My First Novel?: Fanfiction as a Practice Run (Part VI – The Feedback)

On to Part 6 of my story. Only just joining me now? Here’s what you’ve been missing. 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 about the idea for the story, Part 2 is about the planning stage, Part 3 is about the writing stage, Part 4 is about the editing stage, and Part 5 is about the publishing stage. Have fun reading the next part of the story!

Yes, the story behind my fanfiction is almost over. Today’s topic covers the final stage of the process: the feedback I received on the novel. This was the point where I would finally find out if all my hard work was worth the effort, at least in the eyes of my readers. Enjoy!

Part VI: The Feedback

Chaos and ControlThe site on which I published Chaos and Control, FanFiction.Net, has a system that allows readers to post one (and only one) review on each chapter of a story. This meant that my readers would each be able to leave a maximum of 14 reviews on my novel, not including additional comments they might leave under a guest name. I was eager to learn their thoughts on every one of my chapters, as well as their opinions of the story as a whole.

In truth, only one person left a review on every single chapter, and that was the same person who had been supporting my work from the beginning. He’d already made his opinions clear to me directly, yet he was kind enough to also make them public. A few other readers left several reviews throughout the fanfiction, and though their comments differed slightly, there was one thing they all had in common: they loved Chaos and Control. And with a 100% approval rating from my audience, how could I not be proud of my work?

Glowing Reviews and Hidden Fears

I mentioned in the previous post that my story didn’t receive as much attention as I’d hoped, at least in the beginning. However, the attention it did receive was entirely positive, so for that I was grateful. Of course, I can’t say with any certainty how much of the Sonic fanbase is truly critical, but just the fact that readers were willing to take the time to comment at all was a good sign. At least one of my fears had been quelled: that no one would read my story.

The main reason I was afraid of not being able to gain an audience was the fact that I hadn’t been active on the site for a long time. I don’t just mean publishing my own stories, but also reading and reviewing those of other fanfiction writers. Because of this, I was sure almost no one on the archive would remember me, despite the popularity of Generation Beta and the 30+ members who had added my profile to their alert lists. In the end, I had to trust that my story could attract readers entirely on its own, and taking that into consideration, I suppose it was relatively successful. What I had to worry about next was exactly how successful my writing would be.

The Invisible Details

Meet Cream the Rabbit, Amy's best friend and one of the secondary leaders of Control. Her Gift is in Flight, and she has a minor role in the story.

Meet Cream the Rabbit, Amy’s best friend and one of the secondary leaders of Control. Her Gift is in Flight, and she’s a mother of 5-year-old triplet girls.

As a writer who puts a ton of thought into every detail of her stories, another of my biggest fears regarding Chaos and Control was that my readers would miss the subtle hints scattered throughout the plot. Would anyone recognize the constant references to the stars as a play on Shakespeare’s notes on fate? Would they notice the color symbolism in scenes like when the lead couple meet, where Miles (Control) is wearing mostly black with some white and Maria (Chaos) is wearing mostly white with some black (black being one of the colors of Chaos and white being one of the colors of Control)? Would they catch the foreshadowing clues that are briefly mentioned: Sonia’s secret fear of losing her Gift, the Chemistry test that Eugene aced, the knife Miles and Maria borrow from a building site they pass on their last day together, etc.? Would they realize that the moment Maria stops calling her father “Daddy” and starts calling him “Dad” is the defining moment when she finally becomes a woman? Some details function as plot devices, others are simply there to illustrate the characters’ development, but all of them are important to me, and I hoped they wouldn’t go completely unnoticed.

The most significant plot device appears in the middle of the story: a novel the students read for Literature class. This novel is important for two reasons: (1) it sets off the downward spiral in the second half of the plot; and (2) it hints at the course of events the main characters will possibly face for the rest of the story. The book is a parallel to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, telling the tragic story of teenage star-crossed lovers Ronan and Julia, whose forbidden affair in Renaissance-period circumstances ends in both their deaths. My hope was that readers would recognize this as an analogy to Miles and Maria’s story, though whether it was foreshadowing or simply a red herring (or both) would be revealed in time.

In fact, no one mentioned this novel in their reviews, which was disappointing to say the least, but they did seem to notice some of the other details I had planted. One reader took notice of the changes in Maria’s behavior in a later chapter, and another pointed out the synchrony between the lovers when they yell the same words at the exact same time, despite being on opposite sides of town. Although not every detail seemed to be noteworthy, I was happy that my audience was able to appreciate the story beyond the superficial theme of forbidden love.

Mary Sue, is that you?

Meet Tikal the Echidna, Rex's mother and one of the secondary leaders of Chaos. Her Calling is in the Mind class, though it's never mentioned in the story.

Meet Tikal the Echidna, Rex’s mother and one of the secondary leaders of Chaos. Her Calling is in the Mind class, and she’s one of the few pacifists of Green Hill.

If there’s one mistake on every good fiction writer’s list of worst nightmares, it’s the dreaded Mary Sue. No writer should ever aim to make their characters perfect, because with perfection comes boredom. Around the end of the writing process, I had become terrified that my Romeo might be perceived as a little too “good” in some aspects: too sweet, too selfless, too brave, etc. Yes, he’s supposed to be a hero, but his flaws also need to be apparent so he’ll be relatable. I had the same fears to a lesser extent with my Juliet, whose strong character development at least kept me confident that she would be likable; and I hoped my supporting characters would be appreciated for both their positive and negative traits, especially my Mercutio and Tybalt. I also wanted to avoid making my Paris “pure evil”; although he is an extremely unlikable character, I tried to make it clear that his personality is a product of his circumstances and not really his own fault. So the question arose: would all my characters come across as multidimensional as I’d planned, or would some of them fall flat?

Fortunately, my concerns seemed to be mostly unfounded. Both my lead characters were quite popular among my readers, and nobody expressed any dislike for the supporting cast. One person even claimed to be undecided on whether Miles or Sonia was their favorite character. Although my best friend thinks he should have been killed off, someone else expressed pity for Eugene, despite the awful things he does throughout the story (mostly in the last few chapters, *hint hint*). There was one review that stated the reader’s favorite part of the fanfiction was the characterization, and she liked how much thought I had clearly put into it. I even had readers tell me they thought my story was better than the original Romeo & Juliet! I’m not saying I would agree, but it was very flattering nonetheless.

Overall, I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished with Chaos and Control. Sure, it’s still not as popular as Generation Beta, and I highly doubt it ever will be. Maybe the chapters are too long (Chaos and Control averages over 10,000 words per chapter while Generation Beta never passes 5,000), or maybe Sonic fans in general prefer action/adventure to romance, or maybe the fact that the story takes place in an alternate universe just doesn’t make up for writing canon characters OOC and toward the background. Regardless, I managed to tell a story that I love and that my readers enjoy. For everything I’ve put into it and learned from it as a dedicated writer, Chaos and Control is a story that I’m pleased to consider my first serious novel.

This concludes the sixth and penultimate part of the story behind my fanfiction. The final post will be a brief review of everything I learned throughout this amazing experience. 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!

Sonic the Hedgehog and all related characters belong to Sega. All official artwork is displayed for illustrative purposes only. I own nothing!

My First Novel?: Fanfiction as a Practice Run (Part V – The Publishing)

Now for Part 5 of my story. If you’re only just joining me, 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 idea’s introduction, Part 2 is about the planning process, Part 3 tells about the writing, and Part 4 covers the editing. Have fun reading the next part of the story!

Today’s post focuses on the publishing of the novel online. After all the fun of writing and editing the fanfiction, I have to confess that this was the “dark point” of the story. Still, it was a learning experience like every other stage before, so I have no regrets. Enjoy!

Part V: The Publishing

Chaos and ControlBefore I finished the story, I thought about how exactly I would publish it. I decided to post one new chapter every Saturday; by posting once a week, my chapters would be spaced out enough to avoid being overwhelming, while still being consistent enough to keep my readers engaged. After that was settled, I needed an idea of when I would start publishing. By a stroke of luck, I noticed that at the pace I was writing, I would probably be able to finish my fanfiction around the release date of the new Romeo & Juliet movie. So for fun, I opted to post the first chapter in October. All I needed to do then was finish writing by September. And with all my hard work and dedication, that’s exactly what I managed to do.

Now you may be wondering why I consider this stage the dark point of my experience. The truth is that I had quite a few fears regarding this story, but the excitement of working on it mostly drowned them out during the writing phases. Once the fanfiction was done and ready to be published, however, they all came rushing back. What were they, exactly? Bear with me for a bit and you’ll soon understand.

The Debut of Chaos and Control

Here’s a fact I haven’t mentioned yet: Chaos and Control was not sent out into the world unread. Throughout the entire process, I had the support of my best friend to keep me going. After each chapter was written and revised once, I would send a copy of it to him, and he would later give me feedback on what he had read. Even though his comments were mostly praise, they kept my spirits up to the very end of writing. I was so excited about my story that I was happy to already have one loyal reader.

But when the fanfiction was done and the first chapter’s publish date was drawing near, my biggest fears kicked in: that no one else would read it, and if they did, that they wouldn’t “get it”. When I shared the story with my best friend, I was able to take the fanfiction directly to him and discuss all the ideas I had implemented into my work. I wouldn’t have that chance with my other readers. Instead, I had to trust that they would find the story themselves, and that all the details would come across the way I had planned. And I will say this much: that wasn’t easy at all.

If you write it, will they read?

When October finally came, I started publishing Chaos and Control. As promised, I posted one new chapter a week, always on Saturday in order to reach as many readers as possible. I was excited and nervous at the same time, but more than anything, I was happy to have finally reached this stage. All I needed to do now was wait for the Sonic fans on the archive to stumble upon my story. I checked my profile stats every day to see how many hits it was getting. Unfortunately, the results were rather disappointing.

Meet Knuckles the Echidna, Rex's father. He's one of the secondary leaders of Chaos, and his Calling is in Power.

Meet Knuckles the Echidna, Rex’s father. He’s one of the secondary leaders of Chaos, and his Calling is in Power.

I told myself that it was normal. My best friend assured me that the story would be more likely to get attention after a few chapters had been posted. However, after a month of publishing, the hits still weren’t as frequent as I had expected. I started to wonder what I might be doing wrong. Was the synopsis not interesting enough? Were readers turned off by the idea of a story starring fan characters instead of canon characters? Did they not care for Shakespeare or Romeo & Juliet? Were the chapters too long? I kept on questioning and doubting myself week after week, until suddenly I was struck by a horrible thought…

Nobody cares.

I didn’t want to think it. I had been trying to avoid it since before I posted the first chapter. But the more the story was published, the harder it got to stay positive. Even when over a third of the fanfiction was online, it wasn’t getting as many hits and reviews as I’d hoped. All the hard work I had invested over a year and a half was going virtually unnoticed by the only audience to whom I could present it, and that one thought hurt like nothing I had ever anticipated. So one Saturday night, a few hours after posting another chapter from the first half of the story, I did something rather embarrassing…

I cried.

I knew even then that I probably shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help myself. I was sad that a story into which I had poured my heart and soul wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. I was angry that terribly written amateurish stories were getting more reviews than my well nigh professional-level one was. I was frustrated that I was trying to market my fanfiction to readers who weren’t likely to appreciate it. But mostly, I was upset for feeling like I hadn’t managed to tell a story that others would love as much as I did. Although I knew it wasn’t true, I still felt like I had failed.

And then something incredible happened…

The Power of One

A few years ago, a reader (who for now I’m going to assume is female) left a review on Generation Beta telling me how much she loved my story and that I had a God-given gift for writing. It was one of the most uplifting comments I had ever received on that site. She left a few more reviews on my other stories, always encouraging me to keep on writing, and even though I didn’t publish fanfiction as frequently as I used to, I was happy to know she was following my work.

Meet Rouge the Bat, Angelica's mother and one of the secondary leaders of Chaos. Her Calling is in Flight, with a focus in stealth.

Meet Rouge the Bat, Angelica’s mother and one of the secondary leaders of Chaos. Her Calling is in Flight, with a focus in stealth.

Some time after I started publishing Chaos and Control, this reader came back. I received an email notification that she had left a review on the third chapter, and once again, it didn’t fail to lift my spirits. But there was an even bigger surprise in store for me. Later on, she replied to my thank-you message to tell me how she was really enjoying my story so far, and that she loved my characters so much, she wanted to draw them for me! I was so touched; it was the first time one of my readers wanted to create fan art based on my work (not counting the music my best friend had written for Generation Beta). I loved the drawing she made of my main characters, but even more, I loved the feeling of having made a difference in one person’s life.

Now don’t get me wrong; I was always happy to have my best friend reading my story, and if it had only been read by him, I still would have been content knowing my entire audience loved it. But the knowledge that a stranger had been so inspired by something I created was encouraging in a different way. I had reached out to somebody new, in much the same way I had reached out to the reader who would become my best friend with Generation Beta five years ago, and that was enough to make me believe Chaos and Control was a success.

So if there’s one thing I took away from the publishing stage, it was knowing the power one reader could have on my whole experience. My best friend continued to support me with kind words and reviews to the very last chapter, and I eventually gained a fair share of readers who all absolutely loved the story. But I was already happy halfway through sharing the fanfiction, because I had been reminded of how one person can make all the difference. Of course, there were other fears that had yet to be addressed before it was all over… but I’ll leave those for the next post.

This concludes the fifth part of the story behind my fanfiction. Next week’s post will focus on the feedback I received on the novel and what I learned from the reviews that readers left on my story’s chapters. 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!

Sonic the Hedgehog and all related characters belong to Sega. All official artwork is displayed for illustrative purposes only. I own nothing!

My First Novel?: Fanfiction as a Practice Run (Part IV – The Editing)

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

Chaos and ControlBy 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

Meet Amy Rose, Miles and Lily's mother. She is the matriarch of Control and has a Mind Gift focusing on intuition.

Meet Amy Rose, Miles and Lily’s mother and the matriarch of Control. Her Gift is in the Mind class, with a focus in intuition.

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.

Meet Miles "Tails" Prower, Sonia's father. He's the second-in-command of Control and has a Gift in Flight.

Meet Miles “Tails” Prower, Sonia and Aaron’s father and his nephew’s namesake. He’s the second-in-command of Control, and his Gift is in Flight.

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!

Sonic the Hedgehog and all related characters belong to Sega. All official artwork is displayed for illustrative purposes only. I own nothing!

My First Novel?: Fanfiction as a Practice Run (Part III – The Writing)

Time for Part 3 of my story. In case you missed the first two parts, I’m currently in process of telling the story behind a “novel” I recently published online: a fanfiction titled Chaos and Control. Part 1 introduces the idea of the story, and Part 2 is about the planning that went into it before the actual writing began. Have fun reading the next part of the story!

Today, I’m going to talk about the long yet wonderful process of writing Chaos and Control. This was definitely my favorite part of the journey, and probably the one that taught me the most. Enjoy!

Part III: The Writing

Chaos and ControlA quick note before I continue: remember how I mentioned that this story came out to almost 150,000 words? Well, the first story I wrote with my original characters, Generation Beta, was just over 70,000 words, so technically that was the first novel I ever published. Still, I prefer to consider Chaos and Control my true first novel, because I put much more time and effort into creating it. Just thought that was worth pointing out.

OK, back to this topic. After coming up with the idea and planning the story for a few weeks, I produced a 14-chapter outline for the fanfiction I wanted to write. I set up a text file where I wrote a summary of each chapter, so I’d have a basic plan to follow while working on the first drafts. Finally ready to start, I set to work on my new fanfiction.

Fleshing out the Skeleton

Some of you may remember a blog post I wrote a while back on something I called the “Frankenstein Writing Method“. Well, I used that technique quite a bit while working on this novel. Before I even began writing the first chapter, I had already started putting together a collection of excerpts as they came to me, worded almost exactly the way I wanted to write them into the story. This helped me to keep a clear idea of the entire plot, and it reassured me of how much I had really thought the story through. Even though I was still writing the beginning, I already had a set vision of how I wanted the plot to play out. And that gave me the motivation to always keep going.

So I started writing Chapter 1. I wrote a prologue in the style of a sonnet to parody Shakespeare’s introduction to his play. After that came a paragraph to introduce the setting of the story. Then I jumped into the action, setting up a scene to establish the rivalry between factions and introduce the most important supporting characters.

After I typed out the last sentence, I sat back and smiled in satisfaction at what I had created. Although the work was still far from over, I was proud of myself for having stuck to my commitment this far. The beginning of a story is often the hardest part to write, and at least the first step was out of the way. Now to move on to Chapter 2.

Enter Romeo and Juliet

Meet Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles and Lily's father. He leads the faction of Control, and posses a Gift in Speed.

Meet Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles and Lily’s father. He leads the progressivist faction of Control, and possesses a Gift of super speed.

In some ways, Chapter 2 was even harder to write than Chapter 1. That was because the former was an even more significant foundation for the story than the latter. While Chapter 1 was an introduction of the town feud and my supporting characters, Chapter 2 was the moment I would introduce my leads, and however I wrote this part, it would set up the most important relationship in the story for the rest of the novel. This meant I had to handle this chapter very carefully, especially because the single greatest factor I wanted to stand out in my story was character development.

So I had to decide well in advance how I wanted to portray my own Romeo and Juliet. I wanted my heroes to grow with each other, but also be able to stand on their own. I wanted them to be lovable yet flawed, innocent yet passionate, idealistic yet wise beyond their years. I wanted them to love and want each other without ever actually needing each other. And all their growth would depend on how I first presented them in the story. Not to put too much pressure on myself, but I absolutely had to get this right.

Miles and Maria are introduced in separate scenes within the same chapter. Both of them are first seen distant and lost in thought, but neither one of them is actually depressed. They each interact with their respective best friends – Miles (Romeo) with Lily (Benvolio), and Maria (Juliet) with Angelica (the Nurse) – and it’s through these conversations that hints of the people they want to (and will) become are revealed. The most positive qualities of the supporting characters are also shown in this chapter, including Sonia (Mercutio) and Rex (Tybalt), to help establish the other relationships that would last throughout the fanfiction.

Satisfied with all my characters’ introductions, I could now focus on developing the heroes’ relationship over the next 12 chapters. So I did. The growth my characters experienced after meeting each other drove the plot in a powerful way that left me feeling extremely proud by the time I typed the final words on the very last page. But more on that later on.

A Long Journey, Surprises at Every Turn

Meet Shadow the Hedgehog, Maria's father. He leads the faction of Chaos, and possesses a Calling in the Mind class.

Meet Shadow the Hedgehog, Maria’s father. He leads the traditionalist faction of Chaos, and his Calling is warping through space.

Aside from being the most fun (funnest?) part of working on this story, writing it was also the longest part. Determined to finish my fanfiction no matter what, I worked on it every single day. I set a goal to write at least a page a day, and with most chapters reaching just under 30 pages, not to mention other projects I had to focus on, the writing process alone ended up taking me almost a year and a half to finish.

It wasn’t always easy sticking to this schedule. There were days when I barely had time to spare for this story, and others when I simply didn’t feel inspired to write. But I stuck to it anyway, because I knew it would be all the more satisfying when I finally finished the novel.

Yet what made the ride truly enjoyable was the way the story itself surprised me throughout the journey. Sometimes I felt it really wasn’t taking as much effort to write as I expected it to, because in a way, the characters were creating themselves. The further I got into the story, the greater their personalities developed, constantly sparking new ideas that I had never anticipated during the planning process. But this post is long enough as it is, so I’ll save the details for next time.

On a final note, I know some people might think I’m crazy for taking fanfiction as seriously as I do, and maybe I am. But as a writer who always takes her craft seriously, I fully dedicate myself to every piece I write, no exceptions. It doesn’t matter that it’s fanfiction; Chaos and Control deserved every bit as much love and care as I give to any of my original works, and I’m so glad I was able to pour my whole heart into this story.

This concludes the third part of the story behind my fanfiction. The next post will focus on the editing process and my excruciating attention to the details of my novel. 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!

Sonic the Hedgehog and all related characters belong to Sega. All official artwork is displayed for illustrative purposes only. I own nothing!

My First Novel?: Fanfiction as a Practice Run (Part II – The Planning)

Welcome to Part 2 of my story. In case you missed it, last week I shared the introduction to a series of posts I’ll be writing about the learning experience behind a “novel” I recently published online: a fanfiction titled Chaos and Control. If you haven’t yet, I suggest you go back and read that post first. Otherwise, have fun reading the next part of the story!

Last week, I started off by briefly telling about the idea for my fanfiction: how I came up with it, why I decided to turn it into a story, etc. Today, I’m going to share the beginning of the creative process, namely the planning that was done before the writing began. Enjoy!

Part II: The Planning

Chaos and ControlAs I mentioned in the previous post, Chaos and Control is a story based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. While thinking about my original characters during one of my romance phases, I started to realize how well I could fit them into roles parallel to Shakespeare’s tragedy: Miles and Maria, the heroic couple from Generation Beta, as Romeo and Juliet; Miles’s smart and loyal twin sister Lily in the combined roles of Friar Laurence and Benvolio; the siblings’ playful tomboyish cousin Sonia as Mercutio; their noble yet stubborn friend Rex as Tybalt and his bubbly girlfriend Angelica as the Nurse, etc. Not only did their individual personalities fit into the story, but their relationships also seemed to match those of the original characters. They fit so well, in fact, that the more I thought about the story, the more I wanted to write it. The idea wasn’t just floating on my imagination; it was consuming me completely.

So now would probably be a good point to start talking about the writing process from the beginning, right? Here goes…

Building the Skeleton

Every story needs the skeleton of a basic plot to support it. If I was going to write this story, I knew I needed at least a fundamental idea of how I wanted it to play out. How much should I base on the original play and how much should be my own ideas? How would I incorporate enough elements of the Sonic fandom to justify writing fanfiction instead of an original work? Could I pull off the unique storyline I wanted, especially the ending, the way I planned? All of these were questions I felt I needed to answer before I even typed out the first sentence.

I decided I wanted to create a more innocent version of Romeo & Juliet by combining my original ideas with elements from Shakespeare’s play, plus a few of my favorite adaptations of it (mostly West Side Story and the Romeo x Juliet anime). The feud would be due to a series of political disagreements rooted in the special abilities that all animal characters in the Sonic universe possess. The story would follow the classic theme of two teenagers whose love for each other is hindered by the hatred between their families and friends, and who are willing to do whatever it takes to end the war so they can be together. And I strongly felt my characters could play that role perfectly.

Creating a modern Romeo and Juliet

You only really need to know who these two are...

You only really need to know who these two are…

First of all, why use originals as the leads instead of canon characters? Simple: so I could have complete creative control over character development without worrying too much about making those from Sega out-of-character. True, most of them are anyway, but at least they’re only in secondary roles, so it doesn’t detract too much from the fanfiction.

Now for the real question: with so many adaptations of this classic tale already out there, how was I going to make my story truly original and, more importantly, believable? To accomplish that, I opted to update the details from the play with which I didn’t completely agree, or that at least wouldn’t work for my characters:

  1. The heroes’ story would take place over the course of six months instead of four days, so their affection could have more time to blossom into “real love”.
  2. Their attraction would be based on much more than physical appearance. The night they meet, they spend almost an hour talking before they kiss. On top of that, they spend much of their private time together immersed in conversation, as if they’ve been best friends their whole lives.
  3. Supporting characters would also get a fair share of character development. I feel it adds color to the story when Friar Laurence, Mercutio, Tybalt, the Nurse and even Balthasar are given depth as well.
  4. Aside from the chance to openly be together, the lead couple would hope to achieve peace in their town for the sake of all its citizens, especially their loved ones. They care about their families and friends so much that eloping becomes an absolute last resort to be happy.
  5. The parents would find out about their children’s relationship before the end of the story, so as to set up the plot for some unusual twists.
  6. If my “Romeo” was going to die, it had to be as a consequence of saving his “Juliet’s” life. Suicide is inconsistent with my characters.
...but knowing who these are too doesn't hurt!

…but knowing who these are too doesn’t hurt!

With all these ideas and more, I felt confident I could turn out a new take on Romeo & Juliet that readers would enjoy. All I needed to do now was flesh out the basic plot that was already forming in my mind. And that phase would begin upon writing the first sentence… which I’ll get into in more detail next week.

This concludes the second part of the story behind my fanfiction. Next week, I’ll focus on the actual writing of the “novel”: the first drafts that brought the initial layers of color to my idea. 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!

Sonic the Hedgehog and all related characters belong to Sega. All official artwork is displayed for illustrative purposes only. I own nothing!

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