Once upon a time I was happily writing a serial called The Points Between. It was a story I was incredibly passionate about telling -- a story that was viscerally important to me, even though it was way out of my comfort zone and far, far above my level of expertise -- and I'd actually finished an entire arc, and had started on the second arc, when a bunch of inconvenient things happened. The result of these inconvenient things was that the story has remained dormant for years: not dead, because it's never a story I've given up on, but dormant. I needed to make some decisions, and I didn't know what decisions I wanted to make.
I've made those decisions, and am in the process of moving forward. This is the story of that interminable process, and what came out of it.
The Points Between is, in my head, a story with three arcs. The first arc, where Matthew discovered he was a magician, was finished. The second arc, where he had to discover what that meant, was getting started. The third arc, where he had to choose how to use what he knew, was being set up. I was generally pleased with most of what I'd written, but there were a few things I'd done that had bothered me:
The first thing that bothered me was the character of Matthew himself. In the very first drafts of the story (written so long ago) it was written in first person. I liked that version because it let me write in Matthew's voice, and that allowed me to tell the reader things about him without actually having to dip into his background, which I didn't have at the beginning. On the other hand, as the story progressed I got very dissatisfied with filtering what was happening through his eyes -- they were specific eyes, and I wanted the "strange" elements of the story to be more distinct from how he perceived them.
So I switched to third person, which solved that problem. But readers--including readers who enjoyed the story--noted that Matthew was a fairly remote character, hard to identify with. And that's pretty fair: he's as much a spectator of the story as he is a protagonist. I wasn't happy with that choice, but I was happier with that choice than I had been when the strangeness was introduced through his voice.
I didn't know what to do with that, so I put it away.
Through the parts of the story that took place in Daylight, there was content I wanted to include that I didn't, because I couldn't figure out how at the time. It wasn't until I started the second arc when I realized "gee it would have been super convenient if I'd already introduced this concept in Daylight, because he's not in that town any more and I need to find another way to handle this." And then of course I thought of three or four ways I could have done it, but it was too late because I'd already finished that part of the story.
Then I wrote the last few chapters of the story, which I really liked, but it had committed him to a specific course of action, and I thought "gee, I wish I had held off on these chapters for a bit so I could have worked some other stuff in first." But I didn't, so then I needed to figure out how to fix those problems.
None of these problems were fatal. I just had to figure out how I would approach them.
While I was working through these issues, I came up with the idea for Curveball. I loved the idea, felt that doing something fresh would help me find a new way to approach the problems I was having with the current story, and decided to spin it up.
"It'll just be a side project," I said. "I'll update it when I want a change of pace."
But then I got swept up in producing a prose comic and it proceeded to suck up every spare cycle of everything.
The Points Between languished. But it wasn't dead. I was still trying to solve those problems, but I found myself facing a brand new problem, which was that this new project was taking up a really whole lot of my time.
But one of the interesting things about writing Curveball was that I did it using a style of writing I'd never tried before: writing in third person, present tense. I found it enormously liberating in some ways (though it is incredibly hard to maintain present tense in stories -- even now I slip out of it), and I found that it felt different enough that I was willing to play with language in ways I hadn't thought of before.
At one point I was curious about whether or not the new way of writing would work with The Points Between. So in 2013 I took the prologue and the first chapter and rewrote it in third person, present tense, and posted it here.
Damn it all, I liked it better than the original.
Writing it in present tense, but keeping it in third person, seemed like the perfect compromise between the tension I felt between writing in first person and third. Present tense gave me the ability to zoom in on Matthew when I needed to, and then zoom out when I wanted to focus on something else, because it was all happening "now" and the inner intimacy could quickly fade into the background when I wanted to focus on an external intimacy. I don't know if that carries over to the reader, because I'm not the reader, but as the author it hit exactly the spot I was clawing for with both previous attempts. It hit it solidly, center target.
There were other advantages I found in rhythm and tone, too. Significant ones. And suddenly I found myself thinking this story will be stronger if I write it like this.
Which was a problem, because I'd already written at least a third of the story, and the people reading it had already read at least a third of the story. Also, rebooting it "because this way is better" felt like bad form. This was a serial, after all -- serials start and continue. I mean, comic books reboot all the time, I guess, but this wasn't Curveball.
But there I was. And as I looked at that, it occurred to me that if I did start over in third person it would give me the opportunity to add the stuff I realized I should have added to begin with, instead of trying to figure out how to paper over the fact that I hadn't. Which made the thought of rebooting it all that more tempting.
I resisted, though. I came up with a bunch of alternatives. I could finish writing the story as is, and then rewrite it in present tense. I hated that idea a lot. Why write it in one style then rewrite in another? I could just switch to present tense and move forward. I also hated that idea: switching a style in mid-stream would be sure alienate new readers wandering by, reading through the archives.
What I kept coming back to was just suck it up, and reboot the damn story. And I kept shying away from it, because if I did that, then I had to decide what to do with what I'd already done. Keep it? Hide it? Delete it?
I dithered about these things for four years. A few months ago I made a decision, but even then I hesitated, because For Crying Out Loud Of Course I Did.
But here's what's going to happen: The Points Between is rebooting. I'm rewriting it in third person, present tense because I think it solves a problem I didn't know how to solve before.1 And I'm going to remove the old version of The Points Between -- including the podcasts -- from the website, because I don't want a brand new reader accidentally clicking the wrong link and reading the wrong version. I've archived everything I've written -- I'm not destroying it -- but if you go over to where it was all you'll see right now is a terse "coming back soon" message.
Pretty darn soon I'll start posting TPB again (including the podcast). Drafts of the rewrite will probably show up on my Patreon first, just like drafts of Curveball and A Rake by Starlight do. Then they'll show up here, and you can judge for yourself whether the reboot was worth all the fuss, and a four year delay.
I hope you'll decide it was. If not... there's always the space opera!
- 1. And in the process it will alienate everyone who hates reading in present tense. The world is cruel sometimes.