An Exercise in Self-Critique 2

This is the second in what will hopefully be a longer series of posts where I critique the beginnings of my own stories, written long ago, and try to make them better. You can find the first post here. Today I’ll look at my oldest, dearest and most popular Mass Effect fanfic, Fruit from Palaven.

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An End is Like a Little Death

Last night I finished a novel that I started writing more than seven years ago. It wasn’t the first, or the last novel that I wrote with enthusiasm up to the 90% mark just to burn out on the last hundred yards. I am, of course, happy that I finished it. It’s a quiet kind of happiness: not the kind to make one jump up and down and clap their hands with glee, but more like relief that something that was wrong has finally been righted. I’m also hopeful that it means I might some day finish my other abandoned works and lighten the load of debt and guilt they’ve been weighing me down with.

But at the same time, I’m sad. Sad that it’s done and in a way — gone. A story is born inside the author’s mind, and there it grows and shifts and changes, and so long as it’s not written, it has a peculiar freedom to go in different directions, a potential to develop in different ways. The act of writing turns it from imagination to banal reality and thereby robs it of some of its magic. Infinite possibilities collapse into imperfect words. In a way, a story dies as it’s created.

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Blogging is Hard

A couple months back, I decided to post here weekly. I’m glad I did. It feels great to create content, and even more to look back with a sense of continuity and regularity — to see this site live. I’ve never managed it before. Even when I was active in the Mass Effect fanfiction community and posted about the new stories and chapters I’d written, I couldn’t keep up with a weekly schedule. I’ve grown more disciplined since then, but I also have less free time. It’s hard.

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Four Ways to Back Up Your Manuscript

Lately I’ve been following more and more full-time authors on Twitter and several of them mentioned the dubious practice of emailing themselves the current version of their manuscript, as backup. And sure, it works. The same way an open fire in your backyard works as a source of heat for regular daily cooking when you’ve got a perfectly functional stove in the kitchen.

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In Defense of NaNoWriMo

In the last week of October, and the last week before this year’s NaNo, an episode of my favorite writing podcast¬†was dedicated to the question of whether we, the listeners and aspiring writers, should do it or not. And the answer was a resounding NO. Tim Clare, the author of said podcast, brought forward an array of arguments to support his advice. Some of his thoughts made me look at NaNo from a new angle. NaNo has been a part of my life for nearly a decade now, so this fresh perspective is a valuable gift and I appreciate it.

At the same time, I was put off by the tremendous one-sidedness of these same arguments. It seemed that Tim was either unaware of, or intent on ignoring all potentially good things about NaNo. And if there were no good things about it, if all it ever did for anyone was make them miserable and prevent them from writing ever again (which is, basically, what Tim believes), it would have died off a long time ago. Instead, it gets bigger and more popular every year.

Tim isn’t necessarily wrong about its potential to harm, but this risk is limited to a small minority of participants: to people who, like himself, have a troubled relationship with writing. There have been other episodes of the podcast where it sounded like such people are the only audience Tim’s interested in speaking to. But this was the first time I felt there was literally nothing in it for the rest of us, not a single thought or word spared. This spurred me to write a response, even though I realize that NaNo has an army of voices speaking in its favor already and doesn’t particularly need me to defend it.

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