Friday, 1 April 2016

Guessed Writing 2016

It happened again. Last April 1st, 2015, I wrote an ‘April Fools’ update for another serial writer, namely Jim Zoetewey at “Legion of Nothing”. (Here’s a link to that 2015 entry still on his site.) This year, the “Fools Swap” was again proposed in the “Web Fiction Guide (WFG) Forums”. Alexander Hollins again graciously organized it.

And so like last year, I’ve decided to write about my writing process. There’s spoilers here for my 2016 entry to “SyncPoint, if you wanted to read that first.


You may recall that last year, in 2015, I’d hoped to write something that wouldn’t immediately be recognized as fake. Ultimately though, I'd also decided I wanted my entry to act as a bit of a window into Jim’s universe - the main characters, the rules, that sort of thing. So those things were foremost in my mind when signing up for 2016.

I was given “SyncPoint” by J. A. Waters. When I did my initial check in on February 22nd, I noted the serial had been running for about a year, but less than 30 updates. (Of note, J. A. Waters has another serial going as well.) This time, I did not have years of backlog to consider using! So I decided to make it a project for my March Break.

I started reading on Sunday, March 13th, aiming for at least 5-6 parts per day. I quickly realized that the setting and style were up my alley, what with a “Back to the Future” reference early on. In fact, the way a multiverse played into the tale, it inspired me to re-categorize the links off my serial site - sending anyone keen on my “Epsilon Project” over to “SyncPoint” too.


Like 2015, I kept a text file to track what seemed like key details in the story. (Or even the little details, for the observant - like doilies). The funniest thing was how random “april fool” ideas I had while reading ended up being addressed by Waters himself. For instance, after Sidella left, I thought maybe I could pull her roommate back in... oh wait, he’s doing that. Actually, she’s a main character. So maybe the ex... oh, there she is.

Then Leonard showed up, and I thought, maybe I could have a scene with doubles... again, J.A. did that a few parts later, not only with the Solstons but also the Reis. Well, okay then. There were a couple little things though - like I wondered if I could get any mileage out of the fact that there were two “Greg”s, and my name is also “Greg”. Plus there was the bit with Bugsy and the “writers"... would it return later too?

I mean, I didn't worship Gadget like a
goddess... wait, this was a thing somewhere??
I ended up reading faster than I’d thought. Part 19 I was forced to walk away from the story for a while, because WOW, my character “Alice Vunderlande” and his “The General” were perhaps separated at birth and you did NOT just make a “Rescue Rangers” reference because Gadget was an idol of mine back when I was younger and I need to breathe properly. (I think that was on Tuesday.)

Incidentally, and I said this last year, it’s a good idea to read the comments on posts too - assuming they exist. Because (again) that’s the future audience, plus there’s usually extra remarks by the author. For J.A.’s Part 16, someone wrote “I literally start every chapter not knowing which version of which character I am dealing with, or when it is set”, which is great for me as far as fooling people goes. Also, I learned that J.A. had given a mini shout-out to other serials on JukePop, which was pretty cool.

At some point, the idea of a courtroom trial came to my mind. Hard to say when that was, but it stuck. I caught up completely on Thursday, March 17th, decided that idea still worked, and on Friday I started writing out the scene. Part of what I liked about that setting was how it would let me snapshot all the main characters at once - without necessarily having them at each others’ throats. And it was maybe just plausible enough to fit into the universe.


Aiming for about 2,000 words (roughly the length of J.A.’s entries and my own) I decided the first half would set up the location and key characters, and the second half would need to be Bridget, leading into a finish - likely with Bugsy. This worked well for breezing through Rena (I know nothing about Nalan, and cursory research didn’t help much) and Rippante (who swears a lot - and in my own writing, swearing is a bit of a microphone drop, so I wanted to save swears for the climax, if at all).

Alice Art
(Commission by Cherry Zong)
For other characters, having Talbot or Rebecca felt like it would be overloading the scene. At the same time, I couldn’t resist the paragraph cameo of Alice (from my “Epsilon Project”), because somehow she just FITS into that world. And I absolutely had to put in the line about Dwayne Johnson being “a pillar of the community”. (It’s actually my favourite bit, because it will be read VERY differently depending on if you know "SyncPoint" or not!)

The writing came together surprisingly quickly. I was already into editing by Sunday the 20th. I found I had to tone Sidella down from the first draft, she was a bit overly emotional. (I now wonder if I write excessively emotional characters, which is WEIRD, because at my core, I’m not that different from Sidella at all... so do I write terrible characters?) But there were only minor revisions aside from that.

The minor revisions became kind of constant over the following week (how about mushroom stools instead of regular ones!), so on Wednesday the 23rd, I send J.A. Waters a message saying I had something, in case he wanted the file. He said sure (thanking me for being timely), so I sent it to him on Friday the 25th, a week early. That stopped me revising it, and gave him time to make a little graphic, if he wanted. (He did - nice lego piece! It's below.)


I ended up being pleasantly surprised by how well my “extra” part can blend in, given how I (obviously) hadn’t read SyncPoint’s most recent Monday’s episode when I pitched this one to J.A. I also recommend you check out kaleidofish, who wrote my “Epsilon” entry here. Including link-outs! Extra props because my per-week-plot-vote caused a rather short time frame to write in. (Interestingly, kaleidofish’s regular serial also does interactive voting - find it at “Redwood Crossing”.)

So where are the doubts this year? Last year I worried about overthinking things with Jim’s entry, and whether I should have set things in the past with so many main characters. This year my doubts are on a more generic level. Such as, are my own characters interesting to anyone aside from me? Am I perhaps a better analyst than I am a fiction writer? Will anyone who finds me through this swapping actually stick around? (If anyone did last year, they’ve been shockingly silent.)

That said, I was also worried that J.A. Waters would see my entry as too irreverent. And he liked it! So, as last year, I guess it is what it is. Thanks for reading about my writing process! New voting for “Epsilon Project will occur Sunday morning, and my time travel serial will resume (on that same site) with Book 3 this summer.


  1. Super cool! I'm honored by the effort and attention to detail you showed in writing the chapter. It's so neat that you even did some skimming for Nalan information, hah! That's a rabbit hole of considerable wonkiness though. But I think what amused me the most is how similar it seems our ideas seemed to have meshed. I see a lot of my inspiration and processes in how Epsilon Project reads as well. Small worlds, or Alex is just that good at pairing people... Hm!

    1. Thanks, and thanks for the comment! Yeah, I did a bit of extra searching but tried to avoid rabbit holes. And true, the similarities are interesting... I think your story is more cohesive, whether that's due to the votes my end or my style of writing I'm not sure. Oddly enough, the person paired with me was another interactive serialist (using story votes), so the world IS small or randomness is weird.

      Oh, and thanks for reading the first "Epsilon" story too! Had no hits on that for the past year. Nice to think that someone stuck with it.