The End · 1:32am
Three times I have considered abandoning The Immortal Game.
That sounds harsh; it is. At no point in the past sixteen months have I suffered any illusions about who’s in control here. I write this story because I want to, and if I didn’t want to, I could stop. It would be a terrible thing to do to you, the reader, but there it is. That door has always been open to me. Three times I considered going through it.
Because the truth is that writing long is a pain in the ass. It’s easy to get high off a good idea and write an entire one shot before you crash, but it’s harder to keep up a sustained addiction. Okay, my analogy fell to pieces back there, but you get the idea. When you write long, there are bumps along the way.
The first time I wanted to bail was shortly after the story was published on Equestria Daily. It barely scraped out a rating of four stars—and now you go “four out of five isn’t bad at all, I don’t see why that would upset him.” The truth is that TIG’s initial rating placed it in the bottom five percent of all fics on Equestria Daily, ever.
It wasn’t that my expectations weren’t met: in truth I didn’t have expectations. It was just that I had come face to face with TIG’s destiny. I would write out the next eighty thousand words of the story in what even I would admit was pretty mediocre writing, receive a little bit of attention and praise for it, and then move on to maybe write something else. Quitting seemed appealing—what did I have to prove by sticking around?
“Always finish what you set your hand to,” says Durnik. I’ve known him since I was seven years old.
I’ve had trouble writing the epilogue. Perhaps that’s an understatement. Never before have I felt so much like I have no idea what I’m doing, like I’m just making shit up as I go along, like I’m a total ameteur playing at epic fantasy the way a child plays at being a knight by wearing a kitchen pot for a helmet. Two months ago I was tearing my fucking hair out trying to figure out how to finish my story, with no ideas in sight.
The second time I considered leaving the story was for altogether different reasons, and it was around the release of chapter fourteen. I was writing The Power to Destroy and God, and an interesting thought occurred to me: why not just have them, well... win? What if Titan never bats away the Elements of Harmony and instead becomes a statue on Celestia’s lawn? What if Terra gets her head chopped off before she ever gets a chance to be anything but evil?
I knew that those two chapters I was writing, with the catharsis from Twilight Sparkle’s unification, were going to be the best in the story. I wasn’t going to top the Battle of Canterlot in the third act no matter how high I turned the volume or how much money I blew on special effects. It was all downhill from here, so why not just call it? Sure, the story would be worse overall, but it would end on a high note and I would save months and months of my own time.
“Always do the very best job you can,” says Durnik. For those of you confused, I’m referencing a character from The Belgariad, a series of novels I read as a boy. And as strange as it sounds, the dialogue surrounding these two lines has always stuck with me.
I’ll explain why the epilogue has been so hard.
I can’t make you happy. I don’t know what you want. See, I’ve gone around to almost a dozen people—prereaders, friends who read the story—and I’ve asked them what they think should go in the epilogue. I’ve gotten messages from readers, too, telling me that character X needs to make an appearance and plotline Y needs resolving. I’ve finished three drafts of the epilogue—the cumulative word total between the lot of them is about thirty thousand—and in each case I’ve had a different set of people tell me they’re disappointed at the lack of element Z.
I could conceivably answer every question that you might have about the events of the story, except then somebody would ask a new question I’d failed to answer. I could write a separate scene from the POV of every major character to give them closure, but that alone is twelve characters and around forty thousand words. I could tie everything up nice and neatly, and the result would be a terrible mess.
And so the third time I considered leaving my fair lady was about ten weeks ago, when I realized that I can’t make you happy. In a very simple sense, and in my mind, TIG has one plot, and that plot happens in a world with a lot going on. Not every question needs to be answered to resolve that one plot. Not every character needs to have their destiny laid bare. And so I thought: the plot is done, the conflict is over, why bother going on with an epilogue that will fail to meet expectations?
Ultimately I decided I was being a lazy dick and hitched up my trousers, but that still didn’t help my predicament. I can’t make you happy.
I’m a little embarrassed that the solution I ended up using took me so long to come to. See, I can make myself happy. I can write what I feel is a balanced ending and leave it at that. And while that might seem simple—it is, after all, how I wrote the rest of the story—believe me when I say I terrorized myself for months over this.
The purpose of this blog is not to extoll my excellent work ethic—though I’m aware it does that to some extent, which is a little annoying. Instead I want to offer up a bit of explanation as to why it took so long to write, and I wanted to say this:
I’m glad I didn’t give up writing this story when it was only ten thousand words long: I’m glad I wrote it through to the end. I’ve made friends I hope to keep for decades to come. I’m grateful to twenty thousand people who let me share a story with them. I’ve learned that building a skill takes thousands of hours of practice, and that writing is a hobby I can hold onto for the rest of my life.
I have a lot to learn.