Dodging Prison & Stealing Witches

Why The Unexpected Bonus Chapter?

This week, I’m posting a bonus chapter that was originally posted to the Gray Mailing List a few months back — Daphne Goes Down to the Village — instead of a continuation chapter of the current season. Why?

Well, as you probably know, I use my fan fiction as a sort of apprenticeship in writing — a way to gain general feedback on my work and commit myself to large amounts of fingers-to-the-keyboard time.

In the last few chapters I’ve noticed a trend among reviewers — a general feeling that something is off. Readers typically aren’t all that good at specifying exactly what is wrong, but they generally are good at knowing when something isn’t quite right.

This excerpt from one such review is a good example:

“I’m curious about your style. If this sounds insensitive I apologize. I feel your POVs are just so short. Not to say the chapter is short — it’s definitely a good size — it just feels like a lot of appetizers, you know? John goes to talk to the twins about Prongs and then cuts. [The scene with] Arthur feels like it’s going to be a long conversation and then we cut. There’re a lot of POVs like that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the demand is higher than the supply. I think you write very well and just enjoy the way you string words together, which makes me want more. So like, i start a POV and get used to it and then it cuts to the next POV. It may be that I’m not accustomed to the fast pace, but I thought I’d mention my observation.”

I’ve had more than a few reviews and PMs like this over the last four weeks. This is a problem, because a sense of satisfaction is one of key things I drive for in my writing and many people feel like they’re currently not getting it. And unlike other common complaints I could mention, such as children being too sophisticated (which I really do not give a hoot about), this is a craft problem.

Now, whether the points made above about what’s wrong are valid or not is immaterial. The point is something is wrong. These comments only started appearing in the last few chapters, not in the thirty-five before that, and those chapters all had scenes of similar length. So what’s going on?

Well, one thing that has definitely changed in the last few chapters is an increase in the number of PoVs that I’m playing with, and in the number of plot points I need to cover in each chapter.

Not surprising considering we now have all five girls at Hogwarts, and Harry, and Virgo, and John.

This, I suspect, is the root cause of the issue. The structure methods I’ve been using up till now are being stretched to the breaking point and possibly beyond.

Some might say that I am simply trying to do too much in too small a space, and they might have a point — what I’m trying to do could be said to be needlessly difficult. However, I have another point. This is an apprenticeship. And when I encounter a problem like this, my first instinct is not to say, “Oh, I’d better go back to doing something easier,” It’s to say, “Holy hell! I’ve found a weakness! It’s improvement time!”

Thus, I have spent the last two weeks searching for and thinking of possible ways to handle what I’m doing better — to have it flow cleaner, clearer, and to leave you, my readers, both satisfied and wanting more, rather than just wanting more.

However, I don’t want to leave everyone hanging this week, so I’m posting the bonus chapter Daphne Goes Down to the Village. I’ll leave it as the most recent chapter for two weeks, then switch it to where it belongs in the chronology a few hours after I post the next chapter after that.

I originally planned to post Daphne’s chapter at season’s end, but oh well. This at least gives those of you not on the Gray Mailing list the opportunity to enjoy it sooner than you might otherwise have done.

Anyway, see you again in two weeks for the continued regular updates to DP&SW, hopefully better crafted and better written than ever before.

Please leave your comments below on how you’ve been experiencing the last few chapters in terms of pacing. Did you feel satisfied? Did you end the chapter feeling like you’d missed something? Or did you not notice anything wrong and just enjoyed the ride like normal? I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

– LeadVonE (James)