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!

My First Novel?: Fanfiction as a Practice Run (Part I – The Idea)

There’s a topic that’s been sitting in my to-write list for a while, mostly because I’ve been debating with myself whether I should write about it at all. It’s not exactly an easy subject for me to bring up, on or off my blog. However, after thinking it over, I finally decided that the experience was enlightening enough to be worth sharing in my Creative Writing segment.

So over the coming weeks, I’ll be telling the story behind a novel-length fanfiction I wrote and my experience through the whole process of writing, publishing and receiving feedback. Why tell this story at all? Because even though this was just fanfiction, I believe the learning experience I had with it was very similar to that of writing a real novel, and thus I feel it deserves to be shared. Enjoy!

Part I: The Idea

First off, I’d like to point out that it took quite a bit of effort just to work up the courage to write these posts. Though I’ve openly admitted to writing fanfiction in the past, it’s a little more embarrassing to admit that I’ve written it recently (i.e. in my twenties). Having said that, I’d also like to state for the record that I’m very proud of the story itself. I just wasn’t sure I was ready to associate my fanfiction pen name with my “professional” one. So please, don’t judge me for sharing this story here; I’m really pouring my heart out. Thank you.

OK, so I should probably start by telling a little bit about my background as a fanfiction writer. I’ve mentioned in the past that I used to write stories based on video games, and while there were quite a few in the mix, there was one fandom in particular that had me absolutely hooked. Which fandom, exactly? Sonic the Hedgehog. I’ll give you a second to laugh. All done? Great.

So now you may be wondering what drew me to the Sonic fandom in the first place. Well, aside from the fact that I’ve loved the games since I was four, the series provides a plethora of characters and a very adaptable canon, making it perfect material for fanfiction. Fans can really let their imaginations run wild coming up with possible stories for the Sonic characters. And that’s exactly what I did. Several times.

Chaos and Control: A Romeo & Juliet Story

Chaos and ControlThe story I’m going to tell you about is a Sonic fanfiction titled Chaos and Control. It’s a love story based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, starring my original characters – the canon characters’ children – and set in an alternate universe to the other stories I’ve written. Here’s the full synopsis:

For years, Green Hill has been ground to a feud between two rival factions: Chaos, led by Shadow the Hedgehog; and Control, led by Sonic the Hedgehog. So when Sonic’s son and Shadow’s daughter meet and fall in love, it could mean hope or disaster for everyone involved in the war. Can Miles and Maria defy fate and overcome all obstacles to be together, or are they doomed to face the same tragic end as their Shakespearean counterparts?

So far, so good, right? Don’t worry, it gets better.

The original characters featured in the story actually made their debut in another fanfiction I wrote five years ago titled Generation Beta, and the fact that it was very well received by my readers inspired me to keep writing stories about them. One day, while going through yet another of my many romantic phases, I realized I’d become inspired to write a “forbidden love” story for my favorites, and thus a “novel” came to be. Why a novel? Because when all the writing and editing was finally done, it came out to a total of 14 chapters and just under 150,000 words. Wow.

So why in the world did I dedicate myself to a project from which I could never profit? I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t given a lot of thought to that question, but the only answer I could come up with is that it was a story I had to tell. It may not make sense to most readers, but fellow writers will surely understand what it means to have stories in your heart that must be set free. That’s how I felt when I decided to write this story, and that’s why I put as much effort as I did into bringing it to life. But that’s a tale for another time.

This concludes the introduction to my fanfiction posts. Next week, I’ll begin telling the story of the writing process behind Chaos and Control. Of course, this much I can say now: it was quite a journey! 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!

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