buffy

Ramblememe January 14: how did you discover fanfic and start writing

Happy birthday to velvetwhip! And it's her day for the ramblememe.

I accidentally answered a bit of this talking about finding fandom: when I was ill way back I googled 'Spike+slash' and the rest is history. But it still took me years to start writing. It may not seem like it now but I was extremely shy of putting anything online - I used to fret for ages after the smallest comment. And writing something that people would criticise? Gah. No. (Which is why I still work virtually unbeta-ed, shame upon me.)

I did draft one story, about Giles, but I didn't like it. And I didn't really think I could write - I've never been a writer, unlike so many of you. But I wanted to join in. Fandom has space for all kinds of people, but I do think people who are 'just readers' get a bit neglected - and unless you're happy being neglected, it's very tempting to try your hand at something. I did beta a bit, but it wasn't my metier. I'm incredibly bad at art, but I knew I could write prose a bit, at least. When fantas_magoria started, with this approach of beginning with season 1, episode 1, and with prompts, so I didn't have to be original, I thought I could do that.

So I drabbled. Drabbled in Giles voice, and then Darla voice. Boy, they were different, which was interesting. I got some feedback, bless you. Feedback is crack. I wanted more. I wrote more. I started to experiment with longer stories (not much longer, tbh). More characters (though it took me forever to write voices other than Spike, Giles, Wesley and Darla - I thought the Brits and the ancient vampire were safest). I entered some other communities working with prompts (still_grrr and good__evil of happy memory). Yuletide. Which witch. And into Seasonal Spuffy when my Bloody Awful Poetry day finally got me confident that people would enjoy it when I did different things and played about. 400 fics later, still not bored. :)

Happy birthday, dear Gabrielle!
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I've never been a writer, unlike so many of you.

WHAT???

I honestly would have never guessed! You're one of my favorite writers, in or out of this fandom. Clearly you caught the bug, and happy day for all of us.

I think you put your finger on two things here: Sometimes NOT coming into writing with a lot of rules drummed into your head beforehand and particular well-worn habits is a blessing even if it's a challenge in other ways; and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE is key. Writing, like any creative endeavor, is a craft as well as an art, that needs to be worked at in order to achieve mastery - and goodness have you ever.
My self image is a very practical, not creative person. I may be wrong - others definitely disagree with me! But I certainly didn't write for fun before fandom. I do approach writing as craft - keep at it, hone a bit, practice - more than art - the story I've always wanted to tell.
ETA: You might not have done much writing before but I'm going to bet you read a lot. Correct me if I'm wrong. I think most of us learn more about writing from reading than we ever can from school. (That's certainly true of my partner and most visual artists - copy, copy, copy...)

My self image is a very practical, not creative person.

And that's part of the problem/challenge: culturally we've gotten to the point where "artists" are viewed as special or uniquely talented, "it just happens, they're born that way" blah blah bitty blah...Nonsense. Or that "art" is different somehow than any other endeavor. Carpentry and sculpting, for instance, require some of the same skillsets: natural inclinations, yes, plus practice plus determination plus creativity and an ability to visualize spatial relationships. We could insert mathmatics, cooking, anything here.

And "practical" is not the opposite of "Creative" - again, it's the stereotype of artists as crazy, eccentric, dreamy folks who snatch ideas out of the air and are disconnected from reality. Creating "art" is a process of problem-solving, essentially. If someone throws out a fic prompt for instance, you have to find a practical way to "solve the problem of fulfilling it" in a plausible and fulfilling way.

I've gotten a lot of experience seeing the process (and struggle) not only in my own writing but watching my extremely "practical" sweetie go back to art school and continue to paint, etc every day.

keep at it, hone a bit, practice

And this is EXTREMELY admirable, IMO and something I need to emulate. (comlodge is just one of my many fandom heros in this regard - her art continues to improve because she keeps at it every day.) The sad thing is, I probably need to stop reading fanfic and getting distracted. I actually wrote quite a lot when we were without internet in this new apartment!

Edited at 2014-01-15 12:05 am (UTC)
It's certainly true that I read a lot! Though I wouldn't agree it taught me more than formal education (mostly because I read what I enjoy, instead of being taught what I need), it's still been the major way I've kept on learning.

I do think that many writers come to fanfic with a burning desire to tell one story, or many stories - that's how you write epics at the start. If you're treating it as craft, I suspect the small stories beginning is most likely.
Though I wouldn't agree it taught me more than formal education (mostly because I read what I enjoy, instead of being taught what I need), it's still been the major way I've kept on learning.

Perhaps not "more" but differently? When you're taught how to read, you can read anything. Knowing how to "read" a text (and in this case, I include visual texts ie painting, tv show etc) doesn't teach you what you enjoy reading (or creating) or even h0w to enjoy it. That only comes with time and exposure, hopefully to lots of different styles and genres. (Yay libraries!)

Of course, that might just be me - I never wrote poetry until I was exposed to my friends' writings in high school (it didn't come naturally to me before that); and in both fandoms I've been in (btvs and moulin rouge) I read a lot of fanfic first and then one story would spark something in me. (Your own "Hello to this (and goodbye to oblivion" being case-in-point.)

The proportion of "published" or "original" fiction I've read is small compared to the amount of non-fiction; whereas I've read tons of fanfiction over the past ten years. I'd say I've learned more about fiction writing, story construction etc from what I've read over the past ten years than I ever could have in school.

What I haven't learned yet is how to write short, precise comments and replies. *le sigh*

I do think that many writers come to fanfic with a burning desire to tell one story, or many stories - that's how you write epics at the start. If you're treating it as craft, I suspect the small stories beginning is most likely.

*ponders this*

IDK, someone writing a long story can be just as aware of working on the craft in terms of style, structure and so forth. I'm not sure the distinction is as absolute as that. It may be simply what one is drawn to.

I think there may be, for some people anyway, a sense of biting off more than one can chew? "THE NOVEL" (pat pend.) is held up in our culture as the ultimate thing, the top of the pyramid in terms of published writing. f.ex. "The great American novel" is a common cliche, even when used ironically (as in everyone wants to write it) Or even just, being the next John Grisham or JK Rowling. How many collections of short stories or poetry do you see at the airport bookstore?

In Moulin Rouge fanfiction on ff.net, there are a lot of finished "novels", most of them rather bad and maybe two or three really good ones, but most wips are just that, for all eternity - unfinished. I did the same thing with a friend of mine, and compared to shorter things we'd both written, it sucked. Really sucked.

Whereas the one thing I did in that fandom I'm proud of was four "chapters" that were vignettes, individual short stories or vignettes that still depended on some prior knowledge and were loosely connected. When I came to this fandom though it'd been so long since I'd written that, that I'm having to relearn how to think that way - that stories can be told without resorting to the conventions of a traditional story (A happened then B then C...) with everything filled in. There can be gaps but it's not the way I was taught and that shows in my rough drafts. And I've read plenty of examples in both fandoms I've been in, more so here in the buffyverse.

(I have no idea if I'm making any sense at this point btw.)
You are a fantastic writer, sweetie!
I'm glad you decided to get involved in fandom the way you did.


P.S. I'm not a writer either. I just like to write fanfic...and poetry. My fiance wishes I'd write novels and things, but I just can't figure out how to do that.
My fiance wishes I'd write novels and things, but I just can't figure out how to do that.

I hear that from my sweetie "When are you going to try to make money with your writing?" Which, as a fine artist, she should know better.

I repeated that to a novelist friend of mine, and she just laughed at that. And my friend works her fanny off promoting herself constantly.
Is there anyone who writes fanfic for fun who doesn't get comments like that from significant others? LOL So annoying.
Or other family members; like my friend, a novelist, gets from her dad - who seems to have a remarkably similar temperment to my sweetie and is, like my sweetie, a fine artist (painter) who feels like a "failure".

And it's remarkably similar - actually, its the SAME damn thing - to being depressed and actively trying to deal with it, and getting the old "you just need to get over yourself" messages from the partner/parent who is themselves depressed but refuses to deal with it.

It's always about projecting their own frustrations and negative messages onto us.
*g* get yourself a SO who is a writer. He really, really won't encourage you to think you can monetise your writing, being so stuck in the treadmill of publishing misery himself. (I realise this isn't the most practical advice, but it works for me,)
LOL Unfortunately, I have a SO whose father was a very successful writer (for TV and movies) who made piles of money, so he thinks that's all there is to it. You write, and people pay you lots of money. Plus, he occasionally hears me bitching about how awful some of the things I'm editing are - things for which people have been paid - and he just sighs.
Hah. My boyf is a writer, and wouldn't dream of encouraging me to join him. It's a hideous profession. Stay strong!
Thank you!

I could so relate to this because I was terrified of writing my first fic. In your case, however, the fear is entirely unfounded. You're aces, my dear, and I am so glad you took the plunge.


Gabrielle
You're welcome!

I still get nervous before posting big fics, or something that I really care about. But it's definitely easier than it was!
I'm as surprised as anyone to find that you hadn't written before. I thought you would turn out to have been in numerous fandoms before this one. I'd say you've spread your wings and flown. :)
Thanks! Nope, no experience at all apart from creative writing at school. Is it any wonder it took me years to start writing?
I look on being a reader/commenter as my major role in fandom. I want all you lovely writers and artists to keep creating things for me to consume so I am happy to tell you all how much I love what you're doing :D

I don't read all your stories but when something in the pairing or the synopsis strikes my fancy I am never disappointed. Go you for sticking to it and getting better and better. I'm in the drabble stage now and it's quite fun paring away extraneous words!
*g* And we appreciate it - but I don't know whether we celebrate readers enough. Definitely not if my 'join in' urge is shared. And yay you, drabbling! A good drabble is a tough task to master, but I do enjoy working within strict limits sometimes. Really makes you work.
I used to fret for ages after the smallest comment. And writing something that people would criticise? Gah. No.

It doesn't go away, does it? /o\

I certainly am very glad you kept at it!
Oof, no, it doesn't. Sometimes I think if I had a pause in posting fic, I'd never go back to it. Must drabble more.
What an amazing story. I'm so glad velvetwhip asked the question. You are one of the writers I admire tremulously and wish to write as well as. Succinct, plotty, charchterful - you know all the stuff that makes a good story. Hot damn, you started like the rest of us mere mortals. It's heartening. :D
I'm glad you were interested, and thanks so much!

I think most of us started the same way, and always think other people must have all the answers. I thought of rebcake as a senior writer, with bags of experience, and I think she started about 2 months before me. We're all full of inferiority complexes!
*shakes cane*

Hee! It's really interesting, how many approaches there are and how many of them work splendidly! Fanfic and fandom is very democratizing. That's not exactly what I mean to say. But, by seizing the means of production of our own stories, I feel less beholden to the PTB, anyway. I never wrote much fiction before BtVS, either. Essays and well-crafted memos, sure. People were always telling me I should write, but I never enjoyed the process much, and rarely had a story to tell. Now, even if I never monetize the thing, being a writer is part of my identity.

Keep on not boring yourself, m'dear! We all appreciate it immensely.