February 28, 2011

On the dangers of complacency

Years ago, I started writing fanfiction partly as a fun way to keep writing when I was dry on ideas for original fiction and partly as a means of honing my craft. What I didn't know then is that writing fanfiction breeds complacency, and complacency is detrimental to an aspiring writer.

Instant Gratification vs. The Long and Winding Road

The thing about fanfiction is that it gives writers what the agonizingly long process of writing original-fiction-with-hope-to-publish doesn't: instant gratification. You whip up a story about ready-made characters fans of the canon (original source material) are already emotionally invested in, post it to a community like fanfiction.net, and BAM, an immediate audience ready to read and review. No need to wait on submission, publication, distribution, book reviews and advertising and publicity, all of which is a buttload of work and can take a minimum of a year or two to... infinitely longer.

Too Much of a Good Thing Can Lead to Doucheyness

But one of the greatest things about fandom is also the greatest cultivator of complacency--the fans. Don't get me wrong, I love a positive review. Who doesn't? Publishing is an extremely subjective business, but fandom and fanfiction is a million times more so because there are no gatekeepers and no quality control. I've seen countless fanfic writers post in their Author's Notes that they're open to concrit because they want to improve. But if a hundred people review a poorly written fanfic with glowing comments about how amazing it is, that writer who believed their writing needed improvement might begin to think otherwise.

The writer grows complacent, confident in their ability because, hey, all these reviewers said so and it's exactly what they wanted to hear. So when a reader comes along who takes that Author's Note to heart and leaves concrit, instead of reacting graciously, the writer responds with defensiveness and, in some cases, arrogance: "Well, all my FANS think my writing is awesome/didn't have a problem/haven't complained so who the hell are you to tell me differently? You obviously have no idea what you're talking about."

Concrit Is Not a Personal Attack (when it's actually concrit)

The thing about being an aspiring writer is that you must be able to take constructive criticism. It's a part of growing a skin thick enough to take all the rejection that will inevitably pave the way to success. You have to take criticism and rejection. You have to want to improve, to strive, to never give up.

Learn to be Objective

I'm not saying you can't love your writing. It's perfectly healthy to write something and be protective of it because of the hours spent laboring over it and the love and effort poured into it. But it's important to also acknowledge that it could be improved, greatly even. I look at my writing and I know, without a doubt, that there's a lot I have to work on. I rely on my crit partners to be honest with me, because I have trouble pinpointing my weaknesses myself. It takes quite a bit of effort, typically, to alter your style, to make changes that you maybe aren't comfortable with, in an effort to improve. So change can oftentimes be slow, painstakingly so. But is it worth it? Heck yes.

Being objective is hard, sometimes impossible, but try. If you become too enamored of your own writing, you risk becoming stagnant, which--by definition--is the greatest impediment to growth.

Fandom Fame Does Not Equal Published Writer

An amazing thing about fandom is that it opens you to this community of writers and readers, all of whom share a love of the canon. I've met some of my most enduring and best friends there. But I've also seen a lot of aspiring writers never break free of fandom. They've built a loyal readership, they interact and befriend their fans, they become "famous" in their own little corner of the internet. And for those in it just for fun, then hey, I've got no complaints. But for the ones claiming to be aspiring writers, it's easy to fall under the spell of perceived internet fame and forget what you began writing for.

I spent five years writing fanfiction, and I'm still divided about it. On the one hand, writing fanfiction--and, more importantly, reading it by much better writers--genuinely, truly, without a doubt improved my writing beyond anything I learned in college. I will always be grateful for that and to the writers in fandom who are some of the best I have ever read, published or otherwise. They inspired me to keep improving, because I wanted to write like them. On the other hand, I completely put off original fiction until the last two years when I looked back at my time spent in fandom and thought, "I've wanted to be a published writer my whole life. What the hell have I been doing?"

Fanfiction doesn't apply to everyone, of course, but the dangers of complacency is very real for all aspiring writers and the message is universal.

Never stop striving to improve. Never give up. Write, write, write ♥

My fanart of Naruto, the fandom I loved longest and hardest (possibly why he is in a state of undress *cough*):

February 25, 2011

Favorite books from childhood

First! I got this rocking award from Brenda Drake:
Thank you so much for the love, Brenda! ♥

The rules for accepting this award:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave the award
2. State seven things about yourself
3. Pass the award on to any recently discovered great bloggers

Seven things about myself
1. I was born in a village in the mountains of Laos and lived on a Thailand refugee camp until I was three.
2. I have twelve nephews.
3. Celtic music, particularly the instrumentals, makes me happy. And sad. But a happy sad.
4. I owned a book about unicorns as a child. But it wasn't just any book about unicorns. It contained pictures of live unicorns and information about their various habitats around the world. I was convinced they were real. I'm still a little convinced they're real.
5. I wrote my first proper (beginning, middle, end) story when I was eight. It was a Cinderella-retelling of Persephone. (And she had an awesome purse that glittered)
6. My daughter is my most important person.
7. I like to pretend this place exists:

I'm passing the award onto ThatGirlAni b/c she was my first follower, and I definitely want to see her blogging more! *hug*

And now! Here's a few favorite books from my childhood.

• Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
• The Fairy Rebel by Lynne Reid Banks
• The Betrayal by R.L. Stine (and the other books in the Fear Street Saga Trilogy)
• The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
• The Giver by Lois Lowry

What were some of your favorite books?

February 23, 2011

W.I.P. Wednesday

I've decided Sample Sundays will now be Work-in-progress Wednesdays. I'm not sure why, but I am just that unpredictable! Who knows, next it might be Tear-my-hair-out Tuesday or This-novel-is-killing-me Thursday. Frazzled Friday?

*cough* Right! Here's an excerpt from a short story I'm working on:

Removed!

Fantasy, of course ^^ Contemporary fiction, while definitely something I enjoy, has never held quite the same magic (literally and figuratively) for me. Of course, that might be because I'm mentally fifteen, but I firmly believe that you're never too old to believe in magic!

I leave you with Kanda-faery because, in my head, everyone is more awesome as a faery:

What's your favorite genre to write? Read?

And! If you've got some sample sundays/teaser tuesdays/wip wednesdays/artful alliteration is an @$$, please share in the comments! ♥

February 21, 2011

Rivalships straddle the line

As an introduction to myself and my blog, I thought I'd talk about my favorite type of relationship in literature--the rivalship.

For me, the term 'rivalship' doesn't just mean two people competing for a title or goal. More often than not, they're on the same side. The term 'rivalship' goes well beyond simple rivalry--they compete on an internal level: strength, validation, acknowledgment, etc. Rivalships have more friction than not. They challenge each other mentally, morally, and sometimes even physically.

BUT! And this is important--they also share a unifying factor, be it duty or camaraderie or justice or a mutual (even if grudging) respect for each other. This is essential to the relationship and what sets it apart from being ProtagonistxAntagonist or just two people who hate each other. They straddle the line between love and hate, but ultimately fall on the love side. Sexual tension is also great, but it has to evolve past that--or start with something else and evolve into that lol. These are the couples that take a whole lot of effort to work, but are so very worth it in the end--and are that much stronger for it.

Rivalships have the potential to drive characterization and plot (to an extent, of course). Let's say that character X is angry and jaded. Character X meets character Z, someone who hopes and dreams despite a dark past and a darker future, and X thinks Z is a naive fool, but Z is just so optimistic that X grudgingly learns to hope again too. But maybe Z is secretly terrified because she has the weight of the world on her shoulders (or maybe just pressure from parents and peers) and, despite how exasperating X is, Z appreciates it--relies on it to keep her sane--when X treats her like just another human being. Rivalships bring out the best and worst in both sides. They frustrate the reader with constant external and internal conflict and, at least for me, pushes them to read on.

And, sometimes, seeing two characters who secretly like each other clash can be hilarious! =P

Disclaimer: This doesn't mean I don't like other sorts of relationships. When couples are romantic and sweet and just fit together--that's lovely to read as well (like Anna and Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss).

Rivalships that I can think of off the top of my head:
• Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)
• Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler (Gone With the Wind)
• Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (Hunger Games--literally rivals there)
• Val and Ravus (Valiant)
• Nick and Mae (Demon's Lexicon)
• Aislinn and Keenan (Wicked Lovely)

I leave you with one of my favorite rivalships of all time, Allen and Kanda from the manga D.Gray-man (who are not even canon and also happen to be both male):

Art by me :)

What rivalships can you think of? Which are your favorite? Or, if you're not a fan of rivalships, why not?

February 16, 2011

Welcome!

First post. Pretty sure no one is reading this yet, but I'm an aspiring writer of YA fiction and this blog is for me to talk about writerly things and my journey first toward representation and then, hopefully, publication :)
If there's anything specific (writing-related or not) you'd like to see me talk about, please let me know! <3
 

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