So pretty much right on the heels of finishing Pay Me, Bug! I abruptly departed from smartass space pirates and decided to write a semi-southern gothic modern fantasy taking place in ruralish Virginia. Thus did I start The Points Between, a Very Much Not Urban Fantasy and Therefore Not Particularly Marketable story that I dearly love and want to finish. I want to finish it right, though, so after I finished the first arc and started on the second I detected some problems that I realized I needed to solve before I continued writing, because I was on the cusp of making some very important decisions that would affect the rest of the story and I needed to get those right. So I set the story aside for a bit to think about it, and by the time I figured out how to solve them things got a lot more complicated.
Let me try to explain that.
TPB is, by far, the most difficult thing I've ever written. Stylistically it's very different from what I usually write, which tends to focus on smartass characters (Grif, CB) put into difficult situations (the impossible heist, a world-spanning conspiracy to murder superhumans using chtonic magic) with a ragtag group of experts (Grifs crew, most of the main characters in the Curveball serial).
TPB is slower. It's a mystery with -- at the moment -- an antagonist who isn't supposed to be noticeable. It's also an origin story of sorts for the protagonist, who is discovering in stages that painting is more of an expression of his true talent than his actual true talent. It was also supposed to be an attempt to write in a romance subplot but that has failed painfully so far. Huzzah. Anyway, I'm pretty sure if someone was standing over my shoulder seeing me try all this, they'd probably be tempted to say "uh, hey, none of those things look like they come easily to you. Maybe pick two and run with those" and which point I'd pull out my switchblade and we'd fight, with music from West Side Story playing in the background, because that's how we roll in my imaginary headspace, all switchblades and fight-dancing as the Jets and Sharks look on approvingly.
There were a lot of crazy complicated things going on when I was writing through this. My first draft was in first person, but I scrapped that because it got the audience too deep inside Matthew's head. See, he wound up seeing all this strange stuff, and otherworldly stuff, and he's a painter -- so I'm trying to build this feeling of mystery and wonder and he's going through the mechanics of mixing paints and trying to figure out how to achieve this and that type of color and while I wanted SOME of that in the story, it kept popping up too much when he was telling it. I needed a little more distance between reader and protagonist, so I switched to third.
So there was the first problem, and I've heard it pretty consistently: Matthew is distant and hard to know. I overreacted to the first problem and set him too far back. I need to bring him in closer.
The first arc introduces a number of characters and locations, and ends in a very satisfying manner, in my opinion, but there's stuff I really wish I'd put into it that I wound up saving for later, and now that it's later I wish I'd put in there to begin with. There's an antagonist I really needed to develop more than I did, because he's important to the second arc. There's another character I really needed to have interact with Matthew more to give Matthew more perspective on what's going on, and to more fully set up his character arc in the second arc. There's more background on Matthew that I wish I'd gone into because it adds context to why he's not really all that put out about being stuck in the town when he is.
I'd been trying to work through all these, and had come up with some workable solutions that would allow me to go forward, and I was just about to do that when, as a writing exercise, I decided to rewrite the prologue and the first chapter in present tense.
Present tense is something I never, ever, ever did until I started writing Curveball. I adopted it for Curveball basically as an ornamental device -- narration boxes in comic books are always in present tense, so I figured I'd make my narration in present tense as a nod to that -- and I discovered by the third or fourth issue that writing in present tense was incredibly freeing in terms of trying Narrative Things. I guess it's just because it feels different from past tense -- because it feels different, I didn't feel the same kinds of restrictions that I felt when writing in past. I really like it for the Curveball series and I don't think Curveball would work as well if I ditched it, and I was curious about how it would work in another format, so I rewrote the Prologue and the first chapter of TPB.
And I freaking loved it. I posted it here: https://www.eviscerati.org/articles/2013/05/Experiment-Present-Tense-Points-Between-Chapter-One
As I reworked the first chapter it seemed to me that this was the middle road I was looking for, for Matthew's perspective issues. It wasn't directly in his head, but it carried an immediacy that made it possible to dip into his head easily without really breaking the flow of the writing, so if I wanted to take a side turn down color mixing, or a sudden flashback to Richmond, or something like that, I could do it. Basically I figured it would be possible to bring Matthew closer to the audience without bringing him too close, and it (from my perspective) made his interaction with the strange new world he discovers a lot more intimate.
So at that point I thought "gee, if I rewrote the whole story in present tense, I'd fix the Matthew problem, be able to lean even harder on the otherworldly stuff, AND fit in all the stuff I wanted to add but didn't."
That was 2013. I managed to post a few more chapters of TPB after that -- ones I liked, even -- but the pressure to reboot got so strong that I mostly broke down on the road and stalled. I've been trying to figure out what to do next ever since.
Because the thing is, I know what I'm going to do -- I knew it when I did that thing with the Prologue and First Chapter. In my writerly assessment, switching to present tense makes the story better, so damn it all that's what I'm going to do. At this point it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks about it, because I'm the one that has to finish the thing, and I'm not going to finish something one way when I feel like I ought to be finishing it another. I should count myself lucky I'm not a traditionally published author, pivot, and move on.
But that's not the main thing. The main thing is how to deal with... everything else.
1. Do I post the new version on my site, chapter by chapter? It seems like a cheat to the old readers to me, since they'd wind up just reading the same damn story again, with extras (assuming they stuck around. They might not).
2. Do I rewrite the first arc my way, publish it as an ebook, and then reboot at the second arc? That might be more palatable. There's not as much written in the second arc and there the story would depart a bit more markedly, since I'd be able to leverage the stuff I wanted to put in the first arc but didn't, since now it WOULD be there. Tactically, this makes the most sense, IF we assume that the original readers wouldn't be interested in the rewrite in serial form.
(Either way I'd probably be posting the rewrite progress as additional content on my Patreon)
3. Assuming I go with either option one or option two, what the hell do I do with what I have up now? Some people might be interested in looking at the differences between the two, and I admit if I were seeing a writer do this I'd want to look it over, but I can also see it being confusing for others. Practically I want to take it down just for the sake of having only one version of the story up. Idealistically the old school internet part of me believes you should never take down content unless the DMCA makes you. The optimistic artist in me wants to take it down because the legions and legions and legions of new readers I will OBVIOUSLY get when TPB becomes super-famous should only have access to the current version, since the old version will just add to versioning confusion. The rational and impatient part of me really wishing the optimistic artist would go look at something shiny for a while and generally stop making suggestions.
I'm not leaning toward #1 or #2 at the moment, but that's not a big deal. Worst case scenario I flip a coin and go with that. The third question -- what to do with the old content -- that, I'm stuck on.
Anyway, it occurs to me some writers here have had to deal with this before, with their own reboots, and some of you have read other stories where this kind of reboot happened. What do you all think? What's the decent thing to do?
Note that while you can make a strong case for the decent thing to do being "don't reboot it, finish it as it is," I've already decided not to do that decent thing.