Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From Mortality to Reichenbach

As you FF.N readers will know, the last chapter of Mortality has been uploaded. Even with the climax past, there was enough room for some treats in the final chapter, particularly one face-off that I just have not seen in fanfiction. (Yes, you will have to go read the chapter to find out who the players are.)

And I’ve actually had the epilogue sitting on my hard drive for a few days now (muchas gracias to Riandra for her encouragement to go ahead with the rather different style!). The title is simply “War,” regarding The War That Never Was between Scotland Yard and Moriarty’s empire (or family, as it would have been called at the time). The whole thing is written looking towards what is inevitable—or, in the terminology of the piece, “Reichenbach.” I’ll be uploading it soon, and I am so excited.

As a side note, the epilogue rounds the current total word count off to 80,000 words. Officially, the longest work of fiction I’ve ever written. And with all the bonus material coming, I think I can look forward to a final total of 90,000, at least.

Now for a shout-out. I started out last week with definite depression, for a variety of reasons and no reason at all. (I am an artist; this, sadly, is my definition of “normal”.) Someone on FF.N helped not only to pull me out of depression but also to pull me back in to Sherlockiana, in general. Azolean. Azolean started off my week by reviewing a couple of my Sherlockian fics and going so far as to buy AMM off of Amazon.


Now, if it had ended right there, it would have been really cool. But this person went further than that, going on to pick up Mortality and review the entire thing chapter-by-chapter.

Yes. Seriously.

In one week.

It was fantastic. It was one of the best things that had happened to me in a long time (alongside finding out that a certain idol of mine was actually reading the book, as well). Let’s rate it up there right below being introduced to Doctor Who (as far as great things this summer go). Yes, really!

I was practically living from review to review, and I truly missed the reviews when Azolean had gotten to the last chapter. But what an uplifting experience! Everyone loves getting praise on their stories, and even something simple, along the lines of “I loved this!” can be encouraging. But Azolean, despite reading the entire thing in a week, took the time to praise details (and sometimes criticize, and even that was very respectful and very welcome).

It was absolutely magnificent.

So borne up on a wave of glorious feedback, I actually went on to type out the prologue for The Road to Reichenbach. In fact, I’ve even started the first chapter! As I told Ria in answer to a question on the prologue, 90% of the dialogue is Canon, most of the body language is Granada or Granada-based, and then all the introspection is me.

Mortality is the book that I’ve been wanting to do since halfway through AMM… and Road is the book that I’ve been wanting to do since halfway through Mortality.

Road has also been, by far, the most difficult book of the three to plan. AMM was so easy—short, character-centric pieces. Quite often, I was churning out two or three in a day. From beginning to end, half a year… and only four months were actually spent in intensive writing and editing. Mortality, on the other hand, has always had a pretty loose outline, with plenty of room for improvisation. I knew the general direction I wanted the story to go, and I kind of gave the characters free rein.

In fact, the one time that I didn’t was the time that the entire thing had ground to a halt smack-dab in the middle. I then backed up and rewrote a few chapters, and moved on. The epiphany, the element that kept the book going from that point on, was Watson. Watson wanted to be the hero, and, seriously, who was I to deny him? The rest you readers know: Watson’s search-and-rescue operations make up Act II of the story.

Anyway, Mortality is a fairly-straightforward story. It needed more plotting than I’ve tried to give a story in a long time, but, even so, it’s not very complex. Its real strength lies less in plot (surprise, surprise) and more in characterization, not merely of Holmes and Watson, but of Lestrade, Mycroft, Wiggins, Moriarty, Moran…

And while I’ve been excited about The Road to Reichenbach, I’ve also been frustrated and worried. Think about it: Holmes has an ostensible plethora of cases that keep him in France from early January to late April. Plus, in FINA, he describes the past few months thus:

“[I]f a detailed account of that silent contest could be written, it would take its place as the most brilliant bit of thrust-and-parry work in the history of detection.”

You do see my problem, right? I still can’t write a mystery to save my life, and Mortality was hard enough for me to figure out, at times. How in the name of all that’s wonderful was I supposed to try to match that kind of genius vs. genius?

Bottom line: I couldn’t. I don’t have the mindset required for that kind of story. Which was what I knew all along, and I was trying to force myself to do something I knew I couldn’t manage. Well, that’s pretty self-destructive, isn’t it? So I stopped. I stopped and remembered my strength.


January to April 1891 needs someone who can really do that “silent contest” justice. That person is not me. However. However, I can do the characters justice. Yes, we’ll still see Holmes in France. We’ll get to see some of what he’s doing. And we will indeed be seeing the build-up to the infamous Monday mass-arrest.

Honestly, I think the Yarders are going to be much stronger characters in Road. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Bradstreet, Hopkins, and MacDonald—and, of course, more of Gregson. Morton, I can’t speak for just yet. But I expect we’ll see him, however large or small his role is.

Thus far, my chapter outline has seven chapters to detail events that Doyle depicted in one short story. It will probably grow as I reach that point. Honestly, the entire thing is really even more open for improvisation than Mortality, and it’s both scary and exciting. I’m not entirely sure where this road will take me, but I can’t wait to find out.

And now that I’ve gotten you all excited for The Road to Reichenbach, let me just remind you… Mortality still isn’t finished. There’s a lot of editing to be done. And that’s my first priority, up until I submit it for publication.

Next up, a review of Daniel Smith’s Sherlock Holmes Companion. Stay tuned!

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