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my random ramblings about crafts, writing, books and kids

Sometimes I Think…

I’ve been busy this weekend trying to get two short papers written. One in Sociology and one in Literary Theory. I do not like writing academic papers. Fiction is more my thing.

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if I’m cut out for this degree at all. I’m in my third term at Southern New Hampshire University (yes, the one that advertises on TV for their online school). So far I’ve only taken general ed credits except for the Literary Theory which is part of my major. In August I take my first fiction writing workshop. I’m getting nervous.

I like to write. I’ve gone back to writing some fanfic after taking most of last year off from writing any of it. I’m out of practice. But at least my fanfic gets finished (most of it) and is of high quality (usually). That’s more than I can say for my original fic which I rarely finish and is crap. I can’t plot a story to save my life so how am I going to get a degree in Creative Writing?

This negativity might be reality setting in after I enrolled in school while having a bipolar episode. Or it could be because I’ve been depressed since my last manic episode a few weeks ago when I stayed up for 36 hours straight and for 26 of those hours I wrote non-stop.

I wish I had someone now that could work with me to help develop a story/novel so I could figure out what the hell I’m doing. I’m scared I’m going to get to my first class and look like an idiot because all I know how to write is fanfic.

Fanfic is easy. At least what I write because I’m so into the fandom that the characters are real to me, the backstory is all there, and the set up for story lines are just there waiting to be taken advantage of. I wish I could develop my own world and characters like that. When I try, though, I just get bored.

I guess I’ll have to wait until August to find out if I’m cut out for writing.

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6 thoughts on “Sometimes I Think…

  1. Have you tried writing AU (Alternate Universe) Fanfiction? Because that often allows you (depending on the story) to build up the character from scratch again while still using ones that we already know.

    Maybe it is a good in-between from writing fanfiction to writing original fiction.

    And don’t forget that a lot of the mechanisms in fanfiction are the same – just that the pre-writing work has been basically done for you.
    In writing, you should think about the characters before writing. Remember the W-Questions: Who are they, where do they come from? What motivates them? What are their main character traits?
    Go into looks as well – even if you don’t mention it in a full-blown description (which almost always you shouldn’t πŸ˜‰ ), YOU as the author should have a clear image of them in your mind.

    In writing, I think, there’s no fixed recipe in how to do it. And I know, a lot of authors talk fanfiction down as something inferior to ‘real’ fiction (whatever that is… since in a way most of our literature today is in some way shape or form fanfiction – be it the retelling of Romeo & Juliet, Percy Jackson as fanfiction to Homer’s writings and the ancient God myths. There are interesting articles in literary studies about that. AND when I was studying literary and cultural studies, fanfiction became more and more of a topic as an own completely new genre of literature, and entire papers are written on it. πŸ˜‰

    I used to be ashamed of writing fanfiction, having heard statement by popular authors like Anne Rice who advised against it (but then again, Anne Rice is very biased against fanfiction anyway – which is ironic, because her vampire books build on the image of the vampires shaped by authors like Bram Stoker and others that came after, and therefore is fanfiction as well in the strictest sense of the word).
    However, in recent years, when I came across those papers on fanfiction, and the meaning that it gets attributes especially in the new cultural studies, I started to develop some kind of pride, thinking ‘OMG, I am part of that culture. I am one of the first generation to publicize ff on the internet and it is beginning to start an entirely new genre.’

    So I wouldn’t worry so much about it. πŸ™‚ And are you cut out for writing? Do you get up in the morning and all you think about is that story you have in your head? And you can’t rest until you’ve written it down? Then you are a writer already – and you are cut out for it. All you have to do then is just write, write, write. And revise. πŸ˜€

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    • Jen Connelly on said:

      I’ve actually been working more and more towards full out AUs (placing the characters in a different setting). Right now I just like to screw around with canon plot–I guess that qualifies more as alternate reality, although most people (like me) just mark it as AU. On of my series, which isn’t finished, and is up on my list of things to work on in the coming weeks, is an “AU” where the Stargate was only a cultural artifact until Apophis comes through. Because of stuff Sam ends up a Lt. Col. in charge of the team, Jack gets demoted to Major, and has to take orders from Sam (which doesn’t work very well). Oh, Kawalsky is the 3rd man on the team and Daniel is sci-fi writer after he got laughed out of academia for his crazy theories.

      I recently reread the ones I have posted and they are so crappy. I’m planning on rewriting them because I love the plot and I’ve improved my writing so much since I first wrote them.

      When it comes to writing, it’s weird because when I write fanfic I have no trouble coming up with new characters (one story I’m editing is half about Jack and this woman he meets in Washington and I think I fleshed her out pretty good and made their relationship plausible) and, of course, I come up with my own plots. Some of them are quite involved. When I try to do the same thing with my original fic it gets lost in translation somewhere.

      I think the general structure of canon within fanfiction is what helps me. Like the steel girders of a building–I know how the physics work in the world, the background history of the universe, etc–and I’m putting the finishing touches on it, the exterior so to speak. I think I need to focus on building up my own universe and structure first… if I ever get the time.

      The fanfiction vs “real” writing thing gets me all kinds of riled up (and Anne Rice is… well I have choice words for her). I recently had to tell someone on LJ that she is a “real” writer because she writes. Period, end of debate. She writes fanfic, therefore she’s a writer. And she plans to have other people read it, posts it online for others to appreciate, therefore she’s an author. Someone told her she wasn’t.

      I think a lot of critics of fanfic get lost in the Pit of Voles (also know as ff.net) and so they only see the 95% that is utter crap, so they assume that means all of it is crap. (I might be a little generous with that number, though.) I’ve noticed a change in the last few years, as more critics dig through and find the good stuff and then their tune changes.

      There’s also a great trend of authors encouraging and being delighted that people are writing fanfic about their books. Julia Spencer-Fleming writes mystery novels. I wrote a few fanfics a few years ago along with some other people and we made a little group on LJ. JSF’s daughter found the site and she was super excited about it. It was pretty funny. And as the culture of “geekdom” has risen to popularity it’s becoming more and more acceptable to write fanfic.

      I think it helps that there are a lot of serious fanfic writers out there that don’t just see it as some half-assed hobby (and there’s nothing wrong with writing as a hobby–just don’t do it half-assed and expect everyone to praise you for it) and work on the actual craft, creating works that rival published novels I’ve read. I’ve decided if I ever have to write a paper on genre or writing trends or something I’m doing it about the legitimacy of fanfic as a genre.

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  2. You are right, there are a lot of authors out there, who don’t even bother to give their story a second read after writing. I think, everybody who writes starts out like that – but some never move past it. It requires the motivation to improve yourself and your story.
    And once the realization that their first draft sucks dawns on them, a lot of people also give up on writing all together.

    I have to admit, I was in that phase too, I think it was around 2007. (I started publishing on the internet in 2000, and then in online communities where you got real feedback in 2002 – usually in German back then, because English isn’t my first language. However, since I was 14, I had this fixed idea in my head that I wanted to be a best-selling author, so I switched over to writing in English, where my works had a larger audience.) And around 2007/2008 I was at the point where I thought, I will never be good enough. My writing sucks, my stories suck, etc. It was self-perception, because the criticimn I received didn’t point towards that at all – on the contrary.

    However, I started comparing myself to some people whom I perceived to be excellent writers. And then I read an interview with Stephen King in a German magazine about Literature and Writing, in which he basically said that he is floored by how many people give up thinking that they are bad authors after writing the first draft of their story. And he said that his first drafts were always really bad, and that it was through constant and persistent revision that he created his bestselling novels.

    I kinda identified myself in the kind of writer he was describing, and realized, that I had never given much thought into rewriting. I spell- and grammar-checked my stories (kinda came as a given since I was writing in what was a foreign language to me – without a beta-reader), but beyond that, I never gave it any thought. That completely changed after reading this interview and I realized that writing only makes 30-40% of the work. 60-70% is laborious rewriting and revising.

    My heart still bleeds when I sometimes scrap passages, pages or entire chapters to start anew – and luckily at the moment I have a kickass plot-beta who doesn’t let any OOC-ness or plot flaw pass by. But that is what a writer does: you write, and then you rewrite, rewrite and rewrite. And many of those 95% of writers that you mentioned don’t have the patience.

    I can overlook occasional grammar, spelling or style mistakes, if the plot is good. However, sometimes it seems like the plot is just created with the purpose of the plot itself. It doesn’t evolve logically, based on the characters. F.Ex. in the case of Sam and Jack, there are certain plots which are out of the question because the plot itself would invoke OOC-ness. Stupid example: Jack giving a science lecture together with Sam. It wouldn’t happen, because a) Jack is not a scientist and b) Jack doesn’t care for science. He finds it boring and he can’T stand the technobabble. That is the preset character, which, if you decide to write fanfiction, you have agreed to work with. However, an author would write Sam and Jack giving a science lecture together, because – regardless of the OOC-ness – they really wanna write Sam and Jack at a science lecture together.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, there are clever ways around that. AU or AR are some, where authors can build the characters from scratch and make clear that we are actually NOT dealing with the characters from the show anymore. But the point is, most authors won’t make the effort to come up with those ways. And if your plot isn’t right, or isn’t logical in itself, then the best style and grammar won’t make it a good story. πŸ˜‰

    And yes, there are a lot of authors who encourage fanfiction. And why wouldn’t you, I wonder? I have never understood Anne Rice’s stance on that – and I personally don’t think she’s such a good author, however, that’s a subjective impression. Fanfiction means that your fans are engaging with the story and the characters. If you are an author who inspires fanfiction, you should be humbled, that people are actually taking your characters, your creation, your universe and aspire to make it something more and change it.
    Fanfiction doesn’t touch your story! It just builds on it… and I think lawmakers will have to deal with that topic soon. I have read a lot of fanfiction which I would actually count as original fiction. Then there’s the stories more closely tied to the original material (such as ‘missing scene’-stories, between-episodes stories, etc). I think the copyright law has to further distinguish here and give the fanfiction authors more rights over their stories, provided they are original enough.

    And your thesis paper sounds like a great idea! I think, fanfiction will gain more respect, even among the public. And there are more and more people reading it. When I started writing fanfiction in 1999 (Sailor Moon… so embarassing) there wasn’t really an audience yet, so I did it for a friend – and she wrote stories for me. If you were a fanfic writer in the beginning, you basically wrote for yourself. But during the past decade, that has changed so much! There is a following around fanfiction now – and honestly, I have read a lot of stories that are better than published books. I think, people are slowly becoming aware of that.

    Self publishing also allows online authors to take more power over their own art, and publish independent from publishing houses.

    But like every change, it will take time. After all, what we regard as common literature today (popualr culture) was still regarded very lowly only 100 years ago. Hell, when Jane Austen wrote her books in the beginning of the 1800s, she was kinda looked down at, because a) she was a woman and b) she wrote romances which were plotted purely for entertainment. That was completely new. And look how that has changed.

    So who knows what people in another century or two will think about fanfiction. πŸ˜‰

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    • Oh, and fanfiction writer who don’t have any self-esteem certainly don’t help the cause. πŸ˜›
      Writing fanfiction is nothing to be ashamed of, on the contrary. It is creative writing. I’ve met people before who said something like “Ah, well, I don’t consider myself a writer, I only write fanfiction.” – Okay…

      The way I see it, you are a writer, author, storyteller (whichever you identify yourself with most). Now you can distinguish between good author and bad author. But saying that you’re not a writer because you only write fanfiction is like saying “Oh, I am not a car builder. I only build FORD cars.”

      And people telling others that they are not authors… well… I have an opinion about that. πŸ˜‰ It doesn’t have a meaning at all. Who cares if that other girl thinks, your friend isn’t a writer?
      The sky doesn’t stop being blue, just because I might think the sky is green. πŸ˜‰ It doesn’t matter. It’s just an opinion. It only starts to become something more if she lets that opinion have an impact on her life. But that is something that lies entirely in her hands.

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      • Jen Connelly on said:

        I think a better analogy would be: I’m not really a builder because I only build tree houses.

        I’ve never been embarrassed about my fanfic writing really. My real name is on every story I post online in the header. I’m actually proud of some of the stories (some could use some reworking).

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    • Jen Connelly on said:

      I suck at rewriting and all that. When I do fanfic, usually they are really short pieces and require little editing because that’s the way I roll. I make sure while I’m writing that I’m saying what I want. But that’s for stuff under 1000 words. After that it becomes more complicated to keep track of everything going on.

      Most of my stories tend to get out of control plot-wise and wordcount-wise and then I’m in trouble because I hate going back and fixing it all. Which is why they never get finished. I’ve been working on that over the last year and a half. Right now I’m editing a novella length fic I wrote over a 26 hour period. I’m halfway through my first edit, just making sure it makes sense (because by the end of that I was kind of loopy from lack of sleep). But I realized about halfway through that I was going to need to add some stuff to round out the story more. That’ll come in the next round of editing.

      OOCness always pulls me right out of a story. There are certain stories I might suspend my disbelief that a character would/wouldn’t do whatever the author is making them do, but usually I end up just shaking my head and wondering if they’ve ever even watched the show.

      Now, if they want to put the characters into positions they would never end up on based on the canon of the show I can get on board with that IF they make it plausible and explain it. Like a lot of authors have Jack and Sam getting together while still on SG-1. Obviously that never happened, nor would it have because of the kind of people both Jack and Sam are. BUT if you can somehow write a plausible explanation I’ll accept it. Of course, I’ll also consider it AR, but I’ll accept it as in the realm of possibilities.

      I get a lot of flak from some readers because my Sam/Jack fic never ends with them being together if it takes place within the years of the show. But that’s how things were going to be.

      If I deviate even a little from the accepted realm of possibilities then I mark it AU.

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