It means a lot to hear that people like the digging deeper thing. I just, that’s what I’m there for, is the shit you can only find out when you’ve been writing a character for thousands of words. And there’s no way to do that but long-and-slow.
Having composed Full of Grace in fragments is kind of making me think about pacing more. And the thing is, I compose everything in fragments. if I sit down and say “In the beginning, hm, there was a city, yes, and in this city there lived a, hm, a girl let’s say, okay, sure, and she wanted, um, a thing. OH and then her father was unjustly slain!” and I’m off to the races. Yeah okay that’s the notes to write to yourself, that’s not how you write a story. You need to start in the middle because the audience doesn’t need to hear any of those sentences, all of that should be context.
And so I sit down and I usually open on a subject-verb-object in the middle of an action– those scenes, I really write them like that at this point, I don’t do the trick I used to do of scrolling until it got interesting and then cutting everything before– now I just write that way. (it’s a good beginner trick, or if you’re super rusty– just let whatever come out at first, and then skim it afterward, you can usually delete the first ten percent because that’s just your brain warming up).
The problem is then you do that fifteen times or so, and you’ve got a collection of scenes, and you know these characters. And you’ve learned something important in each one, so they’re all ones you need to include in your story. (Okay, twelve of them you need to include, and the other three you just really like, and if this were pro work you’d probably throw them out but come on it’s fanfic, that one particular bit will make someone’s day.) But you can’t just– as you were writing those, most of them were freestanding. They can’t all happen, narratively, at once. You have to prune them and shape them into a linear thing. Because time happens linearly and so do stories. So okay, this one builds on that one, but this one can’t have happened until this other thing was known, and so on and so forth.
It becomes agonizing by this point, 60,000+ words in, if you had no outline, which I didn’t. I’ve been shaping it as I went, but like, especially since the main character has no POV sections, I have to be really careful about what is known about him in what order. And I’m not meaning it to sound like these are haphazard revelations. No, I’m building toward something.
It’s just really hard to sustain a reader’s interest for that long. I did get a recent comment where someone kindly observed that the angst is getting a little heavy. Yes, it is, it’s a long story, and it’s only going to get worse. But I’m really trying to make it not grimdark. But this is where, for sure, if I were writing pro fic– well, I wouldn’t post it without having finished the ending, for one thing, and so I’d finish it and then go back and cut about 30% of the length, I think. I’d get rid of everything not directly in service of the plot, or the B-plot. Hell, I might cut 50% of the length.
Remember a novel is usually around 75,000 words. My shit very often is twice that, at least. And part of that is that I’m a wordy motherfucker, and always have been– in writing classes, in high school and college, they always said “aim for your first draft to be about 110% the final length so you can cut it down” and I routinely wound up with final papers twice the length they should have been, from which I desperately had to last-minute excise whole segments. (And some of these were like, 15-page research papers, so it was no small thing.) It took me a long time to realize that my drafts had to be about 50% the final length. I write long, and editing only draws that out longer.
And the other part of it is, this is fanfic. I’m aware that fanfic readers love extra material. In the eyes of most, every single thing we write is extra material. (I would argue that there’s a bunch that is, in fact, more important than the source text, but that’s something to write about another time.) And so I have no incentive to cut these chapters down. I have no reason to try to keep this story succinct.
And the stories probably do suffer for that (is my incredibly long-winded point). I try to keep myself disciplined anyway; every chapter has to have something important in it, I try to hit certain key points. I figure, about 4k words of every chapter is necessary. 4-8k is plot-crucial. The rest is in there because I enjoy it, and I know most of the people reading will. (The chapters of most things I post average 10k.)
But I also know it’s a lot to read. There are many readers who will see the wordcount and just back-button away. That’s okay! And that’s what I sometimes, whinily, weigh to myself. I want to wallow in this material, so I will, but I understand that there are people for whom it’s going to be too much.
And I should give myself more practice at writing concise, shorter works.
But not today.