVR. I chose to use that free time to write, and at the height of my productivity was pumping out a 5,000+ word chapter every ten days or so. I was devoted to a single story in a single fandom. I also did not have a clear idea of where I was going when I started the story, and a simple retelling of the movie from a different character's point of view turned into a sprawling epic with a lot of world building as I slowly figured out a plot. I am quite proud of the work I put into the WaPIM universe, but once 2008 rolled around, things did change.

I got married, I started writing in other fandoms, we got a TiVO, and my social life picked up. By the time I started seriously thinking about doing a sequel to WaPIM, I was a regular participant in several annual exchanges and big bangs, and was keeping up with a couple dozen shows with the ideas and stories they engendered. If I was going to do this WaPIM sequel, it was going to have to be in the context of something I was already participating in.

I chose to do the sequel, We Are Legend, within the timeframe of the journeystory big bang challenge. I needed to have tight plotting and firm idea of where to end, because I knew there was no way I could do another 300k+ epic, not with the other stories and series I had going on. I did like the world of WaPIM, but not enough to live there for another two years.

I buckled down and did it, getting a high-stakes story for the characters into an intense, tight, 25k big bang. And felt proud of myself for doing so. I hadn't written anything for that world since 2009, and it felt good to finally finish the sequel I'd always planned.

I posted it first on FF.net, as a thank-you to all the fans who'd waited so patiently for so long. It was clearly labeled as "complete," just so there'd be no confusion; with an additional author's note at the end spelling out this was my last serious foray into this world. And I got some good comments that made me happy inside. Most of them were actually pretty darn positive, and all was good. I so loved that people were still reading my stuff after so long.

And then I got some that were like, "Great first chapter, can't wait to see more!" Or, "IT'S ABOUT TIME!" Or, "It's too short."

...WTF? For the first one - it's labeled as complete, and author's note says I'm done. There is no, "second chapter," this isn't the first part in some huge epic. It's done.

For the second... Ok, I can understand the frustration of some of my readers when I said I'd do the sequel years ago. However, considering that there were three years between the last story and this one, you probably should have been more concerned that I'd ever post at all. It's not unusual for authors to abandon old stories if their interests move on, and it's not like I'm getting paid for my time. Posting, "IT'S ABOUT TIME!" like I owed you something doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling of accomplishment - it makes you look greedy and demanding. It doesn't encourage me to write again. Actually it makes me resent having written my own story, just out of a desire to spite your thoughtlessness.

As for the third, the complaints of We Are Legend's shortness... Sure, I could have made it longer. I could have made it 300k longer if I had started two years ago and ignored every other story idea I wanted to write. But I didn't. I had a thing I wanted to tell, and I told it in 25k. In WaPIM, the characters had quite a bit of time to adjust to their circumstances, and the pace only really got super-frantic in the last massive battle. And even then I had a big wind-down afterwards. For We Are Legend I wanted the pace to be fast and for the characters to not have too much downtime, because they were in a race to save the world. I didn't want to drag things out because I wrote it over the course of a few months, not years, and I didn't have time to fiddle around with a longer story. Also, do you know how hard it can be to find someone to beta a very long story that already has over 360k (including the supplementary stories)-worth of backstory? That's a lot of commitment! I was lucky to find people who'd already read all of WaPIM and were willing to help, but that was something I had to consider.

Also? 25k is pretty damn long. Lemme break down some numbers for you. There are about 1,500 Sky High stories on FF.net. 167 of them are 20k or more. We Are Legend is longer than 89% of the stories available for that fandom on that site. 25k is a big bang, a very decently-sized big bang. Don't talk to me about short. Just... don't. I am probably never going to match the circumstances that let me write War and Peace In Mind again, and I don't like feeling guilty for completing an old series only to be told it wasn't enough.

Sorry I somehow didn’t meet your expectations, you few commenters who were less than polite, but I was never going to recreate your first experience with me as a writer. I’ve changed, and so has my writing over the past seven years.

Overall, I was happy I wrote the story, happy to do the sequel, and quite happy with most of the comments I got from my fans. It was nice to write about these characters I’d known for three years, and I’m even contemplating doing some one-shots at some indeterminate point in the future. But I sure as hell am not giving anyone a date this time!
Tags: commentary, fic meta, rant, sky high, writing
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