Thursday, December 5, 2013

100 Things I've Learned By Writing Fanfiction: #16: Why Are You Writing This Anyway

My friend Jess has been stuck with her story for a while now. I'm hoping that by bringing our old RP characters into her plot, we can resolve some of the long-standing issues and get her unstuck. So far it's going pretty well, but the more we work on it , the more we realize that it's going to be a LONG, complicated project. (I'm doing my best not to transmit my "curse" and make it five times longer just by being present.)

As I was thinking about her project, I remembered my experiences with my own AU stories, and I remembered several people asking me how I maintained my interest in such long, difficult projects. They would say things like "I can't spend more than a month or two on any fanfiction before I get bored with it or get stuck or find something that interests me more. How do you keep going?"

Monday, November 11, 2013

100 Things I've Learned By Writing Fanfiction: #15: Defining AU

These posts will also be available on my new WordPress account:

I've been trying to stay away from "definition" posts in this series because I think there are already plenty of fandom dictionaries and encyclopedias floating around the Internet. My problem is that I did a casual search on the term "alternate universe" before I started working on my upcoming posts, and there were a lot of confusing or conflicting definitions. I want to make sure that my readers are on the same page here. For the purposes of this blog series, I'm going to use the definitions that I've been familiar with since way back in the age of the dinosaurs when fanfiction was mostly published in print fanzines. They are not the only valid definitions. They're probably not even the best definitions. They're just the ones I use.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Geez, Where Did This month Go???

Wow. This month has gotten away from me. I've been thinking about my 100 Things series a lot, but I guess I didn't realize how quickly October was going. This month, I've had the unexpected pleasure of getting to help a close friend work on her project for NanoWrimo. You can read all about that here.

My friend's project happens to be a Star Wars AU that she's been working on intermittently since shortly after I started my biggest and most intense fanfiction project, One Path, in 2007. Jessica and I were just chatting one night, and we realized that (1) her story really needed some solidly developed orginal characters, and (2) we happened to have the perfect ones to fit the theme and storylines of her project just sitting around our heads from a SW roleplay we did between 2005-2007. The only problem was that her story is set in the Old Republic Era, and their characters lived well after the Old Republic fell, sometime around 500 ABY. (Which, for anyone who isn't into Star Wars, would be 500 years after Star Wars: A New Hope.) So, we had a lot of adapting to do when it came to getting our characters into a much different time. In the Star Wars universe. I think we did pretty well. Other fans will have to be the judge, but I'm pretty excited.

I'm thrilled to see my friend writing again. She has been really struggling with her writing for several years now, and it's great to see her starting to enjoy it again. I'm happy to have a chance to work with her, and I'm happy to be able to give our old characters some new life and (hopefully) more satisfying outcomes this time around.

The process of working our characters into her plot has given me a lot to think about. Some of it relates directly to my section of the 100 Things series that relates to AUs. Others are just thoughts on writing fanfiction for fiction in general.

Posts I have coming are:

Defining AU
Why Are You Writing This Anyway?
Who Is This Mary Sue Chick Anyway?
Mary Sue and Why We Love Her
Mary Sue and Why We Hate Her
Nobody Cares About Your Dumb OC
Give Me A Good OC Any Day
Pathos, Angst, and the "Worst Possible" Scenario

I am still writing these posts with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, so you can blame any weirdness on Dragon tracks I missed during cleanup.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

100 Things I Learned From Writing Fanfiction #14--Not Having a Beta Is Not the End of the World

Most people who have been writing fanfiction for any length of time have a horror story or two about a bad beta. There's the person who just doesn't understand your work, who has very different views of the fandom and its characters than you do and consistently says, "bad characterization" when the real problem is vastly different interpretations of the character, or nitpicks at things so much that it makes the story no fun to write. There's the person whose grammar or other writing skills are at a lower level than yours, and so never finds anything to correct. I've had a few betas who just turned out to be so annoying or weird that I couldn't work with them (again, not naming names.) Most commonly, the problem with betas is finding one who will follow through and read your story — or just finding one at all. I spend more time posting beta inquiries or emailing beta requests than is probably healthy. I have a form letter that I wrote up so I could copy-paste and add the relevant details when I'm looking for a beta. That's how many times I have to look for a new one. I've even considered writing up a permanent beta request post that I can link people to. Most requests don't get a response, and of those that do, I would say one out of five people actually agrees and follows through to read the material I send them.

Some of that is probably because my stories are ridiculously long, and I don't really write in very many "cool" or popular fandoms. I use examples from my Stargate and Star Wars work when I write this blog series because those fandoms are more well-known, but neither one is enjoying the height of its popularity anymore. Most of the franchises that I write for have pretty small fan communities. My experience is not unique, though. A quick browse through forum threads or LiveJournal communities or even Tumblr posts related to fanfiction will show way more people looking for beta readers — begging for beta readers — then there are beta readers volunteering their services.

So, the odds are, if you're writing a story of any length, you're going to have to get multiple beta readers for different periods of time. If you're like me, there will be long stretches when you don't have a beta reader because the ones you had are busy or have other commitments. Having a beta reader is fantastic, and I recommend it whenever possible, but if you don't have one, here are some things you can try. (Disclaimer: most of these don't work overly well for me, but you may have different experiences with them. Try them out and see what works.)

100 Things I Learned From Writing Fanfiction #13--Every Good Fic Writer Needs Good A Beta

 "Beta" or "beta reader" is a fandom term for a person or group of people who will read your story and offer suggestions for improvement before you publish it. Beta readers are volunteer proofreaders, continuity checkers, sounding boards, and general critique providers. Not every beta reader excels at every part of that job description, and you may need one type of beta more than you need another.

It's hard to find a good beta. I've heard people say that they just don't have time to have their stories beta read. I've had betas flake out on me mid-story and disappear without a trace (In fact, I have a confession to make. Back in the early 2000s, I volunteered to beta read someone's AU, my computer died, and by the time I got a new one, I had lost that person's contact info and the Yahoo group that we met on was no longer in existence — so, to the girl whose story I flaked on, I'm very sorry and I hope that one day you found a beta reader who helped you out, because you had a really good premise and I liked the chapters that I saw.) I've also had beta readers who seem to find fault with every single thing I wrote and every word choice I made. There's a fine line between being a tough editor and being an asshole, and some people just don't know where that line is.

So, given all of that, why would I say that every good fic writer needs a good beta?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

100 Things I Learned From Writing Fanfiction #12--It Will Grow.

I've been working on a few of my projects by dictation while my arms try to heal. One of them is a fanfiction project  that I started back in 2010 and then put on hold in 2011 so that could take a hiatus from fandom activities. Originally, it was planned as a 50,000 word piece and it has now grown to 40,000 words before I have even finished the first major plot arc. So that lends me to three different blog topics, first and foremost being It Will Grow. Following that, I'd like to talk about beta readers. My first post on that topic is going to be Every Good Fic Writer Needs a Good Beta. The second will be Not Having a Beta Is Not the End of the World. So let's get started.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

It's About Time! (My Thoughts on Motive 1x11, Brute Force, and Disability on television.)

Back in mid July, I went to the doctor for the ongoing problems with my arms. She said I had tendinitis in both of them and that I should not type or do anything hobby related that required the use of my arms or hands. It was only supposed to have lasted for about three or four days, but I'm still having problems, and at this point, I am going to assume that RSI is going to be a problem for a while.

Unlike the last time something happened to an arm, this affects both of them and makes it really hard to do any graphic work or to write. I decided to start using a text to speech program, and I've been working with it for a little over a month now. I'm getting pretty good at dictation, so I thought it was time to try a blog post.  Took all night and most of the day, but here it is.

(If there are more typos than usual, you can blame the text-to-speech software.)

I've been following ABC's Motive since it began airing in February.  I was intrigued by the premise: focusing a procedural drama on the connection between the killer and the victim and the events that led up to the murder instead of the police investigation/whodunit.  I was also drawn to the idea of a female protagonist (Detective Angie Flynn) who was also a single mother and a small team of co-investigators, as opposed to a whole unit like in some of the larger ensembles that are still airing.  Up until last night, I found the show interesting enough to keep watching, sometimes intriguing, but not really as exciting as I thought it had the potential to be.

I'm behind on the show.  I have a habit of letting episodes build up.  So last night I watched episode 1x11, Brute Force, and I was not only excited, but I was impressed.  I wish I could say that I was excited about what the show was doing with a recurring cast member, but I am really impressed with Detective Flynn for the first time.  I was excited about the episode's killer-of-the-week.

Spoilers after the jump.