Monday, May 27, 2013

100 Things I Learned By Writing Fanfiction # 5: You Will Lose Things

I just came across a comment that someone left me here about a story that she had written and lost.  I wish I could help, because I know this pain well, and there's nothing less satisfying than trying to reproduce something you wrote that you don't have anymore.  It seldom works.  If you manage to get something worthwhile, you're lucky.  You'll probably still feel a hollowness in your gut because it's not really what you want your readers to see.  It's just the best you can do the second time around.

I have a confession to make.  I'm cheating.  I got the idea for this post because I saw Auctavia's comment right after I realized that the original post I'd written for this week was gone.  That one, entitled Finish Your Damn Story Before You Put It On The Internet will be posted as soon as I can re-write it (and get it to be as awesome as it was before...almost.)

I do have fanfiction-related experience with the topic, though.  I have two epic length Knight Rider fanfictions that have never been posted.  One is called A Knight To Remember, and it was a crossover with Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman.  (I know what you're thinking. Just reserve your judgment about the plausibility of that crossover for now.  I'll be dealing with implausible crossovers and how to avoid them next week.) I did several months of research for that story, because the plot involved several tie-ins to the World War II era through Devon Miles.  I read scripts for both shows, did historical research, and looked at old uniforms.  I put a lot of work into that story before I even decided to write it.

The other story changed titles frequently, but I always thought of it as Temporal Knights.  I think that was a TV show, so I didn't use the title. Not-Temporal Knights was a speculative piece about a character accidentally being moved through time in such a way that Stevie Mason (Knight) didn't die.  The character then ended up back in her "present" and found a whole different world.  I'm surprised that I got very far with that one, because I typically don't like time travel, but the question that I wanted to raise in that story was "Which 'reality' is the one that deserves preservation?" So many times on TV shows, I see a character accidentally alter the past and then spend the rest of the episode trying to rectify things, and I wanted to do something different.

I had about a hundred pages of Not-Temporal Knights.  I had maybe forty pages of prose for A Knight To Remember, plus all the research and plot notes.  My computer died.  I remember enough that the stories will never really leave me, but not enough to re-construct the plots and make them convincing.

Now, I'm not going to advise anyone to make multiple back-ups of a story.  If you care about what you're writing, you'll do that anyway.  What I'm going to tell you is that you will lose things anyway.  I had CD backups, floppy disk backups (because this was back in the dinosaur age before there was such a thing as thumb drive), hard copies, and I had sent the stories to a friend who kept them on a school server for me.  I lost them anyway.  It happens.  And it sucks.

It's part of writing.  There's no way around it.  You might be able to re-create what you wrote before, but my advice is to just start over.  If you've got the characters and enough of an idea to work with, take them, start the story from scratch, and come up with something different.  Don't try to make it into the thing you've lost.  It's gone.  This another lesson in letting go of our stories and our egos.   If you don't have enough to work with, or you just can't get the story to come back together, know that you're not alone.  In my experience, when that happens, the story just sinks back into the author's subconscious.  It'll come out again, some time when you're not even looking for it.  It'll probably be in bits and pieces: a character here, a set of thematic elements there, a plot sequence that suddenly gels together in a completely different work.  It may even take you a while to recognize the bits of your old story for what they are, but eventually, you'll catch them winking at you from inside something else.  Don't watch for it, though.  The more you watch, the less your subconscious will do.

With all that said, though, I would like to close by asking readers to take a look at the comment I linked at the top of the post.  If anyone can help Auctavia, I'd greatly appreciate it.

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