Original Fiction Sprawl
I finished loading in my two big original fiction projects to Scrivener last night and doing the first pass of canon review, which amounted to a light skim and no further, not enough I could even write a drabble yet, but girl, was it revelatory.
I think I figured out how these epic fantasy series sprawl so badly because there's 150K words that don't get where they need to go; they barely get anywhere at all.
During the course of a story, there's movement from point A to point B. Writers have two ways of adding motion: the characters do something or something happens. Doing something generally moves the plot/story arc in the right direction toward resolution. Something happening generally derails or provides an obstacle to the path toward resolution, thus is rather convenient when you need to open things up.
The first third of the book is usually all about opening things up and lots of things "happen." The second third is usually all about moving things forward, so whatever "happens" is usually either a direct reaction to the characters or directly shoving them into the action the author needs to get the story to point B. The final third is usually all about closing things down and things stop "happening" and it's all that direct causal chain with the characters.
When a writer feels the story pace start to lag and it's time for an event, they'll either make something happen, which drags the characters away from their goal, or they'll make the characters do/learn something, which drags the characters toward their goal.
Ladies, in this 150K, there's a whole lot of stuff happening and I can see why I kept trying to grind to a halt and plot so they would do things instead. I'm a writer that generally allows very little to "happen," which is probably why I also have very few stories longer than 3.5K.
Lessons learned. Let's see what I can do with this baby.
Learning from Writing to Order
Most people in the original fiction world learn these things from writing to guidelines and submitting, but I couldn't do it because rarely did the guidelines fit anything I wanted to write. I'm learning from writing in gift exchanges and bangs and challenges, and I've been focusing on writing fics longer than 5K heading toward 10K because I have a whole slew of original fics I want in that general territory.
In doing this, I've learned several things, some of which build upon stuff I already knew about my writing.
I've known for a while now that I write best when I have two prompts/ideas/sources of inspiration mingling into a single story. For example: Kingdoms and Thorn didn't happen until I combined the idea of mind-wiped, specially gifted, military operatives getting their freedom as young adults with the idea of a bunch of nations in a single city. Just one or the other wasn't enough to actually do it for me. For a fanfic example, let's go with "Monsters and Daisychains," an Agents of SHIELD fic that grew out of my reactions to the winter finale. It couldn't happen until I mixed the idea of what happened to Mack to what happened to Skye and how their point of similarity in that is her father. So yeah. I need two ideas generally.
How does that apply to what I've been learning lately? I hit Hawkeye comics and I blame a combination of Yuletide and geckoholic. It certainly wasn't because I wanted to go there. I deliberately put off reading or dealing with Fraction until I was sure my concept of MCU Clint Barton/Hawkeye was solid and not going to get character bleed. Interestingly enough, it too required two concepts to come together. I'll hit a theme and a storyline or a premise and a concept, such as the Hawkeyes sharing minds and then Hawkeye itself being an AI ship in a space AU. To write a sequel or a new fic, I have to go beyond the original premise and add something else to it. In this case, I've got two sequels bumping around in my head, competing for space. They'll probably both get written. In the case of my soulmates AU for Clint/Natasha, I have no second idea to add to the sharing lifeforce concept that I've got left from the first three fics. Sequel will probably not get written.
So there's that.
Also, did you know I write out of order? I did but I didn't. To write more than 5K, I can't write in order very well. I just can't. If I story develop and don't write it as I go, I don't get the rest of the story. If I do get the rest of the story, I lose the ability to write the first part right because I waited too long. What works best for me is to write the things I know and bridge between them. Thematically, I'll know this scene happens and that needs to happen and this is what starts them on that path. How did they get to that starting point? How do they get from this point to that one?
I have finally renounced my linear writing ways I had before. They don't work for me. And I think that's going to be key to getting these big original fics done.
So I'm off to go write Purim Gifts fics and maybe get a start on trovia's fic again while those Hawkeye fics percolate in the back of my brain. Have fun, y'all!