cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

The Problem With Long-Form Challenges

I've been reading the SGA Big Bang stories, and loving them a lot. Every one I've read so far has had a strong central premise and readable line-by-line writing; it's such a joy to read them! I've recommended more than half of the ones I've read, which is a good, solid hit rate.

Given all of that, I don't want what I'm about to say to come across as a lack of appreciation in any way. I'm wondering, though, if these kinds of challenges are intrinsically flawed.

Here's the thing that's had me hung up for the last 24 hours. One of the stories I've just finished reading is not only my favourite Big Bang so far, but a new SGA favourite, full stop. I can't express how much it got to me. Wow. It's awesome. It has a fantastic premise, it's beautifully written, the characters are sharply drawn, there's good development of plot and theme, it has something new to say. The romance is heartbreaking. It's one of the best SGA stories I've read.

But. I'm not going to rec it.

Even though it's better than some of the other stories from Big Bang that I have recommended, I'm not recommending this one, my favourite, because the ending just doesn't work. Small problems earlier in the story really wouldn't have mattered; nor would an anti-climactic ending have mattered if it was a story less involved with theme and more focused on incident. However, as it stands, the major theme of the story -- the thing that had my heart in my throat for all those thousands of words -- is smoothed over as though it wasn't important in one brief scene, instead of being resolved in a substantial climax. In my opinion, this story really needed another 10,000 words to get the final climax squared away satisfactorily. But I'm pretty sure the brain behind this piece knows that already; the writing is so competent that the only explanation for such a problematic ending is a lack of time to finish the story.

So here's where my question about long-form challenges comes in: is such a challenge innately more confining than liberating? Was the time limit too short, even though it was several months long?

I hesitated in asking that last question, in particular, as I had to drop out of the challenge myself -- but it isn't sour grapes on my part, and I certainly don't mean it as a dig at the organiser (because, god, talk about herding cats! What a great job svmadelyn did). It may well be that any chosen deadline for such a challenge will end up too short; that it's the nature of the beast.

Despite questioning the effectiveness of long-form challenges, I have to say that I love love love that I have these wonderful stories to read. I admire the effort that's gone into the writing and the art. I think it's great that people got to challenge themselves and write long-form with the support structures in place and definite deadlines. There's nothing bad in all of that.

And yet my heart aches that this beautiful thing ended up broken instead of perfect, and perhaps only because it was rushed. I find it especially heart-breaking in this case because fanfiction is potentially so much less dependent on the vagaries of deadlines and the other strictures of commercial publishing, so to see a story come a cropper due to that kind of issue... *aches*

Is there any way to reconcile these two things: deadlines and the requirements of art? Or is this conflict the universal constant of the artist?

After so many years of seeing it happen again and again, I think perhaps it is. I just wish I had some idea of how to ameliorate the effects. I don't suppose any of you do?

*goes off to read more Big Bang*
Tags: challenge, discussion, fandom, reading, sga, writing
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