Please don’t kill me. I know it’s a lame post title.
So for once I actually looked at the monthly theme for the IWSG post, and it was “When do you know your story is ready?”
I actually have two answers to that. One for my original works, and one for my fanfiction, which I’m sorry to say has completely taken over my (writing) life since I allowed myself to return to it for July’s CampNaNo.
The original works answer is easiest, and the reason for the post’s titles: they’re never ready.
There was a time when I thought differently. When I thought they could be polished up and presented to the world. But then I stopped and actually looked at what I was writing, and realized that no, they absolutely could not be. So, I write them, and maybe polish a little, make a few changes to things that really bug me about them, and then I just let them be.
I know it probably seems like a terrible waste of time to write hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of words with no intention of ever letting anyone else read them, but…since no one would read them even if I released them into the wilds of the Internet, what would be the point? It’d be a much bigger waste of time to go through re-write after re-write, trying vainly to make dull stories and uninteresting characters into anything other than what they are, only to fail spectacularly and only sell one or two copies (at $1.99 or less), and even then only to friends and family who would only give very polite “how nice for you” responses.
Now, for fanfiction, it’s a bit different. Because there’s no expectation of perfection in fanfiction (although I wish other writers would at least edit their stuff before posting it!), no one’s going to criticize for a mistake or twenty, and even major characterization errors can go uncommented upon. Plus there’s a built-in audience in the form of other fans of the original work, so a few people will actually read what I’ve written, unlike what would happen if I tried self-publishing my original fiction.
And, of course, for fanfiction, I’m in 100% control, so I can always go back and change something even after I’ve posted it online.
So for fanfiction, it’s easier to decide something is “ready.” I’ve developed a process:
- I let it sit for a little while, and write something else.
- I give it the once over, looking for major mistakes, and places where whole sections might need to be torn down and replaced.
- I give the twice over? Well, whatever you wanna call it. I look it over again for mistakes and needed changes.
- Let it simmer a while longer.
- At least two more passes looking for errors and changes.
- Edit something else.
- Return to it, and if I can read it two or three times without wanting to change anything, it’s probably ready. That’s when I run the spellcheck….which is complicated in this new fandom, because I like to change the dictionary setting so that the English character’s POV uses English spellings, and the American character’s POV uses American spellings. Kind of weird, yeah, but I’d feel like it was lacking all attempts at verisimilitude if my British character (inside his own head) was talking about “color” and “honor” instead of “colour” and “honour”.
- Then I read it over one last time as I’m posting it online.
- Then I sit back and watch people ignore it.
Of course, that’s for short fanfiction. I’m not sure yet how to handle the novella-and-longer stuff. (July’s word tally was 155k. And I’ve got another about 55k that I’ve written since.) It’s going to be a variation on the theme above, I guess.