• Member Since 18th Sep, 2011
  • offline last seen Mar 30th, 2022

Ezn


Author of that writing guide and some stories too.

More Blog Posts42

  • 473 weeks
    Help Wanted

    So the idea behind posting this mess was originally to cleanse my palette: clear out all the old unfinished junk, and set out to new, greener pastures with new, better ideas for stories that I could write, now that I have the time and inclination to do so.

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    6 comments · 1,435 views
  • 492 weeks
    Further Context

    Things as I spoke about them in my last blog largely went as planned. I finished up my studies, did pretty damn well in a few things, and I'm all set to start work at the beginning of February. Got my shoes and shirts, slowly learning what an iron is for, etcetera and so on.

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    0 comments · 1,089 views
  • 505 weeks
    Context

    A great value of fanfiction is in the context that automatically surrounds any work you create. Biblical Monsters for example, would have difficulty being such a focused, tragic tale of miscommunication without the MLP context. In some sense, this whole site is one big collaborative writing project.

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    21 comments · 1,183 views
  • 578 weeks
    Well this is interesting.

    Hey everybody, how's it going? I've been super busy with tonnes of work all year – went up a year in uni, took on an extra subject, got a part-time job, started some personal projects – and thus very scarce around these parts. It's work I'm glad to be doing, and I'm learning a lot and generally having a good time, but I just haven't had a lot of time for pony stuff, and that probably won't change

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    10 comments · 1,197 views
  • 594 weeks
    That feel when 10+ blog post notifications

    Twilight's new hairstyle will be the shark-jumping moment for this show, I'm certain of it. Time to start writing Littlest Pet Shop fics.

    Also... I like this theory.

    4 comments · 795 views
Aug
17th
2012

Self-Indulgent Splurge · 1:35pm Aug 17th, 2012


(check out the Acknowledgements – couldn't've done it without you guys!)

Now that I've completed the first fanfic I posted to this site, the longest story I've ever written, and the largest and most complete creative work I've yet created, I think I've earned myself some license to write a rambling blog about how that makes me feel (and probably a lot of other tangential things as well). For those not given to wasting time with others' self-congratulation, listen to this new Metric album instead because oh my good golly I can't quite get enough of it.

Be warned, what follows will contain spoilers for Long Distance. If you haven't read it, or if you haven't read all of it, well then there's never been a better time to start.

Right, here we go. Moonchaser was her sled. Dragonfire is made out of ponies. It was Equestria all along.






Writing that last sentence, the one where White Noise tells Grassfire that they've got a story to tell him... that was a moment I'd fantasised about for about eight months. Really, most everything since chapter ten has been a case of me finally writing about the ideas and events I'd had in mind since the beginning of this project – well, besides the Melvin stuff, but I'll get to that later. There's something immensely satisfying about saying, "Hey, I made it to that landmark event I came up with before I even started writing this story. I actually held out, stuck to it and wrote the story up to this part. Yay!"

Long Distance was the start of my adventure into writing fanfiction, and I think my past self would be surprised that I got as far as I did with it.

A little while after I started watching FiM, I found my way to Equestria Daily. This was back in the days of the three-column layout, the massive lists of posts on the side, the cutesy pictures next to the category buttons and I think only about seven or eight million hits, so I thought that the site looked kinda silly, but it had a charm to it and I stuck around. I read the comics, looked at the news, checked out the Drawfriends, and... noticed the fanfiction.

Now, I'd tried to get into reading fanfiction a few times in the past by skimming through FF.net's pages for things I liked and later by skimming through TVTropes's fanfic recommendations posts, but I never had much luck. In theory, it was a match made in heaven – I love reading, and I watch movies and television and stuff, so what better way to combine that than by reading more stories about things I already cared about? I'd had some good experiences with online amateur fiction in the form of creepypasta (gotta make a blog with my recs sometime), so why not fanfiction?

Well because it all sucked. Here are the three types of fics I closed before finishing:
1. Fics by absolute beginners with no concept of punctuation, paragraphing or the written word in general. If you're just starting out and trying your best that's great and I'm happy for you, but I'm afraid it doesn't make your writing enjoyable to decipher.
2. Fics by more competent authors who'd read a YA novel or two in their time, but still blundered with the finer points of comma placement and peppered their writing with devilishly confusing epithets (seriously, this is probably why I get so militant about Lavender Unicorn Syndrome in our own fandom).
3. Shipfics I opened accidentally. These, well, no offense, but they've just never been my thing.

And so when I saw those fanfiction posts on Equestria Daily, I was sorely tempted to read writing about this awesome pony thing that I loved, but afraid of getting disappointed all over again.

But then that awesome steel horse on the Fallout: Equestria cover kept jumping out at me on the frontpage – I'd thoroughly enjoyed Fallout: New Vegas earlier on in the year, and it seemed like this fic was made for me. I already told this part of the story in this review of that fic, so, in summary: I went in, kinda thought it was dumb at first, but pushed on and ended up reading one of the greatest works of fanfiction ever. Not a bad introduction to the form.

So after I'd caught up with Fallout: Equestria, my eyes were open to this crazy fanfiction thing and I started poking around a bit with the rest of the stories. I read The Logical Option, I read Bubbles, I read Half the Day is Night, I read Sunny Skies All Day Long and I read a bunch more stuff, probably.

And then I wanted to try writing my own.






My first idea was to write something short, something that might be an episode in some bizarro universe. But I didn't want it to just be a "mane six hang out in Ponyville" episode, because I'd quite fallen in love with the possibilities of the show's setting and the places that might be around Ponyville, or very far from it – so basically I wanted to write "Over a Barrel" but with some other town.

My ideas for this "other town" didn't progress far beyond "someplace with fancy technology, maybe robots and stuff". FiM's been criticised among these fanficcing circles for not sticking more closely to a middle-ages sort of technology level, but I personally find the anachronisms a really fun part of the setting – you have the freedom to do anything! Plus I've always liked the "epic quest through dangerous lands" thing about swords-and-sorcery fantasy stories but always kinda hated the limited technology levels... I guess I just prefer more modern aesthetics over leather and steel.

So anyway, I decided to write this story and got through a half-page prelude with an unnamed OC before I stopped writing and went to bed.

I got up the next day, looked at my work, said "eww, fanfiction" and promptly deleted it.

The problem was this: I couldn't bring myself to write about the ponies from the show as if they were my own characters. I'd been writing original stories on-and-off for about five years at that point, and working with characters someone else had created just made me feel dirty. I absolutely could not do it, so I stopped trying to write fanfiction for a while.

I didn't stop reading it, though. Madmax's original cover image for Antipodes caught my eye and so I tried that out. The prose wasn't the greatest and the whole thing had a bit of a directionless feel to it, but the idea intrigued me enough to read on. I never did finish that fic, but for reasons that came later.

So after checking out Antipodes, which I think might have been the fandom's first all-OC story, I guess the idea of writing my own story about original pony characters started worming its way into my head. I idly considered making a cast of characters and writing about them having mane-six-esque adventures in Fillydelphia, but the idea never particularly interested me.

Nothing else happened until I read It's a Dangerous Business, Going Out Your Door. It's one of the best fics in the fandom, and I heartily recommend reading it if you haven't already. Of course, I may be somewhat biased, considering how one of the first things to happen in it was Spike giving Dash, AJ and Rarity a jar of the fire he used to send Princess Celestia letters.

My mind hooked on that little detail even after I finished reading the story, and I got to thinking about how dragonfire stored like that might be very useful in a world without email; in other news, the South African Postal Service is not to be trusted with mailing anything. Rough images of a business that took care of dragonfire distribution and networking took shape in my mind.

Obviously, dragonfire led to dragons, and dragons led to the question of where they came from, and that question led to "let's get some ponies to go on an epic quest to go there". Before long, I had an idealistic young magic scientist-slash-business-stallion, an earnest zebra diplomat-in-training and a cheerful aerial performer-slash-mailmare ("girly Rainbow Dash" was the original concept).

But then I ran into another snag. At that point, my story structure was this:
1. White Noise decides he needs to find out the secrets of dragonfire magic and mounts an expedition to Dragonia, hiring Sibwashie and Sky Wave to accompany him.
2. The group does that, visiting a bunch of places in Equestria and Zebrica on the way.
3. White gets what he needs and then they all go home.

That was not an adventure. It was an errand – an extended fetch-quest. If I were one of my characters, I might have wanted it to go that way, just like you'd like to go to school/work tomorrow and have a good, productive day without any setbacks or unforeseen complications. But then, no-one's ever said that what makes a good story was pleasantness, easiness, or efficiency.

In time, my mind turned to the New Lunar Republic. I'd listened to NotACleverPony's "Princess Luna: As Imagined" a whole bunch of times (I still do occasionally; it's a good EP) and there was just something about "The New Lunar Republic" that really rolled off the tongue. What's more, I wasn't a big fan of what I'd seen fics doing with it – you can't call yourselves a "republic" if you're ruled by a princess, folks – and I wanted to do better.

And that's when it all fell into place. I'd have the original dragonfire quest plot play out over a backdrop of the New Lunar Republic plot, only really bringing it to the foreground near the end.






I divided the story into five parts, and kept to that. You can probably guess what they are, but I'll save you the trouble and list them:
1. Equestria Arc (chapters 1-5)
2. Lunar Republic Arc (chapters 6&7)
3. Zebrica Arc (chapters 8-10)
4. Dragonia Arc (chapters 11-13)
5. New Lunar Republic Arc (chapters 14-18)

I originally thought the fic would end up being twenty chapters, because that's a nice round number, but that ended when I realised how awfully meandering my original skeleton for the fifth arc was. Everything was so spaced out, I was having to come up with irrelevant padding to beef some of the lighter chapters up, and it just looked like it was going to be an absolute chore to write. And, y'know, I don't think writing should be a chore – at least not hobbyist writing like I'm doing.

There shouldn't be parts of your story you feel like you have to slog through writing to get to the exciting parts, because then you are totally doing it wrong, and if you were bored with writing something, how do you think the reader's going to feel about reading it? A core part of my personal writing philosophy now is to do my best to make sure every scene is purposeful and fun to read. If it's a bit of setup that doesn't seem exciting on its own but has to be written, liven it up with an interesting character, or a nice bit of interaction between your current characters, or just a scene or style of writing that's a little different from what the reader might expect.

And while I'm talking about plans... have a plan, it's very important, but keep it in broad strokes. Know how your story begins, the key events that have to happen and how it's going to end, but if you want to have any fun writing it at all, don't plan every minute detail of every scene long before writing it. Some of your best ideas will come as you're writing, or only after you've written a few chapters.

Here are a few ways Long Distance differed in execution from what was planned originally (don't read this if you're sensitive about looking at the gory entrails of my thought processes):
-- Melvin. Melvin was a total surprise. I needed a Hoofington dragon, and so I invented this short little blue snot with glasses. His personality formed itself from that basic image, and before I knew it he was worming his way into a fairly important role in the story.
-- The gafcomp thing. I started writing this fic long before "Secrets of My Excess". I remember worrying about how that episode would trample all over my fic before it came out, but it actually turned out to be the genesis for a really excellent bit of dragon culture that I got a lot of milage out of plot-wise.
-- The black dragon was originally going to be a robot. Yeah, don't ask.
-- Joyous Dawn was originally going to be part of a cult that wanted to bring down the entire moon, based on the secret second part of the story in Chapter 2. This plot point is basically recognisable, but I dropped the cult because it was stupid and the whole moon thing because it was a bit excessive.
-- I was going to have an chapter about Sky Wave being admired by the zebra populace for her flying and becoming a mini-celebrity, with one of those morals about not letting fame get to your head. I didn't do it because it didn't really fit anywhere, the tone was inconsistent with the rest of the story, and I didn't want to feel like I was writing a TV show and going down a list of stock episodes, checking them off (the episode about fame getting to someone's head, the episode where they walk a mile in each others' shoes, the episode where they rip off Charlie and the Chocolate factory... those kinds of things) – it would've been boring to write anyway.
-- The Ponyville chapter was very nearly a two-parter. By the time I'd reached it I'd written enough fanfiction to overcome my earlier squeamishness about using other people's characters, and I very nearly went totally overboard with that newfound confidence. I cut out most of it when it became evident that I was trying too hard to get all of the mane six involved (the final cut only had Twilight and Pinkie, which is cool 'cause they're best ponies).
-- I considered making Mr Drifter evil for all of half-a-second but didn't because he is too awesome.






Villains are important to me. If there's one thing I absolutely cannot stand, it's the kind of villain who does evil things just to be evil and – if he's in a cartoon produced after about 2000 – tries to make it funny by just lampshading it all the time. That kind of villainy is not natural behaviour, and it's not interesting.

Joyous Dawn is the kind of villain I'm most interested by – the ambitious, well-meaning individual who's passionate and heartfelt about exactly the wrong thing; the villain who believes she's the only one who can see the big picture, and who gradually slides into worse and worse behaviour simply by telling herself that the end will justify her means (a little like Fallout: Equestria's Red Eye). That kind of character is relatable, because sometimes it's just really hard to know if you're doing the right thing, and we should all be aware of the degree to which we can delude ourselves just by wanting something to be true and right enough.

Trapper and Tamer were pretty simple; they just wanted money. It's seen as a dull motivation for a villain these days, but it's a much better fallback than "he's evil because he's evil" (characterisation does not have much of a recursion depth).





My biggest non-ponyfic inspiration for this story has to Avatar: The Last Airbender (or "Legend of Aang", where I'm from). If you're a fan of animation (and that's likely because you like cartoons about ponies) and you haven't seen it, then I kinda envy you because you get to watch it for the first time. It's basically the best western animation series ever (I also mostly liked Legend of Korra but it's not quite up there with the original). Don't see the live-action movie, though.

I guess the most obvious influence Avatar had on my fic was its episodic structure and continuity creep. As with that show, my fic is a story about a group of travelling characters who initially have a bunch of unconnected adventures on their way to some destination and gradually have more and more longer adventures that tie into previous ones. It's a structure I like.

On that note, I probably won't be writing another MLP fanfic quite as long as this one. Despite what this blogpost might indicate, I'm a man of relatively few words, and all my other story ideas are ones that can be told more briefly. I Dream of Daisies is probably going to be my second-longest fic once it's done, and then we'll see how things go from there. I can't see myself writing pony fanfiction forever, but I have a bunch of as-yet-unwritten ideas that I'd very much like to get out before I move on to other things.





We've got things really good here in the FIM fanfiction community. I'd wager that there aren't awfully many fics on this site that have absolutely no views, likes or comments, because we've got author support systems everywhere, a whole variety of showcases made for slightly different purposes (Equestria Daily, this site's Featured Bar and Pony Fiction Vault come to mind), and most importantly, a fandom full of voracious fanfiction readers who want to read your stories. Pretty much anyone can write a story about ponies and expect it to be read by at least one other person, and then they can take it to one of the various author support groups here or to /fic/ and expect to have it read and thoughtfully critiqued. That kind of phenomenal author encouragement just doesn't happen in most other places, and I think that's had a profound effect on my pony fiction output vs my general fiction output.

In the past fourteen months, including unreleased work, I've written approximately 125 000 words of pony fanfiction. That may not seem like a lot to the many people who are faster writers than me, but it's the most I've ever pumped out in such a short timeframe, and that's all because of what a wonderful place this community is to write in and how full of wonder and interesting story hooks MLP:FiM is.

I'll be honest, I kinda have a little laugh to myself whenever I hear people complaining about their stories not being popular enough because they've never hit the feature bar or they're not on EqD, because just by being on FiMfiction their stuff is more likely to be read by folks than any of my old original stuff ever was.

I wrote about forty flash-fiction pieces on a now-defunct website centered around art, music, writing and some other stuff. The average one would be read by one person, who would leave a one- or two-sentence comment.

I wrote a few serial novellas on that same website and others. Each one might have had twenty readers total, three of whom commented once each.

When I sent Long Distance to Equestria Daily and it got posted, a look at the GDoc showed that forty people were reading my work simultaneously. Forty. I nearly had a heart-attack.

But I didn't really want to write a bunch of garbage about how hard it was "back in my day", how easy you kids have it and how you all need to get off my lawn, damnit! I wanted to write about why I write, and finding a balance between the two extremes I'm about to detail.

So artistic integrity is a good thing, right? Yeah, I think it's safe to say we can all agree on that. An artist with a clear vision should stay true to it as far as possible. And you can't do that by writing just for popularity, because then the stuff you write will be calculated and mass-market and inoffensive and meaningless. And you can't do it by writing only for yourself either, because then you'll ruin the story with author indulgence. So what's the middle ground? Why should you write and what for?

I think the Industry chapter of Background Pony explored something of what I'm feeling quite nicely. I don't write for popularity – non-crossover all-OC stories are hardly a good way to get popular. I don't write simply for the sake of writing – if I did I wouldn't have ever edited anything or posted it up online; in fact, I really don't think I'd've even finished the story without all the feedback and encouragement from the community.

I think I write to tell stories to other people. I want to tell stories that interest me in a way that entertains others. So I don't choose story ideas to write based on what's popular in the fandom at the moment, and I do try to make my work accessible to others and fun to read as well as fun to write – for example, the weird nonlinearity in the original fourth chapter stands out as something I did as a bored, pretentious writer solely for my own amusement, so it was excised.

Write to communicate stuff that matters to you, and I think you'll have a good time and bring other people happiness as well. That's what I did.

Report Ezn · 1,003 views ·
Comments ( 7 )

Congrats, Ezn. You've achieved a huge accomplishment, now it's time to party! :rainbowkiss:

>An artist with a clear vision should stay true to it as far as possible.
>I think I write to tell stories to other people. I want to tell stories that interest me in a way that entertains others.

Truer words have never been spoken, and I think that's the answer I've been looking for to a question that's been nagging unanswered at the back of my head. Just wanted to say thanks for that.

Also, congratulations! Completing a long work like you've done is truly momentous. So momentous, in fact, that if the world were virtual, you would receive ACHIEVEMENT GET in bright gold caps that would glitter all over your keyboard.

Above all else, I think that this is an achievement in persistence and endurance. You had the patience, gumption and faith in yourself to write a large story to completion, something I was never able to do. Not only that, but you had the courage to let it evolve and to rework it after beginning it, rather than falling so much in love with concepts you originally wanted to include that it would cause you to waste time fretting about how to fit them in.

For all these things, I congratulate you. Like I said, you're a better writer than I am, and I'm glad to have been a part of this project.

Very well said! :ajsmug: I can directly relate on a few of these points (particularly the joy of finally getting to write that one scene you've had in your pocket for months). There were a number of points that were very illuminating, like your point about "don't write boring-yet-necessary scenes" or your point at the end about "why write?"

Most eye-opening of all, perhaps, is your reminder of just how lucky we are to have this level of infrastructure in place. Going back to look at the original version of my first fic's first chapter, I now find it eye-bleedingly bad. If not for the sage teachings and reviews from the good folk over at /fic/, I very much doubt I would have improved from "eye-bleedingly bad" to "pandering rubbish". :rainbowwild: Without EQD, I would've never gotten any visibility, nor my motivation to start in the first place. Without FimFic, I'm sure my handful of followers would've quickly forgotten me, thanks to my maddeningly slow rate of updates (something we appear to share in common!)

Point being, while we're often quick to lambast the current sites and point out legitimate ways in which they can be improved upon, we also shouldn't take them for granite [sic]. There's a lot of wonderful support in place currently for aspiring writers to find their wings. Your words—both this post here and your freshly-completed story—are a keen reminder to this point.

But enough of my derailing. Today is about you! Congratulations on seeing this story through to completion. You're certainly earned the right to celebrate!

Ezn

290836
Woo!

290884
Glad my splurging helped someone!

291009
Thank you for the kind words, and for your help and support. I do wish you luck in your own writing endeavours – I certainly would be game to read anything you produce. No pressure, of course – just remember to have fun with it!

Not only that, but you had the courage to let it evolve and to rework it after beginning it, rather than falling so much in love with concepts you originally wanted to include that it would cause you to waste time fretting about how to fit them in.

I guess this is important. An artist's clear vision, I think, tends to be an overarching, general thing, and there's little point in getting hung up on specifics because sometimes things just don't work as well on paper as they did in your head. Things change, projects evolve, and often it's for the better. Especially in a long project like this, it's not cool to be hamstrung by the inferior writing skill of a past you.

291631

Without FimFic, I'm sure my handful of followers would've quickly forgotten me, thanks to my maddeningly slow rate of updates (something we appear to share in common!)

Oh, so much. I had a rigorous one-chapter-a-week schedule for the first seven chapters, but it ended up being pretty detrimental to the process, what with things getting rushed to meet a self-imposed deadline for something I did for fun in my varying amount of free time. And then I had one chapter a month for a bit, and two 2/3-month breaks followed by rapidfire chapter-posting... I'll be posting the second chapter of my other story in a week or so, and its first chapter was uploaded on March 31st. =/

Your words—both this post here and your freshly-completed story—are a keen reminder to this point.

>that awkward moment when this post is just longer than the final chapter of my story

But enough of my derailing. Today is about you! Congratulations on seeing this story through to completion. You're certainly earned the right to celebrate!

No worries, I appreciate a good derail. Thanks!

Congrats on finishing your epic.

I also want to thank you for a number of the things you brought up in this blog. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge of writing, and a couple of the points you raised (and linked articles about) here were rather educational for me, particularly the issue of epithets. I'd heard the term before, but never in context, and although I knew to avoid over-use of them, the "why" is now a lot clearer to me. Terms like "lampshading" and "fridge logic" have now been clarified to me as well.

It's also interesting to see a part of your writing/planning process here. I believe that insights like that can be very useful if the information is applied appropriately to your own work, as the experience of others can often be what helps to pave your unique path.

Also, you're definitely right in what you say about this site helping fledgeling authors. I've also never seen a story that's been published over a day with no views. It's certainly encouraging to know that someone read what you put together.

And I agree with your final four paragraphs as well. You seem to have hit the nail on the head there, to use a popular analogy.

So, congratulations again, and onward to the future!

Ezn

319014
And another one! Silver Santa Cloud, you may eat as many cookies as you want.

I'm always happy to spread the knowledge. Being a bit anal about language is a... special talent... of mine, which I do try to use for good.

Terms like "lampshading" and "fridge logic" have now been clarified to me as well.

If I've linked you to TVTropes for the first time, then I apologise for all the time you're going to lose.

It's also interesting to see a part of your writing/planning process here. I believe that insights like that can be very useful if the information is applied appropriately to your own work, as the experience of others can often be what helps to pave your unique path.

I was hoping my splurging would be beneficial to others in that way. :pinkiehappy:

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