Ready for Part 4 of my story? In case you’re just joining me now, I’m in the process of telling the story behind a “novel” I recently published online: a fanfiction titled Chaos and Control. Part 1 is the introduction to the idea, Part 2 tells of the planning that went into the fanfiction, and Part 3 is about the long process of writing the first drafts. Have fun reading the next part of the story!
After taking a break last week for Writer’s Reveal, today I’m picking up from the last point of my story to talk about the next part of the writing process: the editing. If writing the fanfiction was the learning, editing it was the studying it took to fix those lessons in my head for good. Enjoy!
Part IV: The Editing
By now, I’ve made it clear that I poured my heart and soul into this story. Committed to working on it every single day, it took me almost a year and a half to write all 14 chapters of Chaos and Control. Then came the editing. Oh wow, what a task that was! Even with the writing already done, revising probably required just as much attention and effort, if not more. Writing the first drafts is the fun part; the editing process is the time to get serious and make sure every last detail of the story is as ready for publication as it can possibly be.
Every chapter went through at least two revisions before being uploaded: once immediately after being written, and again after the whole story was complete. Working this way, I could proofread each chapter for technical errors the first time around, and edit the story itself with a fresh perspective later on. I wanted to write the entire fanfiction before I started publishing it, so that I could post each new chapter at a consistent pace. And that turned out to be the best thing I could have possibly done for my novel. But one step at a time.
Sharpening the Story
The first thing I needed to check while editing was if the story (and its characters) followed the line of development I had envisioned. Chapters 1 and 2 set up the story, introducing the most important characters and establishing the starting point for the lead couple to begin their journey. In Chapter 3, they meet at a party and kiss. Chapter 4 is the famous balcony scene (because what’s Romeo & Juliet without a balcony scene?). Chapters 5 and 6 are when they put a plan for peace into action and eventually fall in love. Things take a bad turn in Chapter 7, and keep going downhill through Chapters 8 to 11, building up to a dramatic climax in Chapters 12 and 13 until the entire story reaches its grand conclusion in Chapter 14. Yes, the basic plot was set exactly as I imagined. Time to move on to the details.
One of the most enjoyable parts of writing Chaos and Control was implementing tropes that colored the story and tied the plot together, and the editing process was the time to make sure they were all in place. Much of the dialogue and scenes were heavily inspired by Shakespeare’s poetry (especially the balcony scene, which can almost be read as a translation of the original), and I also added some shout-outs to my favorite adaptations (e.g. when asking her to run away with him, Miles tells Maria that there’s a place for them somewhere). Props were throw in to act as Chekhov’s guns and red herrings, and early lines of dialogue would become meaningful echoes in later chapters. Even some of the littlest details, like the color of their clothing in certain scenes, were purposely chosen to symbolize greater elements of the story (e.g. the night they meet, Miles and Maria are each wearing one of the colors of the other’s faction, symbolizing the overlapping of Chaos and Control). Satisfied that my plot devices were set, I could focus on honing my technique.
Trimming the Purple
The main reason it was best to edit the whole fanfiction before publishing it was that my style changed significantly throughout the writing process. Reading the first chapter again after finishing the last ones, I noticed some major differences in my storytelling. This was understandable and even to be expected; having taken over a year to write, it would have been surprising if the story had kept a completely consistent form from beginning to end. I learned many new things about creative writing during that time, lessons that inevitably seeped into my story the further I progressed. And of those lessons, the most important was definitely avoiding purple prose.
I have to admit I was more than a little surprised when I read back the beginning chapters for the first time in months. There were so many differences between the writing style from back then and that evident in my later chapters that I almost couldn’t believe I’d let myself get away with all those mistakes after the first revision stage. I think it wasn’t until I was halfway through writing that I really began to notice how purple my technique was, so that by the time I reached the last chapters, I had already learned to avoid my old mistakes. All I needed to do then was go back and clean up the earlier chapters to create a consistent narrative voice. It took a little extra effort to edit the entire first half of the story, but I pulled it off, and after all was said and done, I was content with the results.
Watching My Characters Grow
If implementing tropes was the most entertaining part of writing this fanfiction, witnessing my characters’ development was the most enlightening. Because I was so focused on each individual chapter while writing, it was only during the editing that I was able to sit back and see my characters’ growth through the story as a whole, and what a beautiful thing it was to see. Miles grows from a lost and confused boy to a noble young man, and seeing Maria’s development from a naïve girl to a courageous young woman made me truly proud of my work.
The supporting characters change throughout the story too. Lily, pragmatic by nature, sheds her cynical views on love and destiny after witnessing her brother’s romance. Sonia and Rex go through extremely emotional experiences that teach them some harsh lessons. Angelica’s superficial persona gradually fades the more involved she becomes in her best friend’s deep secrets. Sonia’s little brother Aaron, a partial parallel to Balthasar, eventually gives up his lifelong desire to live up to his hate-filled sister’s image in favor of a new aspiration to be more like their loving cousin. Eugene Princeton, the equivalent to Paris and a major antagonist, is also significantly affected by the events of the story, but unlike the others, his character develops in a drastically negative way. Even the parents suffer dramatic changes, though this being a modern version of Romeo & Juliet, these only truly become evident towards the end of the story.
Even though all my characters grow through the course of the fanfiction, my favorite development is by far that of my Romeo and Juliet. It was enjoyably challenging to write for a young couple who find meaning in their lives by falling in love, who learn from each other and draw strength from their relationship to finally stand up for what they believe in. Despite all the effort I put into placing the details, what always mattered more than anything else was this core dynamic between Miles and Maria. Inspired by Shakespeare’s work, I did my best to create believable and relatable characters with the power to break a long-standing cycle of hatred, and though many minor details of the fanfiction were still less than perfect when the writing and editing was done, I was happy to have finally written a novel about one of my favorite literary themes: true love. As for what my readers thought… that’s a story for next time.
This concludes the fourth part of the story behind my fanfiction. Next week’s post will be about the publishing of the novel, the time when all my hard work was finally put online for the world to read. Thanks for reading!
Note: If you’re interested, you’re more than welcome to read my story and even leave some reviews. I promise you don’t need to know too much about the Sonic universe to appreciate it. Reviews are positive, but contain spoilers! Thank you!