Many friends and long-time visitors already know that for Christmas, I posted the final five chapters of my online FFIV fan net-novel, Coming of the Darkstar. It’s a story that I started writing back in 1992, scribbled long-handed on faded pieces of wide rule notebook paper. It wasn’t until I discovered the wonders of the internet in 1998 that I began posting my writing up where other people could actually read it.
The time was right for a dedicated net writer in 1998. You didn’t have online resources like there are today — no insta-websites, no blogs or social media, no WordPress… no sites like fanfiction.net that catered to the young budding writers. Nope. If you wanted to post your work online, you learned how to HTML, coded your own clunky Geocities site and posted your work up there. Needless to say, that meant there was a lot less in the way of options out there for readers and writers alike than there are now.
Backed with freely-hosted forums and mailing lists, somehow, Darkstar created an online community for itself over a decade ago. Some of those people I still hear from today — it’s always amazing to see where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. I wrote and wrote and wrote until I finally finished the “original draft” of Darkstar for the New Year of 2000.
And then it was done.
I still remember the feeling. It was one of awe — something that had not been there before, created from my own heart and mind… was now complete. The feeling of accomplishment — such a long-term project, so many years put into the writing, and it was now complete.
And the pang of loss and sadness — my first-ever novel… was complete! My fledgling project had learned to fly and had left the nest, so to speak. Now it was out there, on the net, as a fully grown novel for all to see. And worst of all… after all the momentum of writing and writing and writing… updates and interactions with readers… sharing their expectations, hopes and fears… it was over.
What did I have left to work on once it was over?
I never knew a writer could actually feel SAD to have accomplished the goal at the end — finishing the novel. But there it was. The process and journey was over with. And I could never have that back again.
Or so I thought.
I kicked around ideas for a sequel that never got off the ground. The community remained for a while, but ended up going their own ways for their own reasons, as net communities are apt to do. Eventually the golden days of Darkstar and its mailing list faded… especially as more options opened up for netgoers to post writing and art around the net without the need to learn to code. The net was becoming more user friendly — this wasn’t a bad thing. It just meant that there was more of everything out there and far, far more difficult to get your one piece of writing in front of the public eye (bloggers, you know what I’m talking about).
But what I didn’t know at the time was that Darkstar was just the beginning of something much bigger. Even though I had put it down and moved on to other stories and fandoms for a while, Darkstar opened the door to a new friendships and a creative partnership that would lead to an expansion of my universe in ways I could have never, never dreamed of.
With this shifted outlook, I then discovered that everything in the original draft of Darkstar was wrong. Simply wrong. And I needed to rewrite the whole thing again — from scratch! And oh… what a journey that was for me! To take something that had felt so final, so finished, so complete in 2000 and decide that I needed to begin all over again!
But it had to be done. There was no doubt about it. Characters had changed in my mind. Plots had changed. Things in the original draft made me cringe to read. I had met new and more interesting antagonists that I wanted to explore! Connections had been made between timelines and my different, newly developing stories!
I simply could not NOT go back and re-write Darkstar.
In retrospect, I’m so glad I did. It was a very difficult uphill trudge to go over the same ground that I had written so many times before. I learned really quickly that even if you spice things up a bit, rewriting a story was difficult stuff!
You didn’t have the clean canvas of creativity to paint on… you had a pre-used canvas from the start. And no matter how much paint you tried to scrape off that canvas, there was always a remanent of color that you had to work to cover here or there. Your mind was set on the story you knew from the past… and creative opportunities that waited to be found were often overlooked because “that’s not the way the story went the first time!”
Eventually, that was something I had to overcome in the process of rewriting Darkstar. This wasn’t just an edit… this was a full blow write-from-scratch deal. Sometimes, I found an old chapter that felt too classic to toss out or edit too much, so I would use it. Many of the chapters at the end were pulled directly from older materials in spirit and writing. But that was okay, I discovered. Just as long as it all fit together.
And it did.
Finally, a decade after I began writing Darkstar, I have finished it. And now, once again, it has left the nest to fly freely over the interwebs, a fully grown fan novel standing on its own. No more will I update my writing every other Friday… no more will I scrabble to draw chapter sketches for the Darkstar updates… no more will I curse at MS Word for it’s funky coding and fight to make sure all my fonts post correctly in WordPress. (Yes. Even I have passed beyond the days of hand coding my HTML, for the most part. It took a lot of time and effort to move it all over to a WordPress-based site. But here it is. )
What do I feel now, at the second release of this story? The same awe and amazement that something is finally done… not exactly. It’s more like relief!
Relief and a bit of accomplishment — I do feel as if my protagonist, Ben, really has developed from the beginning to the end and can now take a step forward into the following project (Wayrift) with the character traits he needs to have. I’m happy to have had a chance to show the experiences that brought him from a dark and quiet loner, hiding in his room under the Lunar library, to the more caring (and doofy) character that he was meant to be — the Ben that developed from the idealistic mind of a 14 year old so long ago. I smile when I write that. And I know that I still love him.
I don’t have that feeling of loss and sadness, however. Not like the first time. Maybe it’s because over the past years I’ve learned that there is always another story waiting around the corner. There are always characters, new and old, pining for their stories to be told. It may not be immediately obvious, but they are there if you stop to listen hard enough.
I’ve learned that the writing and stories, at least in my universe, are all connected somehow — expanding upon one another, making new layers and building onto the world itself. Even if I never write about a certain character ever again, all my new writing helps to develop the world and time where that character lives. And in a quiet sort of way, that unwritten character can still be felt there, a part of it all.
Darkstar is one stop along the way. One story in the universe. It is the beginning of things, but not the end. The End remains ever unseen, even in the mind of an Author.
Click here to find the complete version of “Coming of the Darkstar”.