And since I’ve been trying to wrangle my Yuletide assignments this week, it seems a good time to answer it.
The short answer is: whatever fic I’m writing at the moment seems the most difficult fic I’ve ever written! And then, if they are really too difficult, I don’t write them at all, because I am a writing wuss.
The only-slightly-longer answer is: any fic over about 3,500 words is the most difficult fic I’ve ever written. Maybe 5,000. Almost without exception, the fics I’ve written that are longer than that, I’ve stalled out after about 5-6k, and taken months or years to come up with a second half. I suck at plot. Even the last fic I wrote over 5k, which literally took it’s whole plot from A Study in Pink, so I didn’t have to come up with anything, was really hard to write. I don’t know why I ever embark on such ventures, except that sometimes it seems like the only way to fulfill an assignment or prompt. Or maybe I think I’ll learn something as I go along—but I think my brain just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes they come out okay, despite the difficulties, but I hardly ever re-read them. I’ve been wanting to write a sequel to “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” and failing because: plot.
So I guess it makes sense that the fics I’m proudest of are short! I like the fics I’ve managed to write that allow my own intense feelings about characters, and the characters’ intense feelings about each other, to shine through. Often, I feel like I get distracted by descriptive or figurative language, and that mutes the emotion in a story—or, the emotion is muted by my aforementioned difficulties with plot—so when I can get those things to combine, I’m happy. Often, these fics are the first stories I write in a fandom, since I guess the emotions are new and bright then—this is true of two stories I’m proud of: The Khyber Knife (John/Sherlock, R) (which just happened, so I’m amazed, more than proud); and A wind that passeth Away and cometh not again (Homeland), which I worked a lot harder on, and thus correspondingly prouder.
But sometimes I get a bit more into a fandom before I write something I like. For example, Four Kisses, which is a Southland fic, (Cooper/Sherman, R), and which was the third and last story I wrote in that fandom. I’m proud of it for a bunch of reasons: I think it’s in character, though the characters were hard for me to write—I certainly never thought I’d plausibly get them into a pairing; it has a 4X structure, but it still manages to have something of a plot; moreover, it has a “first time” plot, which is something I’m not very good at imagining; it’s not a particularly dark or gritty fic, but it has enough of an edge to it to make me happy—a lot of its emotional intensity is not connected to the romance; it has some nice images, but the story doesn’t get bogged down in them. And when I read it, it reminds of how much I loved the first few seasons of the show. It’s not one of my most read or best-liked stories, but it makes me happy.