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33w, 3dGoing pretty well, actually6 comments · 239 views
I haven't updated since I started my draft, have I? Well, I've been dedicating my writing time almost exclusively to Perfect for Me Too, and things are looking good. I'm about 80% done with the first draft (not 80% of the way to the end, though - the missing bits are mostly supporting and transitional scenes scattered throughout), and it's shaping up to be in the area of 50k words. I'm happy with that; it feels like about the right length for the story it tells. Most of the puzzles are solved, and the resolution is almost where I want it.
The bad news is that I'm approaching this with the seriousness of something I'd be willing to publish professionally. That's bad news because it means it's going to take a fair bit longer than it's probably worth spending on an odd little niche shipfic - and certainly longer than it's worth waiting for one. But one, I want the practice, and two, my obsessive fear of negative feedback is making it impossible to even consider letting another flawed story out of my grip.
And hey, at least it'll be the best story I can possibly make it when it is done. Anyone who manages to wait it out deserves nothing less.
P.S.: Also, I think I need another victim to ramble at about the details. (Beta reader? Alpha reader? Developmental editor? Something like that.) I'm starting to feel like I'm buried way too deep in it to be able to be objective anymore.
P.P.S.: Is it just me, or do postscripts seem a little odd in an age when you can go back and edit the message? Oh well. They're still a nice way to separate out things that don't quite fit with the rest. Like random observations about postscripts.
43w, 2dThe Chapter Nobody Asked For!7 comments · 312 views
At least, I'm pretty sure nobody did. Ever wonder what the rest of The Prim Rose of Palamino Vale was like? Well, even if you did, you won't want to know after you've read this excerpt. Not safe for work. It's as explicit as it sounded, and you really don't want to have to explain this one to your coworkers if you start laughing.
Warnings: Heterosexual horse sex, a dark and stormy night, oscillating pillars.
Also warning: It's... very.
44w, 3dComing Unstuck3 comments · 177 views
It sucks to be stuck like I was. Nobody should have to go through wanting--not just knowing it’s something you should get around to, but really actually wanting--to do something for over a year, and yet somehow just... not. But I know, being a reader myself, that it’s an alarmingly common condition. I’m still in constant danger of slipping back into it myself, but finishing Perfect For Me was a huge victory, and a big weight off my shoulders.
I don’t want anyone to have to go through that, but what can you do, right? What I can do is assemble a list of things that helped me. Sure, different things will work for different people, but if even one or two of them help one or two people, the world is going to be a little bit better off.
First, the way I kept myself writing something regularly was best expressed by Seinfeld's (the comedian, not the comedy) "don't break the chain" thing. A little visual feedback can go a long way; for me it's little red button on my tablet with a number of how many days I've been going in a row, and it turns green each day when I press it. The basic idea (and the whole thing is really simple) is to build a chain of continuous days doing whatever; missing a single day means losing the whole thing and having to start over. Kind of like chasing an achievement, if you're into that sort of thing.
As for what to write, the right answer to that was anything. I didn’t worry about whether or not it was something I was “supposed” to write. I definitely didn’t worry if it wasn’t anything I ever planned to publish, or even finish. In fact, I was better off because I decided ahead of time that I wouldn’t publish it. (But I can always change my mind later.) Writing something for myself, and literally only for myself, meant not overthinking it by worrying about how an audience would take it. You’ve probably felt it before when you wrote your own first chapter or first story. It’s really nice, and you can recapture it.
Next, I don’t limit myself on how much, or how little, I write each day. Once I've started, even if I trail off after a single paragraph, I call it good for the day. It takes a lot of the pressure out of committing to a regular thing, and in all the two and a half months I’ve been doing it, there may have been two or three times total that I actually stopped without writing for at least an hour. Once I’ve put a few words down, I'm always surprised by how many more are there waiting behind them.
The next thing is an odd one, speaking of having words waiting for me to write them. Somewhere along the line, I discovered that one of my biggest creative blocks has been my typing speed. Not too slow, but too fast! Most of my time was spent staring at the end of a completed sentence and wondering what the heck I would write next. Then I’d wander back onto the last thing I’d written and start editing it, which completely distracted me from the actual writing. When I started writing on my tablet, with the gesture typing keyboard (Swype style), it slowed me down enough that I couldn't write the words as fast as they came to me. And paradoxically, that increased my story creating speed tenfold. With my concentration taken up by the (rather silly, but surprisingly effective) input method, I was already subconsciously planning paragraphs ahead of myself. Also, it didn’t leave me with time to worry about getting everything perfect the first time through. That’s a good thing; first drafts exist for a reason.
Eventually, after gathering enough momentum and finishing a logical ending point in my favorite project (that novel), going back to Perfect For Me just seemed natural.
I also found a couple of interesting things on the “writing tips” front. The first was that almost all of my writer’s block moments were finally ended by me thinking, “Well, why don’t I just say that?” Once I’d actually put words to what was bothering me, all I had to do was put those words into the story. In one story, I was having trouble with a moment that I kept trying to let play out in a genre-typical fashion. Think of the moment with Discord when Fluttershy first ropes him in with the threat of losing her friendship. But it just didn’t work for my characters, no matter how many times I stopped and started over. So I made the villain a little bit genre-savvy. Once she’d described how I’d originally written the scene, in terms of it not happening, it obviously couldn’t go that way anymore. But suddenly, it had a whole new direction, because the villain’s words prompt a natural response: No, actually, I was going to say something completely opposite that.
The other (related) thing I found useful was, when I was really stuck, asking the characters what they thought. When I ground to a halt in the middle of the second to last chapter of Perfect For Me, I finally sat Twilight herself (either one) down with quill and paper and had her explain the problem, and her thoughts on her situation in general, as she saw it. What was bothering her, what wasn’t bothering her, everything. And she explained the whole thing, in the slightly sarcastic first person, a lot better than I ever could have. (What? Well, you know what I mean.) So I looked over that little essay, and thought: This is awfully long. But long, wordy explanations are so typically Twilight that wouldn’t it be hilarious if I took parts of this and strung them into one huge, uninterrupted run-on paragraph, with the two Twilights taking turns catching their breath and speaking?
Well, I thought it was funny, anyway.
So there you have it. If any part of that looks interesting to you, I encourage you to take it and run with it. I can’t emphasize enough that it could work out better than you expect. It certainly surprised me.
44w, 4dFinally, with apologies14 comments · 331 views
The last chapters of Perfect For Me are up. I told you I'd finish it. Worth waiting a year for? I wouldn't go that far. But at least worth reading.
To everyone who actually waited the nearly two years it took to get from start to finish, sorry it took so long. To everyone whose editing projects I neglected and eventually let drop entirely off my radar, I'm even more sorry. To the people whose PMs I've ignored, potential friends I could have made if I'd just responded and started up a conversation, well, yeah. Sorry.
I can't adequately explain why it's been so hard for me to log into FIMFiction, or why I've neglected so many things over the last year or more. I could go on about things in my life that have taken a lot of my time, or issues I've had, but that would just be making excuses. If you've been there, and you know what I mean when I say "trapped inside my own head," then that sums it up. If not, I don't have the right words to explain it, not without making it sound stupid, lame, and not at all the debilitating problem it became. (And believe me, I've tried.)
But eventually, I fought my way back. While I was on vacation in September, I took a new approach. Just write something, anything, not for an audience, just for fun to see where it goes. And, something completely alien to me, make it a first draft; no going back a million times to rewrite until it's fit to publish the moment I type the last words, just leave the mistakes or the slightly-awkward wording and move on. I took an old short scene I'd been inspired to write by a particularly interesting picture, and extended it from there. And extended it. And extended it. Two months later, it was a fairly respectable first draft of a novel-length pony fic, and I was keeping to a new commitment: write a bit of something every day, at least an hour if I can. This is day #75 since I started counting, and the chain remains unbroken.
Once I got to the end of that story, I was able to use that momentum to finally finish those last two chapters. While it's tempting to look back and talk about what I think I did right and wrong, I probably won't do any kind of author's notes. The whole process was spread out over so much time that I'm not even the same person I was when I started it. So that's the end of Perfect For Me.
Until the sequel. Yes, I'm still thinking about that. I learned my lesson, though: I can't handle commitment! Releasing a story as I go is right out. So if I do write Perfect For Me Too, it'll have been written in rough copy all the way to the end long before the first chapter hits FIMFiction. There are advantages to that, like being able to go back and polish up continuity issues before they become retcons. And knowing if I'll be able to finish the story at all. It takes a lot longer for the first chapter to come out, but keeping a regular schedule is much easier when all I'm doing is finalizing the chapters, not inventing the story as I go along.
As for that novel-length fic I mentioned, well, I'm looking into making that a story here too. I wrote it for myself, but that doesn't mean there won't be other people who like it, and hey, the hard part's already done! Even if I published it untouched in its current form, it wouldn't be the worst thing that's ever graced FIMFiction.
9 comments · 530 views
I was reminded recently of a very useful tip for writing, or for any creative endeavor. Even if you know an idea won't pan out as a top-notch story, even if it's just one thought or a single scene, there can still be a lot to gain from writing out a quick draft with it. At the very least, you'll probably end up with some interesting bits you can use elsewhere! Take this for example:
My name is Princess Twilight Sparkle. I was born three months and six days ago.
It was nighttime when I awoke. My friends were there.
I didn’t realize what had happened at first, so swept up in the magic of the moment. I had done it! I’d completed the unfinished masterpiece of Star Swirl the Bearded himself, and I’d made Princess Celestia proud.
And then, as if the evening couldn’t have gotten any better, I found out that not only had I transformed myself into an alicorn, I’d become a princess myself. Me, a princess! Every young filly dreams of becoming a princess one day. I certainly had; from the moment I’d seen Princess Celestia raise the sun, I’d wanted to become just like her.
Of course, most fillies eventually give up on that dream and move on to more mundane aspirations, for one very good reason: It’s impossible. A pony can’t change her race any more than she can change her cutie mark. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The next month was a whirlwind of activity. I was shipped off to Canterlot, fitted for a beautiful new royal regalia--courtesy of Rarity, of course--and introduced to the world as Princess Twilight Sparkle. I got my own set of guards, my own section of the palace, and they’re even starting construction on a Twilight Sparkle wing in the Canterlot archives! But even with all that going on, most of my time was spent in the best way it possibly could be: with my friends. I can honestly say that it was the happiest month of my life.
There have only been two others to compare it to, so there wasn’t exactly much competition. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.
It wasn’t until the middle of my second month as a princess that I started thinking back to before my transformation. I don’t know what set my mind going in that direction, but one quiet night after my friends had gone to bed, the thought struck me: What had happened to me, really?
Nothing in the spell mentioned growing wings. Nothing had warned me that I’d become a princess, that my whole life would be turned upside-down. All it had said was that I would fulfill my destiny. But what had my destiny been?
I opened Star Swirl’s book again. I poured through its pages and reread each word, the old and the new. I traced and retraced every detail of the spell, followed every path that it described, and every time, it ended with the answer that I had been dreading. I cast my memory back, reliving the moment again and again, searching for some detail that would let me deny what had happened.
It was an incredible moment. I’ll never forget the feeling of friendship. My friends were there with me, and they were more than with me. I don’t think I can really describe it, but try to imagine being caught in a big group hug with all your best friends, and then multiply that by a thousand. I felt like I had never been lonely in my life, and I never could be, because they had always been there with me, and always would be.
But what was truly amazing was the magic that came from it. Ponies have always said that friendship is magic, and yes, we’ve found many ways to use the bonds between ponies as powerful magical conduits, but nobody had ever found a way to actually create magic directly from friendship. Until now. Now there was an infinite wellspring of it pouring into me, as fast as I could drink it in. More than I had ever touched before. More than any one pony could possibly need. More than any one pony could possibly contain.
I never saw the scorch mark. Spike had cleaned it off the floor of the library by the time I got a chance to return there. I’ve been told, though, that it was in the shape of my cutie mark. A fitting tribute to the late Twilight Sparkle, though I might have preferred something more permanent.
I suppose that’s where I come in.
The soul that had once been Twilight Sparkle was met on the other side of the veil by the image of her beloved mentor, Princess Celestia. I don’t know if it was truly her, or an illusion conjured up in my own mind. I’ve been meaning to ask her, but there never seems to be a good time to bring up a subject like that. What a nice party, by the way, remember that time when I was dead?
Regardless, we walked together there, traversing the hallway of what my life had been. My joys and sorrows, my successes and failures, they were all there. Things that I had forgotten or tried to forget, and things that no pony but me should ever be privy to, it was all laid bare before us.
I was judged in that place. Of that, I have no doubt. Whether it was by Princess Celestia, or by some even greater power, I do not know. What I do know is that, by some great cosmic fluke, I was deemed worthy of the life I had lost, and of the power I had awakened.
But no pony may pass three times through the veil. This, I also know. Birth and death are two sides of one immutable coin, and never shall there be a third. Twilight Sparkle would never return to Equestria. Her destiny had been fulfilled, and her story was over.
I wonder now if that had always been Princess Celestia’s intent. To craft within a mortal pony a soul that could become an immortal. To raise a unicorn who could give rise to an alicorn. I can bear her no ill will for it, but the more I think about it, the stronger my suspicion becomes that she had known all along that this would be my fate.
Twilight Sparkle’s destiny had been to die. To die, so that I could be born.
Her soul was reshaped, molded to fit a new body, and a new destiny. There was no pain--I don’t think that such a thing as pain exists on that side of the veil--but it was an utterly disconcerting process to say the least. Her mind survived intact, as far as I know, and it and her memories are now with me, and of me. I am what she became. A second iteration, if you will.
My name is Princess Twilight Sparkle. I was born three months and six days ago, on the day that Twilight Sparkle died.
Not bad. I gave the idea a chance, and I not only got a neat little short to share on my blog, it lead me to a few much more interesting ideas. Like, what if her memories hadn't survived intact? What if she had come back missing memories, or even better, with memories that weren't her own? Now we're onto something way cooler than just Twilight suffering an identity crisis because of her reincarnation.