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Nov. 1st, 2006 09:03 pm
owl: pen handwriting; use it for journalling (writing)
What with all the people talking about NaNo, I had a go and wrote 500 words of a Star Wars fic. It's harder than it used to be; I think I've forgotten how. I don't know how people actually write 50000 words in a month.
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(no subject)

Sep. 16th, 2006 04:58 pm
owl: pen handwriting; use it for journalling (writing)
My dad phoned up BT about the fault in the line. Unhappily, they persist in outsourcing their call centres to India. I have to wonder what the employees make of someone speaking broad Ulster-Scots. I can hardly understand it over the phone and I live in the same country! Mutual unintelligibility is all I can imagine happening. They kept telling us that someone will phone back at two o'clock. Possibly that's two o'clock Himalayan time, because it certainly didn't happen at 2pm BST. Grrr.

I'm toying with the idea of doing NaNo this year. I'm not liking the thought of counting words in longhand (that's the way I write all my first drafts). There are three things I might write: a Star Wars fanfic I've been meaning to write for years, a rather nebulous idea for original SF, or the semi-autobiographical thing that everybody's supposed to write at the first attempt.
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The big issue of the last week or so was the case of Lori Jareo, who self-published her Star Wars fanfic and put it up for sale on amazon.com. She's probably the most notorious fanficcer in the world by now. Most of Star Was fandom and the ficcing world is talking about her, generally using synonyms of "stupid" and "idiot".

The responses I wanted to talk about weren't from ficcers, who were mostly concerned about the bad name this fool would give to the rest of fanfic. I was surfing a couple of blogs which have a wider audience, and I kept coming across comments like these:

She should have replaced the names and called it a homage, like real first-time writers do
Er, no. If your hero uses "the Power" to hypnotise people and move rocks around, is an orphan from a desert planet, with a long-lost twin sister and a mysterious enemy with a bad breathing problem, then no publishers will touch it, and even if they did, Lusasfilm would slap you down so hard, you bounce. Do you think it's going to fool the BBC if your thousand-year-old alien with as many lives as a cat travels through time and space in a red telephone box called the SIDRAT, and his mortal enemies shout "ANNIHILATE" before they zap people dead with their dishmops?

You can probably "file off the serial numbers" until the story is about "war in space", "crazy time travellers", or "wizards at school", but by that time, will it be interesting? People who want to write about Yoda or Daleks won't be satisfied with producing generic SF. The "serial numbers", the instantly recognisable characters and settings, are what draws them. They want more Doctor Who or Harry Potter, not something vaguely reminiscent of it. Anyway, even if all the bits that employ copyright lawyers are removed, what's left is probably as derivative as The Sword of Shannara.

Fanfic is a waste of time. It's not even any good for teaching anyone to write original work
You know, I've never met anyone who says, 'I want to write an original novel, but I've used up all my writing ability on fanfic!' Of course there are people who keep saying they're going to do an original but never start (like me), but are they any different from all the people who talk about their great novel idea they've never got around to writing? If you really want to write an original, and have the ability to do so, fanfic isn't going to stop you. And it might be a better novel. Beginning writers often perpetrate annoyingly flawless protagonists, purple prose, sloppy plotting and poor characterisation. However, if it's do as Malfoylvrr88, the situation is not irretrievable. If you are a writer, if you are becoming a writer, then you write and you write and you write. If you are trying to improve as a writer, it doesn't matter if you're practising on fic or originals. All right, fanfic isn't going to teach you worldbuilding. The backcloth is already in place. But the mechanics of writing, on the levels of prose, plot, characterisation, and structure—yes, if your betas know their job, and you are able to view your own writing with a critical mindset.

The thought of a first novel written by a twenty-four-year-old does not tend to inspire confidence. But a twenty-four-year-old who's been writing fic for ten years—Writing fic gets you past the Mary Sue stage. It can teach how to produce coherent prose in a recognisable language, how to avoid the azure orbs school of descriptive writing, how to structure a paragraph, a chapter and a novel, how to handle several subplots, how to write an action scene, how to gain readers' sympathy, how to write a consistent character. It doesn't matter if the character was originally written by someone else; if you can write Hermione Granger of the Fifth Doctor so that they're recognisable as their canonical selves, then you can probably create a self-consistent character over the length of a novel. At the very least, it's a stretching exercise, like writing 500 words in the style of Hemingway or Tolkien.

That is in the best case, where a writer wants to improve in fanfiction, where betas and concrit do their proper job. We've all seen little ego-stroking societies of mutual adoration, or authors who treat criticism like an attempt to mutilate their children, or mediocre writers with hundreds of fans. But this isn't confined to fanficcers—Ann Rice? Dan Brown, anyone? No matter how bad your fic is, there's always an archive that will take it (the Pit of Voles, for one). It doesn't have to rot in 87 slush piles, and you needn't get any rejection letters, unless you submit it to a moderated archive. But the rules of the real world still apply to some extent. If it's crap, people usually won't read it. If it's ludicrous, it will be mocked. If you submit it to a an archive, you may get an email saying 'it's plagiarised/dreck/we don't take Pokemon cross-overs'. Such is life. Bounce off that a few times, and hopefully you won't send death threats to publishing houses that turn down your magnum opus.

Fanfic 'dilutes' the original creation. It will lose the original creator money.
Oh, tosh. The writers and readers of fanfic are the ones with borderline-obsessive interest in the source material. They're the ones who've seen the film 18 times, own all the DVDs, the collectable figurines, the magazines....Fanfic is the methadone they go for when they can't get enough of the real thing. It fills in the gaps and extends into the happily-ever-after and past into the past, explores the scenarios that never happened. It's not going to replace the original work; it's always still there, and the vast majority of the money-paying public don't even know it's there and wouldn't be interested if they did. Sure, you can cut your epic Rise of the Sith into 100-word chunks on Powerpoint, shove it into a data projector and try to get people to pay to see it instead of Revenge of the Sith. Good luck.

(no subject)

Apr. 4th, 2006 09:16 pm
owl: (doctor 10)
I don't know whether it's the sheer perversity of life, or something psychological, but I seem to write much more when I've got a job or something to do. Perhaps it's because the frontbrain is occupied, leaving the unconcious to to what it likes. I've fished out an old Doctor Who fic I'd abandoned last year and I've written two pages more of it. Perhaps I'll have it done before the new series starts.

The way I write in Doctor Who is quite different to the way I write in Star Wars or Harry Potter. There, I usually have an idea of what the ending is going to be, and even chunks of the dialogue, verbatim. With Doctor who, I start to write without much idea of where I'm going at all, and just let the story wander on. It seems to have worked so far, but it does produce some rather odd fics. The current one is turning out to be one of those bizarre ones where you perceive the constructs of your own subconscious images of what you're expecting to see. (I've expressed that badly; does anyone understand it?) I thought I could never write anything like that. Oh, well, it's stretching me as a writer!
During the last episode of the series Characters A and B left Character C in a rather unpleasant situation because they thought he was dead (which he was, briefly). This spawned a lot of fics in which A and B go back to rescue C. C is canonically possessed of considerable technical knowledge and resource, not to mention charm. My fic had him getting himself out of the situation (which is what I think is likely to happen in the next series) and going on a desperate wild-goose chase after A and B, and eventually finding them with a lot of luck.

I didn't go into detail of the actual escape, I just stated that it happened and left it up to the readers on the basis that their imaginations would be equal to it. One person got back to me asking about it, and I responded with two of my canon speculations. The reader then responded: Thanks, you should really put these things in your fic you know. Plot holes can grind on people.

Now the point of the fic wasn't 'What happened to C after the series finished'. It wasn't plot driven; the focus of the fic was how much C wanted to find his friends, how happy they were to see him and how C reacted to certain changes in A that also happened in the last episode of the series. It was a character-story, not a plot- or event-story. I might go back and write the event-story, or the next series may fill it in better than I could.

The purpose of this is to ask: was I expecting to much of my readers? I know with torture and sex scenes it's often more effective to fade to black and let the reader's imagination fill in the blank. Can you do that with a bald statement: getting out of there wasn't a problem cos C is so cool? Is it too much to expect that readers can work out what the story's meant to be about?
I have been plodding with my writing lately for some reason, but I started typing up a H/L fic I wrote a long time ago, one whihc I thought needed a great deal of revision to make it ready to post, but so far it's been beter than I thought. It only takes a few word changes, removing the cringeworthy bits. And when I write new bits, it works well. The words all flow. Mind you, I haven't got to the bit with the plot in it yet. There were a few boggy patches, as I remember.
Don't you hate editing? I mean editing as in, scenes that end up on the cutting room floor. This piece of writing you expended such effort on is too long, or too embarrassing, or unnecessary to the plot, or just doesn't work, and you have to throw it away. It's my least favourite part of writing.
I was reading this thread on the Jedi Council fanfic boards, and I was astonished enough to produce this response:

I'm surprised that there are people around that actually would refuse anything but positive feedback. I go around begging for concrit; I can never get enough. Of course one doesn't always agree with it when one gets it! Nevertheless, to refuse it altogether makes me boggle. Concrit isn't flaming; it's suggestions for improvement, and if it were impolite, I would probably consider myself justified in ignoring it. Your characterisation makes my eyes bleed and your grammar is horrendous is not concrit. There is also a case for not humiliating the author publicly--if one is going to be harsh, PM or email is a more suitable medium.

I disagree with the poster who said that they would ignore concrit that came from a stranger or someone who wasn't an author themselves. They may write in a different fandom, be an English teacher or even a professional author or critic. You don't have to write yourself to know good (or bad) writing when you see it.

I saw people saying 'it's only fanfic' or that they 'cared about Star Wars more than writing' as well. I don't see that that's any reason why it shouldn't be good fanfic. It's not going to win any prizes for Great Literature (it's illegal anyway), but there is a greatness, a quality, that is specific to fanfiction. Even if one has no plans to write professionally, that doesn't mean that one shouldn't try to improve one's fanfic. If one is writing for love, one wants to show the characters and universe at their best, and how does one do that with sloppy writing? The characters and story of Star Wars are the subject matter, and the writing and characterisation of the fic is the medium through which they are seen. Badly written or characterised fic is like trying to see through a dirty window.

Basically my argument for concrit can be summarised as: What's the point of doing anything if it isn't done well?


I got a bit tangled up in ones and probably came off as supercilious as a result, but I thought that saying you sounded too accusatory, given that I was quoting specific posters.
I am so sick of that attitude, of people who would rather have their ego stroked rather than hear the truth. Every teenybopper who posts her wretched Mary Sue to the Pit of Voles displays the most pernicious form of it. NO FLAMZ PLZ--HOW DARE YOU CRITISE ME!! It's part of the same thing that produces the massive whinge session at every Awards session the JC has. I loathe the attitude that sacrifices good writing or good science, or, heck, just plain good work, to ego.
Nicked from [livejournal.com profile] sunshyndaisies In other news, I just soaked my uniform trousers, forgetting that I was working tomorrow. Oh dear.

Character
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Nobody will find a single mistake in your fics--not
a spelling error, not a grammar error, and
especially not a canonical mistake! You'd
probably be mortified at so much as even a
comma out of place. You work hard on your fics,
and does it ever show! Your plots are complex
and intelligent, and your characters are almost
perfect replicas of their canon counterparts.
Yours are the kind of fanfics people can get
lost in, and even forget they're not reading
the real thing! Thanks for writing such great
stuff. Just remember it's okay to losen up a
little.


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