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Filing the serial numbers off

The biggest difference, I'm finding, between a novel-length fanfic and a publishable novel isn't that you have to change the characters' names and give them different haircolors (though there is that).

The biggest difference is that you're writing for strangers.

I'm sure it's been said by every fan writer who's ever decided to go pro: your fandom friends will forgive tons of story faults for the pleasure of reading about beloved characters they know well and already relate to.

For strangers, the characters have to be fleshed out on the page. They have to be made sympathetic or antipathetic through their words and actions. What's more, the little research faux-pas have to be corrected. The plot holes have to be stitched shut. The stakes have to be higher and the conflicts more developed.

And every instance of sweet, sweet "fanservice" has to be reconsidered, and probably cut. Does that extra sex scene do anything for the story? Does that personal kink (of mine) really move that character's arc forward? What about that Real Life event that you baked into the plot: is it safe or even ethical to leave stuff like that in?

And then, when you cut the obviously cuttable, you have to scour the rest of the text for references to the deleted material, and snip those, too. You lose whole themes that way. The plot itself starts to change.

You go back, over and over, to the seed of the idea--the thrilling original moment of inspiration--and try to tease the purely squee-fangirl-fun (not to mention, in my case, the unrelenting Gaze At Beautiful Men) from the sturdy bones of the real story--the story suitable for strangers--and you cut. And cut. And cut.

So Restraint the novel is becoming something quite different from Restraint the fanfic. The through-line is still there. The plot, setting, and main characters are more or less the same. But it's darker and less graphically sexual, and the characters are neither as noble nor as unscathed as before--because they're no longer the Real Persons of RPF. They've got to be more human than that.

Also, one of them now has red hair.

Handsome redheaded male model

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 10th, 2016 05:14 pm (UTC)
Ha--I was just hit with the most ridiculous sense of grief for those two in the original story. I know, I know--it's silly because they'll always be there.

I knew making it publishable for pro fiction had to be a lot of work, but yes, this is a *LOT* of work. I can see it having to be darker but I don't know if I can handle much darker! And I can see that they'd be less noble--because now they are real people as opposed to Real People.

One of them has red hair...I'm thinking there was a pic included but I'm seeing nothing! Also having too easy a time seeing either one of them with red hair, for various reasons that probably still connect too strongly to fandom, lol!

♥ Nice to see you this fine...*koff* afternoon, which I'm trying to pretend is morning. *sips first coffee of the day*
Mar. 10th, 2016 07:47 pm (UTC)
Howdy! The picture is restored (I think--very frustrating change in Google photos that seems to have cut off the embed/share function. Grrr).

Now that I, too, am just sipping my first cup of coffee at 11:20 a.m. because the quiet life is the good life, let me just say that "darker" won't apply to the storyline, per se. The rewrite starts, middles, and ends pretty much exactly the same way as the fic.

Just, in doing more historical research and digging deeper into character motivations, I've discovered that both John's and Tristan's pasts, and the realities of the times, were harsher than I realized, and a little of that bleeds into the story.

I will never forget how outraged and even triggered some readers were when the ending came. Even though I felt I had foreshadowed it (and lots of readers defended me on this), the early chapters truly did point in the direction of a frivolous Regency romp in the Georgette Heyer mold, and promised a Romance, which means a HEA ending; readers were right to feel cheated.

A big part of my rewriting effort has been to redefine the story as a historical social drama, NOT as a romance, and to restructure the early chapters accordingly. So the gossip is a little nastier, and the fact that men were STILL BEING HANGED for sodomy is made more explicit. If I have any say, the cover will NOT show two attractive characters close together--it will show something like a Palladian manor house under a stormy sky. Or, you know, some real artist's interpretation of The Portrait.

I never wanted to bait-and-switch anyone, and I'm learning so much about how not to do that in the rewrite.

Edited at 2016-03-10 07:51 pm (UTC)
Mar. 12th, 2016 04:43 am (UTC)
I don't see why it can't be a romance...the love the two felt is the reason the original ending was so powerful.

John's vulnerability in his love and his ultimate strength and resilience were among the things that carried me through the story. I'll miss those if they are gone, but it's your story and you get to change it the way you think is best.
Mar. 12th, 2016 05:08 am (UTC)
Oh, don't get me wrong! The romance in the story is still intact and will never change. Never never never. Everything you say about John is there and unaltered. Tristan's arc doesn't change, either. The love, the warmth, the vulnerability, the passion--none of that is changing.

But my book breaks the cardinal rule of "Romance" as a publishing category: the happy ending, typically while the lovers are in the prime of life, facing their happy-ever-after future together. Romance readers will hate me and hate my novel if it's sold to them as a romance, because my book breaks that rule.

But if it's sold as a romantic historical social drama, well, romance readers might not buy it, but people who do will have a clearer idea of what to expect.

Maybe you remember the original cover art: the stormy sky, the looming cathedral, the black steed...? That's the sort of "coding" I want to be sure stays with the book.
Mar. 14th, 2016 06:18 am (UTC)
I think I went into that story hoping like crazy for the best but expecting it not to end well. Anyone who actually complained to you about the ending was either a special snowflake or unread so I'd be inclined not to have much sympathy for them. Those were really harsh times, in a way folks today don't get. I also have to confess I had no experience with the type of romances folks were expecting so I had no clue going in, lol!

Yeah, I wouldn't want the cover to be two boring studs being all boring at each other either, because it's not what the story is about at all.
Mar. 14th, 2016 06:32 am (UTC)
LOL. Two Boring Studs, a stirring tale of self-absorption! Tune in to see them Being Boring At Each Other!
Mar. 16th, 2016 08:08 am (UTC)
I will never forget how outraged and even triggered some readers were when the ending came.

I didn't understand it then and I still don't understand it now. I mean, regarding people's reaction to the ending. To me it was a "normal", satisfactory ending ( I couldn't think of another word ) as they were getting old and all. Or was I wrong and were they actually in their prime? And also, their love was intact and as strong as ever when one of them died. What would be a bad ending for me was for them to fall out of love with each other. Now that would have me tearing my hair out ( and yours hehe ).

What about that Real Life event that you baked into the plot: is it safe or even ethical to leave stuff like that in?

Eeeep, would that be the bar brawl when Tristan defended John's honour? I LOVE that part and would be sad to see it go, if it goes.

Anyway, I'm sharing Roxymissrose's grief for Tristan and John here :((

But like she said, those two will always be there, in my heart .. and in the printed and bound copy in my drawer :DD

Wishing you all the best and really looking forward to reading the book *hugs*

Mar. 17th, 2016 06:32 am (UTC)
Do you really have a printed copy? Wow! That's a lot of paper. Even I have never printed the whole thing out at once! I feel so official-author!

I can't recall exactly what people said, but it was very much along the lines of dashed hopes and ugly crying where happiness was expected, based on "it's supposed to be a romance."

A lot of it had to do with serial posting, I think, and long waits between parts as the tone of the story gradually got darker. I remember going into the AO3 posting and frantically adding tags and warnings, which are still there. It was at the beginning of the Trigger Warning awareness, and I wanted to be sensitive to people's needs, but I wasn't about to change the story itself.

I'm keeping the bar brawl. It's too important to Tristan's arc to leave out. And they're still John and Tristan, just with different last names. (If anything, continuing to watch J2 over the years has given me more character material to draw on! They don't disappoint...)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )



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