• Member Since 13th May, 2012
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The sexiest man you've ever met.

More Blog Posts119

  • 216 weeks
    Stories resubmitted


    I hit the resubmit button on my old stories "Lick," "The Art of Falling," and "Sapphire" because someone asked me to. I don't remember exactly why I unsubmitted them or when. They should be visible on the site again.

    Enjoy the finale.


    12 comments · 577 views
  • 270 weeks
    I finished Some Hugs Last Longer Than Others

    A long time ago, years ago actually, I said I'd finish my last fic. I did try a few times, a couple different finished versions have existed. But they were all terrible. Some Hugs was a problem story from the very beginning. The concept seemed like comedy gold. Pinkie Pie glues herself to Rainbow Dash. Hilarity ensues.

    Read More

    5 comments · 663 views
  • 309 weeks
    How was the Friendship is Magic movie?

    So there was a Friendship is Magic movie released semi-recently? I haven't seen it, but I was looking around for fans of the show's reactions, and I can't seem to find much discussion anywhere. Did we all hate it, or what?

    17 comments · 722 views
  • 327 weeks
    Writing is Dumb - Part Two of the Story of the Story of Spring is Dumb

    Once upon a time, I started a full making-of-style commentary of the creation of Spring is Dumb. The first part describing the prewriting of the story looked like this. Now, about two

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    7 comments · 904 views
  • 335 weeks
    I published a story!

    Your favorite fimfic author is taking his very first tippety toe baby step toe touch into the wild and wonderful world of original fiction publishing, and that first step is this thing, which you can find here. Might look very familiar if you participated in the Writeoff's

    Read More

    14 comments · 657 views

Outlining Is Dumb - Part One of the Story of the Story of Spring Is Dumb · 4:58pm May 23rd, 2017

Welcome to part one of the Story of the Story of Spring Is Dumb! Check here for more information on the what and why of this thing.

And this particular thing is an examination of the easiest part of the writing process—the part where you don’t write anything at all!

Below, you’ll find a discussion of Spring Is Dumb’s story genesis, where the story came from, and scans of its first (and only) outline. This will probably be the shortest of the three parts. I rarely do much prewriting or planning, though I also rarely write anything longer than a short story.

The only true prewriting I do is in prethinking, which I do all the time. Most stories I spend weeks to months thinking about before I ever do any writing, working through characters, through potential problems. I come up with a particular line here or there, a scene, a description.

Even after I’ve started writing, most of the writing happens when I’m far away from any keyboard. Most of my best story ideas take shape while taking a morning shower or during a slowdown at work. Unfortunately, prethinking is never documented, and I can’t share it with you here or anywhere else. No matter how much I can show of Spring Is Dumb’s writing process, the majority of it happened in the weird mini chemical process blowups in my head. Now matter how much I can document and analyze, a huge part of the process has been lost to the black of forgotten memories.

Even when I sit down to write, all that prethinking gets t-shirt cannon blasted right out the window. Once the characters get on the page, they start doing all sorts of weird things I don’t expect, and throw themselves face first into writing roadblocks I never could have anticipated. And then I get to think through it all again the next morning in the shower. My water bill is atrocious, but my writing process would be ruined if ever started taking shorter showers.

Spring Is Dumb is a bit of a special case, because it was written on a deadline. It was published only about a month after the idea solidified, which really is crazy fast. A story should never be belly flopped onto the cement floor of the world that soon after conception. You gotta give it time to toughen up a bit first, build some muscle mass, put some pants on. But we’re talking about what Spring Is Dumb was, not what it isn’t.

Enough preamble, let’s go!

Outlining Is Dumb

Story genesis can come in a lot of ways. I’m talking the first tiny little kernel from which the real story will eventually explode. The ruptured, fractured mushroom cloud of words the story becomes usually won’t resemble that first kernel at all, but that kernel is the story. No kernel comes from nowhere. No story is written in a vacuum. They all come from somewhere.

I tried to pin down how the majority of my ideas come about, and I couldn’t, because my ideas come from all over the place. A lot of my story ideas have come from other stories, from what if questions. What if this character did X instead of Y? What if this story was written from her perspective instead of his? What if we turned this whole thing inside out and meta? A lot of my story ideas come from things that happen to and around me. What about that time at the cave Dad told Traci that if the cave collapsed and crushed any of the kids it would be her, because that’s just the kind of person she is. There’s a story in there somewhere, right? A lot of my story ideas come from prompts, and a lot of my story ideas come from emulation. Can I write like Hunter S. Thompson? Can I write like H. P. Lovecraft?

Too many of my ideas come from places I don’t know or don’t remember, but luckily I know exactly when and where the kernel of Spring Is Dumb appeared. It came from prompt and emulation, and I know what prompt and what story I was emulating.

Here is Bitter Harvest by Esle Ynopemos, first published in February 2014. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

Set it side-by-side with Spring Is Dumb and you’ll notice a lot of similarities.

A third person limited perspective deeply entrenched in the main character’s point of view, sometimes even dipping into a light stylized stream of consciousness. A main character who is so totally absolutely drool-drippingly smitten with another pony that their only course of action is to totally absolutely ding-dingalingly deny it all. She does this to keep from making a fool of herself, and of course ends up doing exactly that anyway. Characterization is accomplished by telling the reader everything a character is, but in the negative. “Golden Harvest isn’t gay. Rainbow Dash doesn’t feel guilty at all. Golden Harvest doesn’t like Applejack. Rainbow Dash isn’t doing anything and everything she can to earn Rarity’s forgiveness.”

Bitter Harvest is better, though. Like, a lot better. It’s a bit more silly and a lot less melodramatic, more controlled, better structured, and such and such. When I read Bitter Harvest, I told myself, “Hot dog! Now this is pony fic writing!”

Reading through some old email conversations from the time, it seems I’d given up on shipping before reading Bitter Harvest. By ‘seems’ I mean I was saying things along the lines of ‘shipping sucks’ and ‘I don’t want to write shipping stories anymore.’ Then on March 22, 2014 (thank you gmail and your easy-to-use search function), while discussing fan fiction, I told a friend

I actually just read a fic called Bitter Harvest that restored my faith in shipping.

Unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate that Future-Me would be digging through old emails three years later while trying to write a schloppy rambling narcissistic Making Of for a fic I didn’t even know would ever exist then, so Past-Me didn’t go into any further detail into the why or how Bitter Harvest turned me around on the genre. Thanks a lot for the help, jerk.

I do know that Bitter Harvest was one of my many ‘We’re allowed to do that?!’ writing moments. I didn’t know a narrator could be so fun and have so much energy, that we were allowed to tell readers exactly who our preferred pony’s got the hots for by saying ‘She definitely totally for sure doesn’t like that other pony over there! Nuh uh no way!’ and I didn’t know that something so obviously stupid could still feel so real.

Those are all things I tried to do while writing Spring Is Dumb, and that I looked to Bitter Harvest as a guide.

At the end, the big difference between the two stories is that where Spring Is Dumb is as silly as it is cute, Bitter Harvest is as silly as it is honest. In Bitter Harvest, it’s silly until real life kicks in, and then it’s bitter sweet. Spring Is Dumb is silly until the romance kicks in, and then it’s just sweet.

Emulation is key to good writing. Copy good writing and your writing can be good too. Maybe even figure out exactly what makes that writing good in the process. Maybe take those things and merge them into your own writing. Maybe merge a lot of good emulated writing and eventually develop your own style of good writing.

A lot of the stuff I learned to do from copying Bitter Harvest’s writing and narration style I’m still doing, and using to write completely different sorts of stories.

Next for the prompt. Here is the thread announcing the RariDash groups second contest, also from February 2014. The rules were: It had to be RariDash. They had to start and end the story in a romantic relationship. It had to be set in spring. It had to incorporate one of four themes, Rebirth, Renewal, Rejuvenation, or Reconciliation.

I think it’s pretty easy to see a lot of Spring is Dumb’s nascent plot points in there.

I actually made a signal boost blog post for the contest, posted on April 26, which you can find here. By then, though, I was already well into the actual writing of Spring Is Dumb.

Take Bitter Harvest, stir in those prompts, bring to a boil, and you get the nucleus of Spring Is Dumb. It would be about RariDash. It would be about spring. It would be about reconciliation. Rarity and Rainbow Dash would get in a fight and then make up and then make out. It would be glorious.

It was a lucky combination, really. It’s lucky that Bitter Harvest’s narrative style fit Rainbow Dash’s character so well. Most of the other ponies couldn’t get away with being so stupidly stubbornly in denial for as long as Rainbow, whose personality might as well be built around the principle of pretending she doesn’t feel things she obviously feels.

It’s also lucky that the contest’s prompt required that it be a getting back together story rather than a getting together story. Eight thousand words of “I don’t like her, I don’t like her, I don’t like her, oh, yeah, I guess I do like her” wouldn’t have been nearly as good a story as “I don’t have to say sorry, I don’t have to say sorry, I don’t have to say sorry, ugh, jeez, yeah I do care about her and I do have to say sorry.”

And it’s lucky that the contest called for the story to take place in the springtime, which is the basis for Spring Is Dumb’s whole setting, a key plot point, and an endless source of consternation for Rainbow Dash throughout the story.

But that’s enough (or maybe way too much) about the story before the story. Now let’s look at the story in its first physical form.

Here are scans of my first handwritten outline of the shmoopy-poopy RariDash to be:

Side one
Side two

Just about every other of my outlines are dated. But not this one, so I have no idea exactly when it was written. Again, thanks a lot, Past-Me.

The one big detail I noticed in that outline is the total lack of detail. It’s as barebones as a museum dinosaur exhibit. It lists four scenes, a smattering of dialogue, barely hints at a plot, and nothing else. But that’s what a first outline is supposed to be. It’s a basic guideline of the general movements of the story. All the writing happens in the writing. The things that made Spring Is Dumb interesting happened after.

But still, the amount of story I just assume I’ll figure out later in the writing process is nearly absurd.

None of the story’s all-jacked-up-on-mountain-dew narrative voice is there. None of its backstory of Rainbow Dash and Rarity’s relationship or Rainbow’s doubts and vulnerabilities are in there. None of Rainbow’s ruminations and realizations on why the relationship matters to her and why she needs to save it are in there. Spring Is Dumb started life soulless and cliche.

Instead of listing insults for Rainbow Dash and Rarity to use, I write ‘Insert insult here.’ Instead of developing any find of kind of real catalyst for the lover’s quarrel that the plot will center on, I write a vague ‘events that led to [Rainbow Dash] embarrassing Rarity, leading to an argument.’ Rainbow’s only reason for wanting to get back together with Rarity is ‘Rarity is too damn beautiful.’ Instead of figuring out a conclusion, I actually wrote ‘Rarity invites Dash upstairs to thank her properly. Or maybe they just cuddle or something. I don’t know. I don’t have to write it for another month. I don’t have to know just how it plays out right this minute. It’s just an outline.’

Inspiring stuff. A true artist at work.

I guess I’m a firm believer in organic, write it while you write it, storytelling. Which works, or at least it’s the only way I know how to work. Spring Is Dumb’s ultimate failure isn’t that it was never outlined properly, but that it was never re-outlined properly. But I’ll talk more about that in the next two parts.

A final couple interesting points before concluding part one. Or interesting to me. No mention in the outline of Applejack or Flitter, who both played minor but important roles in the final version of the story. Also interesting is that in the outline, Rarity appears to be entirely won over by the gifts alone, rather than the sentiment behind them, something I later decided was stupid and shallow and completely missed the point.

But that’s a time for another time, because now it’s time to write the story!

And by now, I mean some other day. The next part of the Story of the Story of Spring Is Dumb will be Writing Is Dumb. It will follow the full writing of the fic, from the first paragraph to the last, from day one to the day the story gets sent off to prereaders. It’s by far the longest part in a Making Of trilogy that will almost certainly end up longer than the fic it's discussing. It’ll take a bit to get ready. So not tomorrow, maybe the day after, maybe a couple days after.

If you actually read all of that and you did find it interesting, let me know. I’ve never spent so much time writing about writing before, and I really have no idea what I’m doing up here or whether it’s all just a total bore and bummer to read. Or if it does stink, that would be useful info, too. I prefer people tell me my breath smells like sick so I know when to bug bomb my backtalk box.

I used to do a lot of commenting on stories, a lot of talking in writer’s workshops, a lot proofreading and feedbacking, a lot of blabbing in general when I shouldn’t have. I’ve said a lot of just absolutely utterly stupid things, more on this site and in this fandom than just about anywhere else. But you know, mistakes and breakups and working shitty minimum wage jobs for a living and exorbitant dentist bills can learn you a thing or two (I mean, for real, are dentists a scam? I think dentists might honestly be a scam).

At some point I very luckily realized that I couldn’t be any more of an amateur when it comes to writing (and everything else) and learned to just shut up and listen, and only speak when I really truly got all my thoughts put together and had something worthwhile to add to the conversation.

More and more, I’ve found I just don’t have anything to say about writing, even my own. Especially my own. It’s really kind of nerve wracking committing to putting so much of this stuff on display. Stories have the benefit of distance. That’s not me, that’s just some character saying and thinking things I say and think.

You don’t get that distance when it’s just you throwing words out into the white interweb void of a word document, wondering, who the hell is even going to read all that?

But whatever. Two to go.

HBAO signing off.

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Comments ( 8 )
Author Interviewer

I spend considerably more time thinking about stories than reading them. This is a problem when the thinking means I'm not paying attention to the audiobook I'm listening to. :B

Site Blogger

The only true prewriting I do is in prethinking, which I do all the time. Most stories I spend weeks to months thinking about before I ever do any writing, working through characters, through potential problems. I come up with a particular line here or there, a scene, a description.

This is generally true for me as well, whether it's fiction or nonfiction/technical; the only exception is that I'm always terrified I'll forget something I came up with, so I write it down. I end up with a text document of random bullet points I didn't want to forget -- not even an outline, because it's in no kind of chronological (or other) order.

That sounds like both a ringing endorsement of the story you're thinking about and a scathing criticism of the audiobook you're listening to.

Author Interviewer

The best audiobooks I'm so engrossed in, I'll get started thinking about the story, or composing my own version thereof, and forget to keep listening. :B It's not always about the quality, more like I'm scatterbrained.

Site Blogger

Oooh, I gotcha. Yeah, that can happen to me with print books too.

Author Interviewer

When you suddenly realize you've been scanning a page without having read anything that came before it because you were thinking about the geography of Florida or something. :D

Most of my prethinking happens on the toilet.

I find I relate a lot to writers when they write about writing, but in a sideways way. I relate to their writing process because it looks very much like my drawing process.

Just about all of my techniques for painting, lining, composing, coloring, whatever, come from seeing something someone else did and saying "I could do that" or seeing someone else do something and saying "I should do that". I actually have surprisingly little success when it comes to having a general idea that I really want to put down and then making it so. I usually have to be fueled by some kind of art envy or really inspiring example.

This leads me to think that I actually have very little real creativity, or perhaps just no originality. Yet I somehow end up with this pile of stuff that people can clearly identify as mine.

Anyway, yeah, I read that whole thing through, and I look forward to reading part two! :raritywink:

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