I spent most of yesterday beating fanfic into shape, which is something I haven't done in a good long time. But yesterday was something of a special occasion: just under a week ago, I finished Beneath a Beating Sun
in draft, and on Sunday, I'd finished my preliminary polishing of the first 16 chapters. (The 18th – final
– chapter still needs more work, but it's done in draft, and that gives me enough confidence to move ahead.) So Sunday was the day when I went twenty rounds hand-to-hand with Fanfiction.net trying to get BaBS updated and the new chapter posted. (Among other things, FFN no longer allows you to use things like single hyphens or asterisks to indicate scene breaks. To which I say verily, what the fuck
But as I was reformatting the BaBS chapters to retain their line breaks, I decided to go back and add line breaks back into some of my older works, like Antipodes
. And looking back on those, Scars
especially, was... humbling.
Because here's the thing. Scars
was meant to be my farewell to the FF8 fandom. I'd been writing for FF8 since 1999 – it was my first fanfiction community, dating back to the days when the FFGurus Forums were still going strong, and my work there is honestly responsible for a huge amount of my writing skill. It was my alma mater, in a way. And Scars
was, if not precisely a thesis, still a final exhibition. At the time I wrote it, revised it, and posted it, it represented the best of my writing ability.
That was back in 2005, and when I look at it now...
I won't say it's bad. It still has its charm, and I think it still gets its message across. But I look at it now, and I can see where it should be tightened, where the pathos should be toned back, where it should be punched up, where characterization needs to be tweaked and how the tension arc needs to be smoothed out, where the description falls down or fails to set the scene. There are layers upon layers of improvements. And it's wonderful, and a little terrifying, because when I wrote that, I did not know how it could be made better. And now I do.
And the stuff I'm writing now? Oftimes, I don't know how it can be made better. And sometimes I'm afraid that I'm not going to get any better, that because I don't see how I can improve, I'm not going to. And in a way, getting over that means having faith in the past; in that what was possible then is still possible now. The stuff I write that's the peak of my ability now may look like my first-draft stuff, years from now. And I can do this. I've done it before.