I've been doing a lot of thinking about Claire's post from last week – the one where she discussed writing X-Files fan fiction. As I said in the comments section, I never wrote any kind of fan fiction… but I did do my fair share of reading it. (Claire and Diana are both right, btw. Most of it is pretty bad.) I'll say it point blank – I don't think there's anything wrong with people who write it. Heck, I think it's a great way to share your love of certain characters and/or worlds. I say go for it if you have an inclination to do so. Just my humble opinion. I'm certainly not in Diana's position, so to say I would feel that way if I were is making a huge leap. She's certainly entitled to take the stand she has….not going to get an argument from me on that point. J
My topic today is sort of an off shoot of that discussion. This week I started thinking back to my first work in progress. I'll be frank about the whole thing. I read and loved Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series… I think at the time, five of the seven current books were out. I DEVOURED them, back to back…in a very short period of time. When I finished, I was sort of… well, ruined for all other books for a while. (I think a lot of you know exactly what I mean when I say this.) I can't recall what books I tried at the time, but nothing matched Diana's level of writing, storytelling, world-building… character development. Gah, I wanted MORE. MORE.. If I could've shot it straight into my veins, I would have.
Left with no other option…and with the knowledge that I had always wanted to write a book (the ups and downs of my forays into the writing world is something for another post)…I threw all caution, sanity, reason…heck you name it, I threw it…to the wind and decided I would write my own Gabaldon-esque story. I could do whatever the heck I wanted with it. It was MY story…MY characters…and I could stay in their world for as long as I wanted. If I grew bored, I could quit. No big deal. In the meantime, perhaps I could capture a little of Diana's lightning in a bottle and create something wonderful.
So, I began… and let me tell you, it was CRAP.
But by God, I loved that crap! And good or bad, I trudged along, churning out page after page. And you want to know something really crazy? Not only did I discover how much I truly loved to write, but it turned out that some of that crap wasn't half bad. Oh, it's obviously a first novel…there's no doubt about that…but there are some real gems in there that I'm still very proud of.
After about a year of keeping my book on the complete down low, I joined Compuserve's Books and Writers Forum. Yes, I discovered it through Diana's website – I went to see when her next book was coming out – and YES, I sometimes fantasized that I would post my writing and Diana would swoop in and say YOU'RE A GENIUS and I'd be "discovered." As you can probably guess, that didn't happen. J I did get noticed, however, but mostly because I was another "Diana wannabe."
Needless to say, I found a home at the forum. While I may have strayed in there as a bit of a fan, I stayed because more than anything else, I wanted to write and I had found a place that was chock full of people who could teach me. I posted like a mad woman. I spent so much time there that senior members started to worry. I soaked it All in. I eventually joined the crit section and started posting large chunks of my story. That's when we come full circle… someone up and told me that I was riding on Diana's coattails. In essence, I was writing barely disguised Fan Fiction.
*Very Loud Record Scratch!*
OH HELL'S NO.
This, folks, this is when Jen lost her lil' mind. I went BALLISTIC.
Okay, not really. I was extremely upset by the comments this person made. I felt insulted on just about every level. Not only because she had hurt my feelings and completely disregarded everything I had personally brought to the table – i.e. original characters, my writing style, voice – that certain unique spark that I have as a storyteller – but because, in a way, I saw her comments for what they were on a grander scale. I put myself back in the early days, when I had first read Diana's books and wanted nothing more than to write a story that would allow me to stay in a world I'd completely fallen in love with. What if someone had told me NOT to do it… that it would be lazy…that it would be "peering over the shoulder" of another writer and that it was just…well, wrong? Would I have taken that leap into writing?
I honestly don't know. All I know is that even though I recognized her words for what they were – i.e. total bullshit – I seriously felt about THIS small. Like the world would forever view me as a second rate copycat. In truth, I cried… a lot. I went into a final and flunked it. I was a mess.
But you know what I discovered through it all? By God, I had become a fucking writer. You can't get that upset over something you only have a passing fancy for. Writing was in my blood by that point – in the air I breathed. I woke up thinking about my story and went to bed dreaming of my characters. Whether or not I started with the most original idea, my story was real…it was good. And dammit, I deserved a little more respect for all of the hard work and passion I had put into it.
In a way, I guess that's why I don't have a problem with fan fiction writers. Even though they're piggy-backing on the work of another, they still have a passion for what they're writing. They have their own original voices and stories to tell. So what if they're told in someone else's world? Something really great might come out of it. Someone might discover that he/she is a writer. It shouldn't matter that she chose to cut her teeth on a story that wasn't 100% original. The important thing is that she DID IT.
I have to admit I never did finish that novel. And yes, this woman's comments had everything to do with it. I lost my confidence in the story and felt a very strong need to prove I could write something else. Anything else. Eventually I began FAKING IT…and have since moved on to other books…and then back to FI again. (heh) But yeah, I still have a soft spot in my heart for CHILD OF THE MIST. Oh yeah… Aidan…Morgan…anyone remember them? I certainly do.
My point in relating this all is that it Doesn't Matter what you write. Just write. The rest will work itself out. Perhaps you'll discover that writing is not your thing…perhaps you'll move on to other projects that are wholly unique to you. The important thing to remember is that each of has to plod along our own writing path. WE are the ones in charge of how fast we'll go, which forks in the path we'll take… and from my lips to your ears… NO ONE has the right to tell you how to get there. Capiche?
*Jen steps off her soapbox*