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After 99 chapters, averaging well over 3000 words each in 6 months (Book One was around 75,000 words, and with only one exception I know of, minimum chapter size has always been 3000 words), I have grown so much as a writer.
A lot of that is due to many of you who have pointed out when I used terrible grammar, left out plotline critical information that made you scratch your heads, or abused basic science and math. And that’s just the surface. A good deal of that might not be visible to the casual or first time reader, because I have substantially rewritten a lot of the first book. The verb tense problems in the first book on the first write were so terrible, I can’t believe anyone read it.
I *expected* many problems though. It had been a whole lot of years since I wrote any sort of fiction, and that fiction was stuff like “Write 1000 words using these vocabulary words, and include at least three proper uses of past perfect tense”
So, around 25 years after my last English class, I wrote Arc as a Fanfic for Worm (more about Worm, Wildbow, etc., in my About section, linked at the top, if you care to read it.) Arc was fun, people seemed to like it, and it is still actively viewed today, even though it’s been untouched by me for six months.
So what have I learned?
Narrative tenses must be watched carefully, because they like to run off and play in traffic.
I have a problem with scale. I either need to learn to more strongly control what my characters can do, or I need to write in a universe without fixed rules, so I can realistically (in universe) bring characters down a peg when they get too powerful. I recognized this with Bob, fairly early. But power creep kept happening. I couldn’t stop one-upping myself. I started to improve the abilities of other symbiotes to match, but Bob kept creeping up in power. Part of this was that the story was always about the psychology. How would a human deal with a symbiote? How would a symbiote deal with a human? I would have an idea about how to make a certain scenario occur, and then write to fit. Bob’s power would expand accordingly. Then I would look back, facepalm, and say to myself “I did it again.”
I have a couple huge blind spots in grammar. “then” is not a real substitute for “and then” when appending a final action onto a list of actions. I also have issues with numerals from time to time, but that can be mostly fixed by just writing them out unless they are huge. If I ever publish, I’ll let the editors figure out what the number writing rules are, this decade.
The next book will not be a “Gary Sue” Bob was very recognizably me for anyone who knows me. This certainly had an impact on the story, but, to be frank, I’m not sure it was negative or positive.
I have been slowly going through this series of lectures by Branson Sanderson and learning a lot, I hope. Of particular interest to me was the part where he compared a writer to a piano player in one of the first lectures. In essence, an editor can tell how good your writing is within a few pages at most, just like a professional musician can tell, within a few seconds of practice, roughly how good a piano player is. When I see how many people still hit chapter 1.1 without hitting chapter 1.2, it tells me that I am probably correct in thinking that the underlying structure of chapter 1 is off, despite cosmetic rewrites. I can’t put my finger on it, but I am confident that it could be improved with scenes of more immediacy, a little more action. The problem being, Frank wouldn’t want that, and he understands what Bob’s reactions are likely to be. However, the chapter could easily be rewritten in such a way that Frank would be forced to act before he was ready, say, a drunk driver clipping Bob as he’s changing a tire on the side of the highway, or something. Conflict.
I have watched my page hits compared to the content of chapters. When I went off into lots of cerebral stuff, or world building, my numbers drifted down. When I started to do action scenes and fights, bam, numbers went back up. This either indicates that I’m better at writing action than cerebral stuff, or people who were attracted to my story prefer action to cerebral stuff. Or maybe the webfiction crowd simply enjoys action as a general rule. It is a bite-sized content media, and bite-sized media tends to be more popular if it has a hook or grab.
Regular output would probably be a good idea. I didn’t get many complaints about it, but that was probably because my irregular output was frequent, and of substantial word count. I’ve never done a full word count, but I suspect it’s well over 400k words between all the books.
Regular output requires planning, and likely a writing buffer, so I’ll think about it. Really. *wanders off mumbling*
I’m fairly confident that I’m not done with the Symbiote universe, but I’m also rather certain I won’t be writing from Bob’s point of view again.
I was surprised that nobody ever said anything about the Muppets Easter egg that I bounced in front of everyone off and on for months, even going as far as giving Animal a symbiote named Statler. Then I realized that a whole lot more gets noticed than gets commented on. This gave me a little insight, I think, in what to expect from readers and how to judge their responses. I felt I was doing something wrong, that nobody was noticing the funny thing. I don’t worry so much about people catching everything. Now I just grin when I see that someone enjoyed something I placed intentionally.
The last thing I’ve learned? Perhaps the most important thing? I now have a better sense of what I need to do to improve my writing further, I think. As mentioned in a prior non-chapter entry, I am considering taking a real creative writing class, because I believe at this point I would gain a lot from seeing people’s visceral reaction to my writing, real time.
I really appreciate all of you folks, and I hope to see you return on my next webfiction project. I have an idea for a small non-fiction pamphlet/book that I am going to look at E-publishing first. After that is done, I plan to return to doing webfiction again, this time around in a super powered universe, I think. Without going into too much detail, I plan on exploring the middle-aged take on super heroes, much like I did with Arc, but in my own universe.
The last chapter in Symbiote bugs me. I have ideas. I need to think about them. I will post a new update if it changes, and I’m fairly sure it will.
Now that I’ve told you all some of the things I *think* I’ve learned, I’d love to hear about some of the things that I *haven’t*.
Are there things I do that bug you? Do my character interactions seem OK? I worry about how I portray Ayva sometimes, because she has so much unexplored depth, but she’s also very old school. She’s nobody’s fool, she’s tough mentally, but she’s still emotional when it’s safe to be emotional, and very straightforward. She’s socially programmed for another time, but lives in ours.
What’s your favorite chapter, and why?
What’s your least favorite chapter, and why?
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