Since I’m on a writing roll, here are some thoughts from earlier yesterday I originally posted at the NFA forums. I’m hoping to come back to a couple of these later today to expand on them.
On original characters:
This is something I always struggle with – mostly with what it takes to make the OC (either in fanfic or my original fic) internally consistent. If it’s just somebody for a case, I don’t put lots of effort into it unless I’m writing a case fic. Also – and I’m *really* bad about this – I don’t spend as much time thinking of physical characteristics. I’m more concerned with motivation and reasoning. If I can’t get that figured out, the character’s not going to work because of the types of stories I write. I’m actually really lucky because my friend/editor extraordinaire Kyrie has been reading my stuff long enough to know that’s where I get tripped up, so she’s always pushing me in chat to explain it to her – why this person, what about them, etc. There are times she asks a question and I feel like saying “because I said so,” but after a little foot-stomping, I usually manage to dig into my brain and come up with answers. That might be the one suggestion I’d make is to find somebody who will play devil’s advocate and ask the hard questions, because I often find that when I have to scramble for answers to those questions, I have more of them than I thought but having to explain them makes it better.
On challenging yourself as a writer:
Interesting discussion! I actually started writing Razor’s Edge because I couldn’t get started on an original story that’s been simmering in my head for two years. MW interview comments and Guilty Pleasure spoilers got my plot bunnies hopping, and I finally decided writing the story clamoring to be written was better than not writing the one I wanted to write. Almost 300K words later…
So I’ve been using my stories as a chance to get training wheels for my writing muscles. Razor’s Edge was about just getting back into the groove after not writing fiction for four or five years. Plotting case fics has always been a weak point, so that was a big part of why I pushed myself to write Steal My Breath Away. Creating original characters who have the depth and complexity to just react to events and start telling their own story the way the team members do is another challenge, so I’ve really been focusing on that in Life Is Made.
On a plot perspective, rather than a writing skills perspective, Living By the Rules was something I challenged myself to do after watching Borderland and wondering what would have happened if Abby and Tony both said something to McGee about dating at the same time, since there were hints of both with the hotel room discussion and the observation “Why would you make me fall in love…?” discussion. That was a huge challenge for me because I didn’t let myself decide the ending until I got to that chapter. And part of the reason I didn’t let myself decide was that I wanted to make sure I was letting each character make the strongest possible case because I honestly can see either pairing. I actually ended up with an ending the exact opposite of how I had originally thought it would play out, though with the same reasoning.
I have a future story I’m working on that delves into BDSM and some of the psychology behind it, which I was intrigued by. But I don’t choose to write anything explicit, so it was a challenge to figure out how to set up and tell the story to get into it — trying to show, not tell, on a topic I didn’t feel comfortable showing. (Note: Not a knock on BDSM fics – comfortable in the sense of “don’t write well/mom and too many co-workers know I write NCIS fic.”) I think that was the biggest push outside my comfort zone so far. We’ll see if it worked if I ever get Life finished so I can move on to this one.
On whether to change stories that receive criticism:
I’ll go back and change typos, because they bug the heck out of my inner copy editor (occupational hazard). But if somebody complains about something that’s AP style, which is my default, I’ll just leave it. I won’t go back and change substantive stuff, though I often will allow that to influence future chapters or stories. And I always respond to reviews, unless a FF.net reviewer has PMing disabled, so sometimes I will get into a discussion with folks. The only time I’ve ever really gotten bothered by criticism was when a couple of people – on different stories – attacked a character that they don’t like and I do. (Same character.)
I’m blessed to have a fabulous editor who really cracks the whip on me with my stories until she’s convinced they’re as good as I can make them, so I usually feel really good about them by the time I post. Because of that, I have a few times included author’s notes if I think something’s out there on the edge, either in substance or in style, and it’s mostly worked. People still disagree, but respectfully, and I think it forestalls some of the arms-crossed, foot-stomping impression. I had one fic with an ambiguous ending (Living By the Rules) and I put a note at the bottom. At least a couple of people said that after reading the note, they thought about the story and realized that they might not have agreed with Tim’s decision, but they understood why he made the one he did.