guest blog: On continuity

I just got my most recent work in progress up to the 50-page mark – barely a dent in my total word count for the year, since I keep getting distracted by fanfic, but a milestone nonetheless. This is the first long project I’ve felt much confidence in, when it comes to looking toward the float-for-publishing end of things, and it’s coming along nicely.

It’s proving to be a very good lesson in continuity, both within one story and across the three or so books I have in mind for this universe. The last time I did something close to this long that wasn’t fanfic was when I took on Nanowrimo in 2004; I absolutely adore the story I wrote then, but it shows some signs of the speed of Nano and my relative lack of practice at the time. I had a tendency of introducing characters and then forgetting they were there.

With this story, there’s no way I could get away with that. The secondary characters can’t just wander off five pages later; they might be less important to the overall story for a bit, but they’ll be back. It’s a much smaller setting, in its way, than my Nano project, which increases the odds people will bump into each other again.

As for continuity throughout the entire project, this is a fantasy universe, and there are active gods and magic – but they don’t really play a role in the first story. They’re more important by far in the second and third installments I’ve got in my head, but I feel like it would be cheating to act as if it weren’t there at all in the first installment.

I worked out a perfect solution to that the other night. I have a young princess who wants and needs to know more about the world around her, and puts some of her boundless energy to use exploring the library – so why not have her find a book that explains some of these cultural differences? It lets me get the information in there without resorting to the good old “As you know, Bob…” conversations, and I don’t feel like I’m going to spring it on the readers in a later installment.

I haven’t really encountered this sort of continuity juggling in my fanfic-writing experience – but then, my fanfic rarely ends up being this long. And with fanfic, I don’t have to go to the trouble of doing the world-building myself.

On the other hand, I know how frustrating it is to have the information dumped on you two or three or seven installments later, with no warning. In that sense, I think my fandom roots might help make my original work stronger in the long run. I know the sort of continuity I expect as a reader, and I’m more aware of its presence or absence as a fannish writer, so I try to live up to my own expectations in my original writing.

minkhollow has been involved in fandom since 2000, and can’t quite believe it’s been that long; she’s been attempting original fiction for slightly less time, and thinks she’s finally starting to hit her stride on that front. She has one short story, “Subterranean Blues,” published in Subatomic Books’ One Step Beyond anthology. She collects old coins and lives in the Midwest, with hopes of making a break for the East Coast sometime soon.

Mirrored from Jenna

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