more thoughts on fanfic

I’m sure many of you have stopped going back to check my earlier post on fanfic for new comments, if you ever did so at all, so I thought I’d a) mention that the discussion is still going on there, and b) start a new post.

The reason for the new post is that my thoughts have had some time to compost, or marinate, or whatever the metaphor I want is, and I think I can articulate some things now that I couldn’t before. Most particularly, a few things I found myself saying to ancientwisdom over there.

There’s a difference between saying to someone, “have you thought about writing original fiction?” and saying “why don’t you write REAL fiction, instead of wasting your time with that fanfic rubbish?” Some people say the latter. Some people say the former, but really mean the latter. But some of us say the former and mean it: our intention is to express admiration of the writer, and to invite/encourage them to try something new. (The analogy this was built on is asking a LARPer if they’ve considered trying out for a play, as opposed to asking why they waste time with LARPing instead of real theatre. Nothing wrong with the former question, as far as I’m concerned, and they can always respond, “thanks, not interested.”)

The problem I’m seeing of late is an increasing tendency of people in the fanfic community to assume I mean the latter, insulting question when I ask the former: the presumption of condescension and patronization where there is none. This automatically casts me in a role I resent (because it isn’t true). I’m capable of acknowledging, thank you, that fanfic can be well-written, that it can be a valid use of one’s time, that one may engage in fanfic writing for reasons which do not translate over the divide into original fiction, and therefore that one might not be interested in writing original fiction. But can I please be permitted to ask?

And here’s why I want to ask: I want to feel like these two communities can talk to each other. Right now, a lot of times I’m made to feel that I can play in my sandbox over here (professional fiction), and you can play in your sandbox over there (fanfiction), and if I want to I can come join you in your sandbox, but I may not invite you over to mine. The traffic, if there is any, must be one-way, and any attempt to make it two-way is an insult on my part.

But, you ask, isn’t it two-way anyway? Nothing’s stopping somebody from deciding to write original fiction. While this is true, it’s true only up to a point, because there are barriers to writing original fiction that don’t exist in fanfic. Or, to put it in other terms, original fiction intimidates people in a way fanfic doesn’t. Perhaps most prominently, it’s less immediately rewarding. Instead of posting something online and garnering positive comments in a short span of time (yay egoboo!), you put it in the mail, wait months, and then get back a form rejection letter (no egoboo for you!). And this will happen a lot. Even Jay Lake, a wildly successful short story writer by anybody’s standards, has a 25% sell rate for his submissions; his stories garner an average of three rejections before selling. That gets depressing, folks, especially when you aren’t Jay Lake, and a story may get rejected twenty times or more before finding a home.

Which is why mentoring is a big part of the spec-fic community, whether it’s organized formally or just through friendships. People bootstrap each other up into the industry with technical advice (here’s how to write a cover letter), market tips (hey, that looks like a good story for City Slab), critique (okay, you’ve got a good idea here, but you need to rework it from the ground up), networking (I recommended you to a woman putting together an anthology), lessons in rejectomancy (JJA said it “didn’t work” for him; that’s great!) and general hand-holding and reassurance when that twentieth rejection letter for the same story arrives. Absent that, this is a depressing life and often an opaque one, and so new writers may not even give it a shot if somebody doesn’t encourage them to do so.

And so we try to pay it forward. I mentored someone through AbsyntheMuse, an online program aimed at teens. A published novelist friend sat with me at World Fantasy and listened to me bitch about a situation I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning publicly. Folks on the Rumor Mill trade information about markets constantly. We try to help each other succeed.

To our eyes — temporarily assuming here the authority to speak for, well, the entire professional writing community, at least those of us who aren’t jerks about fanfic — there are probably people in the fanfic world who would write original fiction, if they were encouraged to do so. If they had somebody to help them over a few of the barriers. And we want to read that original fiction, we want to see other people succeed in our world, and so we try to pay it forward to them. Not because we think there’s something wrong with what they do, but because we think there are good things about what we do, even with all the pain and suffering along the way.

But more and more, it feels like we’re not welcome to do that. Instead of being able to connect with the people who are interested in what we’re offering, we run headfirst into the closed ranks of the people who want us to go away.

Offers of help don’t have to be patronizing. The assumption that they are saddens me (or irritates me, depending on what I had for breakfast that day).

I guess what I’m arriving at is this: I have for several years now been nudging/encouragement/kicking kurayami_hime in the shins (yes, dear, I’m outing you a little bit; I’m running out of new forms of blackmail) because she made the mistake of telling me about a story idea she had in her head, and the idea sounded really cool, so I’ve been trying to get her to write it, because I want to read it. This is the same impulse I feel toward fanfic writers I try to encourage, though in their case it’s usually an interest in their skills rather than a specific original story idea (unless they happen to tell me about an original story idea and it sounds good). I mean it as a compliment, and it implies no disapproval on my part. But whereas kurayami_hime usually looks a little flustered and guilty (because I keep pestering her about this on an irregular schedule, and haven’t given up yet), lately the fanfic writers seem more offended than anything else, as if I must have something against who and what they are.

I don’t. I just want to give them any assistance they might want or need. Because this sandbox over here can seem like hostile and unknown territory, otherwise.

And I wish it were possible for those of us trying to pay it forward to find those of them who might want to cross over, without evoking the specter of the elitists who spit on fanfic, or stepping on the toes of those who are happy in their sandbox and have no interest in going anywhere else.

0 Responses to “more thoughts on fanfic”

  1. jaylake

    Interesting take. (And yes on the 25% sell rate, btw…) I hadn’t thought of fanfic as being barriered from profic, but then I don’t pay a lot of attention to these issues. Thank you for the explication.

    • Marie Brennan

      I was glad to have your statistics to hand in making my point. It’s one thing for me to average up my own rates — I don’t know what it is overall, but I know I’ve got a few stories that were rejected more than two dozen times before selling, and I think I have one creeping up toward thirty that I keep refusing to trunk — but it’s another thing to show what a Really Successful Writer looks like. πŸ™‚

      The boundaries between the two will probably vary widely depending on who you ask. I’m mostly trying to speak to the cases where somebody would see a barrier in moving toward pro-fic. I remember my own first, fumbling moves toward figuring out who to send my work to and how — and I was lucky in that I always had a decent degree of confidence in my work to begin with. A lot of people don’t, and therefore benefit from help on that front, too.

      • jaylake

        FYI, my most-submitted sale is 21 send-outs before acceptance.

        • Marie Brennan

          My average probably skews higher in part because of my tendency to try places where I don’t think I stand a very good chance. Frex, I generally baptize every new story with a half-sheet from F&SF, though I don’t expect to sell there. (Some day I will, and then I’ll faint. Don’t ask how many stories of mine they’ve booted already.)

          I also tend not to give up on stories. If there’s something I like about them, then somebody else might like them too, so why shouldn’t I keep trying? I’ve only ever semi-retired two stories, and really retired two. The semi-retirements are “Execution Morning” (which I retired, then de-retired for Glorifying Terrorism, and lo and behold it got bought after all) and “The Waking of Angantyr,” which I keep holding onto for a year or two at a time, revising, and then trying again. With the two that I permanently retired, there were still things I liked about them, but they were minor and outweighed by the things I didn’t like, and I didn’t think their substance was good enough to be worth trying to salvage.

          My record appears to be a story still out on the market; counting contests, it’s on its thirtieth trip out the door. But dammit, I still like that story, and it’s almost sold a couple of times, and surely someday I’ll find a home for it.

          Someday I’ll have the guts to link numbers to stories, and tell people which ones got rejected a million times before selling. I’m not quite brave enough for that yet, though.

  2. moonandserpent

    “But can I please be permitted to ask?”

    I think that a lot of your problem is that as nicely and understandingly as you present yourself, those fanfic authors have already had to answer the “why aren’t you writing real things” question a dozen times that week. Because there are a LOT of people who don’t approach the hobby like you do.

    And really, you do have to be careful with that question or it does show (right or wrongly) some bias towards commercial fiction. It doesn’t help that in my experience, a lot of ficcers are primed and expecting the negative version of your question.

    When the offered hand can easily be seen to be giving you the finger, eventually you just slap away all hands.

    That said, I think that many people who want to transition from fanfic to comfic really could use the help. Because they ARE vastly different worlds. Hell, I freely admit that it’s ideas I was exposed to in really good fanfic groups that make some of the machinery of commercial fic publishing seem rather… revolting to my vaguely anarchist leanings. I’d have loved to have had someone like you when I was first, thinking of doing the commercial fiction thing. Because let me tell you, fanfic gives you strange idears and bad habits.

    Of course I’m also not currently trying to publish any form of fiction, so there’s that.

    • Marie Brennan

      I recognize that when I ask that question, I’m probably jabbing a spot somebody else made sore long before I got there. I just hope that reminding folks not all of us are being condescending will help make the spot a little less sore.

      • kitsunealyc

        It might help to recognize that when considering fanfic writers, these are individuals within already established *communities* who are being approached, often with no regard for the existing relationships and culturally understood behaviors within those communities.

        As an anthropologist, you wouldn’t enter a fieldwork situation and start offering farmers tractors, without first coming to an understanding of the particulars of the cultural and individual situations, which would inform your understanding of what the people involved actually wanted and needed, rather than what you from an outsider’s uninformed perspective *think* they might want and need.

        As with any mentoring relationship, there seem to be two possible solutions. You could keep yourself open and generally express your desire to help, and wait for people to come to you. Or you could opt to build personal relationships with fanfic writers whose work you admire and tailor your approach based on the particulars of each of those relationships.

        • Marie Brennan

          1) I don’t actually think fieldwork is an appropriate model for my interactions unless I’m, y’know, doing fieldwork. I mean, yes, certainly there are good lessons to be learned from anthropological ethics, but I’m talking more about casual interpersonal interaction, which isn’t planned and organized the way research is. I doubt I, or anyone else, would stop to do in-depth cultural investigation before asking an off-the-cuff question in a bar conversation at a con.

          2) The amount of time I’ve now spent discussing this makes it seem like I’ve got a long history of this type of interaction with fanfic writers, when I don’t. I’m talking generally about a pattern I feel I’m seeing which is based not just on my own interactions, but those I see around me, and all of those people are going to be approaching it in their own way. I’m not going to speculate about how much those people do or do not know about the fanfic community.

          3) Those few occasions when I have talked to fanfic writers about original fiction have universally been via personal relationships (usually those that had nothing to do with fanfiction, or even writing, in the first place). I don’t go about looking for people to make offers of mentoring to; I ask a curiosity question of people I know.

          • kitsunealyc

            1. I’d argue that the underlying assumptions that structure fieldwork — which include a respect for other people’s experience and motivation — would lead to a more inquisatory and less accusatory mode of questioning. Instead of asking why a person isn’t doing pro-fic, you might ask why a person is doing fanfic. Such a question in a casual conversation could help you to tactically determine whether the pro-fic thing is even an interest, whether the mentoring offer would be welcome, and how to go about making the offer.

            2 & 3. Because all this discussion has been general and hypothetical, I haven’t been sure what specific situations you’ve been involved in where you’ve made this kind of offer and been rebuffed. I do know the kinds of situations myself and other fanfic authors have been in where we’ve felt negatively judged on the issue of fanfic/pro-fic. It is these situations I’ve been basing my responses on, since nothing specific has been introduced here.

            I think the problem does exist in generalities. Fanfic writers *generally* feel discriminated against, often because of generalized comments that are made. Specifically, I’ve had some interactions where I felt hounded for enjoying fanfic writing…but most of those conversations have been with my parents. I have noticed some general comments made against fanfic by people in our extended LJ community. I’ve never felt in specific conversation with you that you have a bias against my writing fanfic, even though you’ve expressed on occasion that you’d like to see me write more original fiction. But I’ve never gotten the feeling that you’re biased against the ways that I enjoy writing (although I get the feeling that might be in part because my interest has an academic aspect as well?)

          • Marie Brennan

            Respect is always a good thing, but the respect I offer in fieldwork and the respect I offer in non-research relationships aren’t the same, especially since fieldwork is more likely to involve getting to know people for the purpose of research — they might not be people you’d be friends with otherwise. Which isn’t to say you’re just there to milk them for information, either . . . but I think you can follow what I mean.

            It doesn’t look like people are going to chime in with specific anecdotes here, so our evidence base is going to remain vague. I didn’t want to bring you up specifically without knowing how you’d feel about that, and the only other instance that springs clearly to mind for me at the moment happened in a weird tangential way on the topic of SFWA membership requirements, when somebody jumped on me because a comment I made wandered too close to an argument she’d had elsewhere, with somebody else, in the recent past. (We cleared up the misunderstanding, fortunately.)

            My only bias against your fanfic is that time you spend writing Dr. Who smut is time you don’t spend on the City of Light and Shadow, and that means I have to wait longer for the latter. ^_^

          • Marie Brennan

            My apologies; that should be City of Light and Darkness, yes?

          • kitsunealyc

            Nope, it’s City of Light and Shadow, though I’ve started to refer to it as the Teleidoplex because of recent ruminations and developments. (I’ve been working on developing an organizing thematic that I’m very excited about, based on the recent discussion about world-building on ‘s lj) Work continues on that (and has actually ramped up significantly due to the teleidoplex ruminations), but I wouldn’t say that my fanfic stuff takes away from that…if anything, the performance of fanfic has increased my interest in doing more non-performative, craft-based, original/professional endeavors. But the idea that one should be valued over the other irks me to no end.

          • Marie Brennan

            Am I not allowed personal preference?

            I recognize that it isn’t a straight equation of time allotment.

          • kitsunealyc

            Yeah, but the line becomes blurry sometimes (not between you and me, but when the issue gets discussed more generally) between what is personal preference, and what is an imposition of normative cultural values and expectations. You prefer my original stuff. That’s cool. I get that. I’m very flattered ;> But often the equation is treated as a one-for-one matter of time allotment (i.e., why are you spending/wasting time writing fanfic when you could be writing original fic).

            But I’m gonna try to withdraw at this point, even though I’m enjoying talking about this with you, because now I’m spending time involving myself in this discussion when I should be grading papers and writing a final exam. Stop distracting me, woman!

  3. bakkhos

    Hey, there! I completely agree with you on mentoring playing a large role in boosting fanficcers’ confidence about writing original works. Because you are completely right: fanfic and original work is the difference between immediate feedback verses a long, nailbiting wait, often followed by outright rejection. So without people encouraging you, critiquing you, helping you along, it can look like a very lonely road ahead.

    For me personally, I could use a good kick in the pants every now and then to focus on my own work, because without it, well … fear and ego and all that good stuff wins out.

    P.S. I got the contract and check from Strange Horizons yesterday!

    • Marie Brennan

      Congrats! I look forward to seeing it when it goes up. ^_^

      Without meaning this as a negative judgment of fanfic culture, I think the immediate gratification it offers is one of the hurdles that holds back people who might otherwise try pro-fic. As far as I’m aware, the positive feedback on any given fic tends to vastly outweigh the negative (if the negative even shows up). That gets addictive, frankly. If you want to sell a story to a professional market, on the other hand, you can’t post it online for instant feedback, and even if the editor buys it, they probably won’t gush at you; they’ll just send you a three-line e-mail saying they’ll take it. So while all that egoboo serves a valuable purpose within the fanfic community, it may be actively detrimental to somebody looking to expand in a professional direction. Rave reviews don’t help you much in that field; sometimes you need somebody to tell you that you suck.

      • bakkhos

        Speaking from personal experience, one of the fears a writer of original fic can experience is not knowing. Not knowing if what you’ve put your heart into for years is complete and utter garbage. Not knowing what others think of it (unless you have a critique group). Not knowing if you’re wasting your time on fiction no one will see. Some say writing ought to be for the writer anyway, and that’s true, to an extent. But I know one of the reasons I write is to move people, and if I’m putting all my energy into something that is not worth it–that will never see a bookstore shelf–then not only is my main goal incomplete, but I’ve wasted a part of my life.

        Maybe I have the wrong motivation for writing.

        • Marie Brennan

          No, I’d say you have the right motivation. Writing just for yourself is wankery. <g>

          Most writers, I think, thrive best in a careful mix of compliment and critique: enough positive feedback to keep you going, but not mindless praise, either. The people who can do fine on just one or the other are few and far between.

          • moonandserpent

            And what’s wrong with wanking? By God, I….


            You’re definitely right about the addictive power of the egoboo. Man, I had time when I was feeling down and my answer was “Hey, I’ll write that cool Marauders story I’ve been thinking about.” Because, you know… the feedback would be near instant and deeply gratifying and would probably cheer me up πŸ™‚

          • lillornyn


            I’d say there is no “right” motivation for writing, and as someone who writes strictly for myself, a comment like that sounds *terribly* elitist to me.

            Your writing reaches a broad audience, touches a great many people, helps you pay the bills. My writing is a part of me that is *mine*, helps me work out issues that I’m uncomfortable talking about to others or posting online, and means a great deal when I am comfortable enough with someone to share it. How dare *anyone* tell me I’m wasting my time? Keep your values with you and off of me, thanksverymuch.

            Note: Less referring to you specifically, Ms. Brennan (you seemed to be speaking in jest), and more in general – because jokes aside, that attitude certainly exists, and is part of the problem. Mostly I’m saying (as I think Kitsune has said in an earlier thread) I wish that the myriad reasons people write were accepted and not arranged in some sort of false hierarchy. I respect professional writers, the way they write, and their reasons for doing so — why does that seem a one-way street?

          • moonandserpent

            Re: $0.02

            Because by and large we operate in a culture that values things only in as much as that thing or pursuit can be made into a commodity. It is in fact, all about the Benjamins.

          • dinpik

            Re: $0.02

            Yup. Money talks, bullshit walks. The only other type of ‘payment’ is acknowledgement by one’s peers (Pulitzer, Nobel, Newberry awards) or by the community at large(for example, amateur astronomers get put in the books as discovering a new star or comet or whatever).

            To be honest, a lot of fanfic writers and readers have the same ‘commodity’ mindset about fanfiction. Look at how many people complain about not getting as many reviews as they’d like, or why another genre of fic is more popular, or — and this is a biggie — “Why is everyone writing X/Y? Why can’t I find more X/Z stories?!” A while back, there were even posts on about reviews and feedback being a type of ‘payment’ for writing. Recently there were discussions about whether or not fanfic writers should respond to comments; more than a few people had the “I read your story, bitch, so fucking thank me for it!” attitude.

            Fanfic does have an economy; it’s just not with real-world money. People are just going to have to deal.

          • Marie Brennan

            Re: $0.02

            The existence of things like the social economy of fanfic is exactly why and I presented an academic paper on how one could use anthropological methods to study fanfic communities. I think it’s interesting, even if it’s not something I want to make a research project of my own out of. (Part of the reason I don’t want to do it myself is that I know I’d have a hard time separating my own personal judgment from my observations on many things. The “I read your story, bitch, so fucking thank me for it!” attitude would be a good example of such a case.)

          • kitsunealyc

            Re: $0.02

            Yeah, I was going to bring up again the whole comparison to dance/music. These are activities that are allowed to be community-building and non-professional without the wankery value-judgement or the assumption that non-professionals aren’t professionalizing because they’re intimidated by the process of professionalization.

            My favorite memories of faire are sitting around listening to jam sessions afterwards. None of the music played was original…and at least half of it was not public domain. Most of those musicians were not full-time professional musicians, though they would sometimes play paid-gigs (especially on St. Patrick’s day). Some of them had recorded and released their own CD’s (the equivalent of vanity publishing).

            In music, this type of casual, fluid crossover between the two is more accepted, in part I think because musicians still view their work as both performative and communal. I don’t get the feeling that pro-writers get together and share their writing just for the fun of doing so. Even writing groups and workshops are done with the aim of critique. I think fanfic writers are more apt to view writing as a performative activity (which carries with it an expectation of the immediate response and gratification, often positive, of the audience). The structure of the contemporary professional writing complex makes pro-writing less peformative. I think it’s (again) condescending to view a writer’s desire for performative acknowlegement (“egoboo”) as something shameful or less admirable a motivation.

            I’d also like to point out that general consensus in the fandoms I’ve participated in is that reviews come about 1:100 — that is, one review for every 100 hits. It is also the case that most authors have one or more beta’s, whose job it is to provide the constructive criticism that often is lacking in reviews. I’ve also noticed that about 1 in 5 of reviews I’ve received has some sort of constructive crit.

            I’ve noticed some slight fluctuations in these trends, depending on the site, mostly correlating to the strength of community feeling (how responsible community members feel towards each other), and the maturity of the community members. I’ve noticed that people who author or are heavily involved in the community are more likely to review than non-authors and lurkers. I’ve noticed that over half of the reviews people receive tend to be “repeats”, that is, people who have reviewed other stories or other chapters of the same story. One of the sites I frequent has an under-reviewed category, where you can go and read a fic that has statistically been under-reviewed compared to hits and length.

            All this is to say that the other folks who’ve pointed out that this is more than just “egoboo”, but is in fact a highly developed social economy are right on the money (heh), and that the social circles that are created are actually rather small and tight-knit.

          • kitsunealyc

            Re: $0.02

            Oh, and also to point out that the way people approach performance is different than the way they approach…whatever pro-writing has become. I wouldn’t go up to a dancer or singer or musician after a performance (either pro or non) and give constructive critique (even if I might have some). If I enjoyed the performance, I might go up to them and tell them what I liked, and I’d be more likely to do so in a non-pro situation.

          • Marie Brennan

            Re: $0.02

            My use of the term “egoboo” isn’t mean to be derogatory; I just like the word. (Try saying it out loud. Egoboo! Egoboo! It’s fun.)

            I’d divide things on a finer scale than you do. It isn’t just music; it’s particular instruments more than others. Noodling around on a guitar at a party will go over a lot better than doing the same on a tuba. That’s probably the most socially-acceptable “hobby instrument” I can think of; violin and piano are in there, too, as might be a flute or tin whistle in a Celtic or folk music context. You could probably list more, but it does depend on the instrument, the genre of music, and the social context, which ones can be done casually and which ones can’t. (Meaning “can” and “can’t” in a social-perception sense, not an absolute one.)

          • kitsunealyc

            Re: $0.02

            Gotcha. But at the same time, somebody who didn’t know you well or was lurking on this conversation might not recognize that, or be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when you explained (especially since egoboo is juxtaposed with wankery — now *that’s* a fun sentence to say!)

            I think you’re right on the fine-tuning of the music issue (heh!). I was going to talk about singing and karaoke except I didn’t want to beat dead horses. I think the prejudice against karaoke makes the whole writing thing look life fluffy bunnies…but my perception may be skewed because I live with the fox).

          • Marie Brennan

            Re: $0.02

            There’s a reason I don’t go to karaoke bars.

            I prefer Japanese-style karaoke — which you can do at Mr. Sushi in town, apparently, or now there’s the console game — where you get a private room with your friends, and therefore don’t have to subject yourself to random drunk tone-deaf strangers. I freely admit that my elitism extends to my sense of pitch.

          • moonandserpent

            Welcome. Enjoy.

            “Sushi Bar. Welcome. Enjoy.”

            Seriously, best damn time in town. Closed room Japanese-style Karaoke with sushi and booze. Joinnnnn uuuussssss.

          • moonandserpent

            Re: $0.02

            “One of the sites I frequent has an under-reviewed category, where you can go and read a fic that has statistically been under-reviewed compared to hits and length.”

            That’s a really neat feature. I wish some fo the sites I was involved in back in da day had that.

          • Marie Brennan

            Re: $0.02

            In a non-exclusive sense (“a” right motivation in place of “the” right motivation), I think is right for what she’s seeking — publication. Writing solely for oneself and trying to get published is unlikely to succeed (though in theory it could), because it has a high chance of coming off as something done solely for the writer’s own pleasure, not anybody else’s.

            I think it’s important to distinguish, though, between writing professionally and writing for an audience; they’re not the same thing. I confess that I’ve always been somebody who writes for an audience. This remains true despite the fact that nobody read 95% of what I wrote from the age of whenever I first started putting things on the page until I was eighteen, and only a scattered person here and there ever read the stuff that did get shown, because in my mind, I was writing my way toward an eventual audience. For me, it’s a form of communication. I could not be Emily Dickinson. No doubt this is why I never successfully kept a journal or diary for more than an entry or two until I started keeping one online; if I’ve got something deeply personal bothering me, I don’t work it out by writing it down, so private writings never meant much to me. And it does mean, I’ll admit, that writing fiction one never intends to show to anybody, with no intent of ever showing fiction to other people, is alien thinking to me.

            It’s true, though, that our culture has issues with hobbies. It’s a topic I’ve chewed on more than once in my own head. I have a hard time figuring out what criteria determine which things I can do without an end goal in mind, and which I can’t. I love sitting down at a piano with my iPod and noodling out how to play a song I’m listening to, but I haven’t picked up my French horn since I stopped having an ensemble to play with and concerts to prepare for. I’ll dance at parties, but “real” dance, choreographed dance, I need to be preparing for a performance. Some of it’s culturally shaped (we accept some hobbies more readily than others), some of it’s socially shaped (is it a solo thing, or do you need other people for that hobby?), and some of it’s personal.

            When it comes to writing and what one does with it, I guess my philosophy goes more like this: write for fun, absolutely, because if you’re not having fun then why are you doing it? But if you’re writing for fun, and what you’re producing is good, why not try to sell it if you can? You might get something out of it that you didn’t have before. I recognize that there are reasons someone might not want to sell their work, but I like to suggest it as a possibility.

  4. sartorias

    I didn’t know there was that big a divide. This is somewhat daunting to consider.

    • Marie Brennan

      I think the size of the divide really is in the eye of the beholder. To some people, it might not be much. To others, it’s vast oceans separating the two.

      • milbrcrsan

        I have to agree with sartorias. Although, I haven’t had a whole bunch of time to consider this, seeing as I’m almost eighteen and have been writing since I was fourteen. :p

        It’s at least a relief that professional writers are trying to help the smaller fanfic writers, though. But it also harder when I keep on measuring my work against my boyfriend’s who’s another great writer, but it’s probably going to be a while before he takes the dive into the professional career…at least he better if we’re planning, or trying to get our stories out there…..

        The sad thing is, I’ve spent what…about three years on my current story (hope it’s okay to mention the title) The Storm’s Edge, and after those years, everything has been modified and now the entire story is changed. It’s definitely the best thing I’ve ever written and it’s my baby, but…comparing it, once again, to everyone else who are professional writers, I doubt my “skill” in writing and get discouraged…then again, I brought it upon myself. If I ever get do do what I’ve dreamed of and was actually able to publish it and its two sequels, I’d be so happy, but lets face it, how often does that happen, right? πŸ˜‰

        • Marie Brennan

          You sound a bit like me and visual art: I’ve got too much of a critical eye not to see the flaws in my cack-handed attempts to draw things, and so it’s very easy for me to get discouraged. I’m a little glad I wrote many of my own million words of crap before I recognized their shortcomings; my critical faculty and my skill developed in tandem, there, so I was always having fun and rarely getting discouraged.

          The most useful tip I can think of to give you is, write other things, too. If you spend years on the same story, going over it again and again and rebuilding it and then fixing things and then changing stuff again . . . I did that for about four years — until the same age you are, actually — and then finally realized that, while there were things about the story and characters I very much liked, I kept partially tearing down what I’d built and then slapping more on top, with structurally unsound results. So I laid that project aside, with the intent of letting it fade in my mind so that when I came back to it, I’d have the perspective necessary to remove the stuff that wasn’t so great and refine the bits that were. I still periodically go back and knock the dust off it, to see where it stands. But in the meantime, I started working on three or four other things — new ones, that had nothing to do with the older project — and by stretching myself out in different directions, I developed my craft muscles much more effectively.

          In other words, multiple projects are probably good for you. The lessons from one will help you with another. If you keep focusing on one thing for too long, it’s easy to lose perspective on it, and not know whether it needs major revision or is ready to be sent out.

          • milbrcrsan

            Hm…I like that idea. I keep forgetting that my boyfriend and I have two other stories, but the first one is on hold for now. Last year, I did this exactly, but instead of keeping it in the limits, I was working on five stories all at the same time. Now that just got confusing! :p

            I’m just kind of haunted by wanting to get it finally finished. Also, I have a lot of trouble coming up with new ideas. How long does it usually take you to think of a new story?

          • Marie Brennan

            How long does it usually take you to think of a new story?

            There’s no simple answer to that question.

            Really, what’s been going on is I’ve been stockpiling story ideas for, well, ever. The strong ones last until I get around to writing them; the weak ones fall apart and go away and become compost for other ideas. So I’m rarely sitting around trying to come up with an idea; when that happens, it’s because I’m trying to create an idea to fit particular requirements. (Like my failed attempt recently to come up with something for Jeff VanderMeer’s pirate anthology.)

            The more you feed your brain with interesting source material, the easier it will probably be to come up with ideas. And by that I mean nonfiction as well as fiction, or maybe even in preference to fiction. Also, the more ideas you come up with, the easier it will be to come up with ideas; the little buggers breed. And then some day you, too, can look in despair at the list of unfinished or unstarted story ideas you have and wonder when you’ll get around to them all . . . .

          • milbrcrsan

            Geez, you make it sound so easy. *wistful sigh*

            I’ve been trying to come up with some short stories to give myself a break from The Storm’s Edge (like you said) and right now, I’m currently working on a small, AU, Lord of the Rings story. Figured it would be a good start for right now. :p And I’ve got a total of 2,100+ words. Woo hoo! lol Though it kind of sucks that no one wants to read it. : πŸ™

  5. mojave_wolf

    Hi! I just friended you, and your profile said to introduce self if doing so, so, um, hi. (not always quite that redundant)

    This seemed like a good post to reply to, partly because I’d been thinking about the fanfic issue lately due to other posts, and someone unfriending me due to a stray comment I made about it a week or so ago. Also because someone mentioned the love of community as a plus for fanfic in one of your replies, making me think “huh, maybe it’s not just the using-other-people’s-characters thing that makes me tend to avoid fanfic” (which is not to say I won’t read it if someone recommends something, and a couple of times I have liked something); I usually don’t like people much, which is weird cause I’m naturally gregarious.

    What else? I haven’t read your books yet. Today was the third or fourth time I’d run across you in other people’s comment threads and I read your lj and you write good essays, so, me here. Tell me if I should leave, and all that.

    • Marie Brennan

      Hello! I’m glad the essays appeal to you; they’re the kind of thing I hope will attract readers to my LJ, since I’m not the sort who finds interesting links before the rest of the Internet already knows about them. So welcome!

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