So, there's this fanfic author I follow. Before you even think it, it's no one that posts on LJ, so if you're a fanfic author on LJ, it's not you. He (for want of a better gender-neutral pronoun), wrote some very long (30-40 chapter) fics in a series, that I'm rather fond of, involving Sarah Jane and an amnesiac man (who names himself John) that she falls in love with and marries, who may or may not be the Tenth Doctor under a chameleon arch. I don't remember if the series is 3 or 4 books long, but I found the fics while the second-to-the-last book was being published, chapter by chapter, and read all of the existing material and eagerly followed the then-currently published book until it was completed. The author doesn't start publishing until the book is completed (just like me), and when he does start publishing, he publishes chapters twice a week. So, knowing that a thirty-some-odd chapter book is going to take four months to publish, I put it on my alert list and waited for him to publish all the chapters before starting to read it.
Well, it's been something seven months, and the final book, which reveals the real identity of Sarah Jane's husband, finally finished this week, so I sat down to read it - all 50+ chapters. After about 17 chapters, John, who has always been in ill health, is dying, and Sarah Jane's son (who is not John's son) sends off a message to the Doctor (who has not ever returned to see Sarah Jane) to please come help. The chapter then ends twice: once in which the help that arrives is the Tenth Doctor, and once in which the help that arrives is not the Tenth Doctor. The author then explains that when he polled his readers, half wanted John to be the Tenth Doctor, and half were so enamored with Sarah Jane and John, they wanted John to not be the Tenth Doctor. So, he wrote an additional ending to the story (John is not the Tenth Doctor) and published both, a chapter at a time, but alternating during the week (which is why it came out to over 50 chapters).
It disappointed me a bit that the story doesn't have a definitive ending; I guess I'm of the camp that I want an author to craft a story and present that, rather than acquiesce to public opinion. But that's a pretty pretentious viewpoint, if I do say so myself. Maybe I would have been happier if he had published the two versions separately, instead of one work with the alternate ending chapters mixed in with the true ending chapters. But whatever, I wanted to see how it ended, so I went with the alternate ending chapters and started reading it.
As I noted before, John isn't the Tenth Doctor, and the Tenth Doctor is the Doctor that responds to Sarah Jane's son's message. The Doctor takes John in the TARDIS to a hospital in John's time (turns out he's from the far future, and for some reason looks like the Tenth Doctor), and the doctors there take care of him. While they're doing so, the Doctor and Sarah Jane have a heart-to-heart - you know: "Why'd you leave me?" "Oh, you needed someone better than me." "There's no one better than you." "I didn't know how to tell you how I felt about you." Yada yada. I feel really bad saying this, but it was so bad I couldn't finish reading it, and I'm only talking about that conversation; it's made me abandon the rest of the story. I peeked a bit at the "John is the Doctor" version, and it has a similar conversation, though I admit I haven't read it.
I actually feel kind of sick about this. I've been waiting for the conclusion of this story for so long, and I am so disappointed, though I'm not sure if it's disappointment in the writing itself, or disappointment in not weathering through the rest of the fic to see how it goes. Part of it was due to the Doctor and Sarah Jane both feeling completely out of character, and part of it was just unbelievable dialogue. (I've been reading The Writer's Tale, and at one point, RTD talks about how many writers write dialogue that don't sound like how people actually talk: wrong words, sentences that are too complex and long, etc. Of course, he was talking about scriptwriting, which is a different beast than novel-writing, but this conversation should be the poster boy for this.)
Sigh. No idea what to do. I've encountered other fics which went differently than I'd like, either style-wise or plot-wise, but I've never been so turned off by one so far into the story. Usually it's one that's pretty evident early on that I won't like it, and it's never one I've waited so long for. Ah well. I suppose I'll try reading the "John is the Doctor" version sometime later and hope it's better.