Thoughts and meditations. · 12:23pm
I realized something the other day.
With its most recent update, "Sunshine and Fire" has passed 100 000 words in length. Now, this should by all rights be something to be happy about, something to pat myself on the back for - and I do see it as a proud achievement as well, don't get me wrong - but I find that this realization mostly just kind of bums me out.
The truth is that I feel like the quality of my work has plateaued. That's a big concern for me, since improving my work is a big part of why I write fan fiction in the first place. The reason for this... stagnation is probably the lack of in-depth input. I hope this doesn't come across as disrespectful, since I absolutely do not blame anyone for enjoying my story casually, and I certainly appreciate the comments I do get simply for indicating investment and interest, but I'm sure you understand that the absence of any serious dissections of my style and methods/assertations of quality is still kind of troublesome to me. There's little actual criticism, and what I do get is either conceptual or noting typos (which are still useful for making sure I don't get too full of myself, heh). That's been the situation for over a year now, I reckon. I have this impression, truthful or not, that I'm aware of pretty much everything that's wrong with my writing, but that I let things slip because there's no one to push me and prod me about them.
I've been wishing things could be different for a while, but I don't really have any idea what to do. It looks like I'll be writing "Sunshine and Fire" for quite a while, possibly years to come, and while the realization of my master plan would make it a worthwhile experience either way, it would certainly be a little depressing to spend all this time in a state of critical blackout. So I figured, eh, I might as well talk about it here and ask if anyone has any ideas.
The thing about 100 000 words is that they're such a major hurdle to accessibility. 100 000 words means I can't really make use of any of of the established channels for fic-reviews the MLP community has. Hitting up a review thread on /fic/ (either one) and laying a story of this length on someone just doesn't seem feasible, does it? It would be disruptive and overly demanding, if not explicitly forbidden by reviewers' own submission guidelines. It doesn't seem like I could just pick a reviewer and submit a chapter at a time either, since critiques of first parts of the story - now put down about one and a half years ago - would no longer be relevant to me today. In fact, I'd functionally be wasting the reviewer's time by having them cover something someone else has already handled. I did actually have the first couple of chapters looked over by two folks on Ponychan when I was just starting out - Vimbert and Cassius. I received useful advice from them and got rid of (or at least reduced) some bad habits of mine. Even though I didn't integrate their corrections into already published chapters (perhaps I should have), I did try to keep them in mind for subsequent chapters. Unfortunately, Vimbert quit reviewing when he got his post on Equestria Daily, and I accidentally dropped Cassius due to a misunderstanding. (To be exact, I forgot to respond to one of their reviews and then forgot I forgot to respond to one of their reviews, leading them to conclude that I wasn't paying attention and move on. If you're thinking that it must really burn to have wasted such a great opportunity due to a stupid mistake on my part, you'd be right.)
So what other options would there be? A beta reader? I've never had a proper one and I don't really know how to get one. The main problem is that I have friends that like MLP, and I have friends who are immersed enough in writing to be able to give in-depth feedback, but there two groups just don't overlap anywhere. Reaching out to you, the readership, is also something I've considered, but it's a thought I'm fairly ambivalent about. This would be a major commitment, and a major responsibility, and I'd feel pretty hesitant about handing it off to any well-meaning stranger. Another issue is that I'm not sure how much of my overall plans for the story to share with a beta reader. Do other writers just handle it on a chapter by chapter basis, without spoilers? I wouldn't know. This is, of course, purely hypothetical at this point anyway.
At the end of the day, I realize that this situation is something I've brought on myself, in part I suppose because I've kept the rest of the rest of the MLP fanfic community at arm's length, not really investing enough to warrant much attention. I'm a regular poster on exactly one MLP fanfic forum thread and my position regarding my role there has always been that I contribute little, but demand less - meaning I just drop in, bring up a subject sometimes and toss someone some advice sometimes, but do not seriously help other posters with their projects. I've felt validated in this approach because I never push my own story on anyone there either, but... I don't know, it still feels selfish. I don't really read or comment on other fanfics much myself either. This is partially because I'm having some problems with reading in general - I'm currently stuck in the middle of four separate books that I like yet do not have the motivation to continue . For MLP fics, I have five stories in my backlog, two updated stories in my favorites and one I've had open in one of my tabs for literally weeks. I realize that this is nothing compared to the backlogs some of you have, but this bothers me. (I've also made it a point not to read many other adventure stories to keep my own free of outside influence.) So yeah, this whole area is something I feel like I should see about doing better at.
Oh, and again, I do hope this rant doesn't make me look unappreciative. At the end of the day, I am still damn glad for the fans I have, and I'd like to improve my writing as much as possible to give you the best possible story.
So, what are your thoughts?
 - The four books in the order they've been left hanging, if you're curious: Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Dan Simmons's Hyperion (reread), the fifth volume of Spice and Wolf and the first book of the Rogue Squadron series.