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When writing is like alligator-wrestling

I've written 4 pieces of fanfiction in my life. The latest one, "Destination Unknown", was pure torture. I feel the need to vent about exactly what made this story so incredibly difficult for me, and the process I went through to get it done.

If any fellow LJ authors feel like reading such a thing, please let me know: Is this normal? Is it *whimpers* common?

When I began writing my Richie Ryan Journal story, I became upset about his death at MacLeod's hands. My subconcious went to work that night and handed me two images. One, from Archangel's Quickening scene, was a Richie's face red-lit and tormented. The other was of him standing serenly on a beach, next to a strange Immortal man. Each image was laden with a complex bouquet of emotions; negative for the first, positive for the second. Both images were very unreal, not in the sense of being unbelievable, but because they felt outside of reality.

I decided to write a story that would capture that feeling, and provide me with some closure about Richie's death. That shouldn't be too hard, right? *pause for hysterical laughter*

There are 3 reasons why I write.
a) It's fun.
b) I hope that other people might enjoy reading the stories I write.
c) The characters and plots move into my head and slowly take up more and more processing space until I need to move them out into the world from sheer self-defense.
"Unknown Destinations" had very little of a and b, but mucho c.

I started writing. I tried a variety of different perspectives: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. I tried both limited and omniscient. Past and present tense. I wrote flashbacks of Richie's life. Nothing captured the feeling I was looking for.

I came up with an extensive backstory of Matthew Cooper. It started with his First Life as a Narragansett whaler. He was in love with the sea. He spent many lives as a fishermen or merchant seaman, served patriotic tours in the Navy, and met his death while on holiday from an oil rigging job. Then I realized that none of this had anything to do with the story I was trying to tell, and tossed it.

I attempted different styles: minimalist and surrealistic, realistic and kabuki. For anyone wondering, kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese drama. The characters strike stylized poses and declame to the audience. No, you can't read that version. I recognized it as a cry for help, and deleted it.

At this point, the thing was taking over my life. I couldn't stop picking at it. On the bus, at work, in bed when I should be asleep, while trying to watch TV. The thing just would not let go of me.

Finally, sick to death of the thing, I wrote an utterly conventional version and kicked it out of bed to my betas.

12 hours later, I recanted. Perhaps if I could make it into a series of freeze frame images, that would work? I asked my betas if they had any idea how they could do that.

In another 12 hours, before they even had a chance to respond, I had completely rewritten the story into a "freeze-frame" version similar to the now-published one, and sent it off to them again.

Yes, pity my poor betas. But they helped me improve it until it was fit for human consumption.

So, where am I at now? Still not completely satisfied. The thing doesn't match my vision, and I doubt it ever will. But at least I have succeeded in getting a publishable version of it together, and (mostly) gotten it out of my head.

I love and hate "Destination Unknown" in equal proportions, and call it "it" and "thing" far too much. Hopefully venting here will let my regain the rest of my usual inner tranquility.

To anyone who made it this far - thanks for listening.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 14th, 2006 02:44 am (UTC)
*nods* *nods*

Yeah, the writing process is like a form of personal torture, isn't it? I agonize about choosing pov--exactly *who* is really BEST to tell this story from?

Although, I've never tried kabuki. I think you reached a new level there, I salure you for it. ;)
Feb. 14th, 2006 02:45 am (UTC)
That would be SALUTE. I'm sure 'salure' means something to someone, though. *g*
Feb. 14th, 2006 03:57 am (UTC)
*salures right back*

Do I win a prize for most dysfunctional story-telling attempt?

Thanks for offering a shoulder to whine on.
Feb. 14th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC)
This is only your fourth fan fiction story???? It does not show.

In your Richie Ryan stories you made me care deeply about a character that was never one of my favourites on the show.

Looking very much forward to more of your stories!
Feb. 14th, 2006 07:22 am (UTC)
Thank you, cyberducks, it's nice to know that motivation b for writing is intact. For a while there, I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to read the damn thing.

You see in this live journal my Collected Body of Work. What can I say - I'm a late bloomer.
Feb. 14th, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC)
ahh, welcome to the club. Sometimes it's not a gift, it's a curse... :)

One of my painting professors used to say that the only reason to keep doing art today is if you simply were unable to do anything else. At first I thought he meant that and artist is incapable of another trade. Over time I've realized he meant that an artist couldn't *not* make art.

Well, I haven't done any (visual) art in awhile, but I've never stopped writing. I don't seem to be able to, even if what I write is complete drivel (and believe me, for every piece I've posted, there are ten unfinished, malformed black sheep stories). I think your option "C" sums it up pretty well. positive feedback is great and affirming, but I'd be doing this even if no one ever said a peep about my writing. I'd been doing it for five years before I got up the bravery to post anything in public.
Feb. 15th, 2006 05:15 am (UTC)
Oh yes, you feel my pain.

I'd been doing it for five years before I got up the bravery to post anything in public.
Eeep! Luckily I managed to score myself a truly incredible and supportive beta right off the starting mark. It took me 4 months to write "The Price of Interference", and then 5 months to stop fussing with it and actually publish.
Feb. 17th, 2006 07:53 am (UTC)
Welcome to the fun and angst-free hobby of writing fanfiction for the intarwebs. Isn't it grate great?

But seriously, you are doing so much better than I was when I'd only written a few stories. You should see them *yikes*. Not good at all.

In case I didn't tell you, and there's every chance this week that I didn't, I really enjoyed 'Destination Unknown'. It's a difficult choice of subject, but you did well with it. Structure is hard, but I think you made a good choice with the one you finally went with. I still want to see the kabuki style one. I think I can imagine how it went.

I don't think it's a good or necessary thing to be completely 100% satisfied with any story. I think that leads to complacency and lazy writing. But don't be too hard on yourself either. As far as I can see, you're doing great.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )