FanFRICTION Friday

Hi, everybody!

WARNING! Deep thoughts ahead! Grab a beverage and some chocolate or something.

So, yeah. Went cray at ClexaCon the beginning of April and I cannot even begin to tell you all the awesome that went on. It’s truly something you have to behold your own selves to really understand it and to grasp the ethos of the gathering, which is one of the most amazing spaces I’ve ever been in. Quite possibly THE most.

It was a great space, and felt welcoming, but I know that there were most likely tensions I didn’t see, and issues and drama that I wasn’t privy to. That’s the nature of gatherings like this. Lots of different personalities, creative clashes, and underlying issues regarding systemic marginalization that occurs even in LGBTQ spaces like this.

I’ve been part of fandoms most of my life, and I see some of the toxicity that can infuse them. Dreaded “ship wars” (ship in fanspeak means “relationship”), in which some people ship certain characters and others ship others and never the twain shall meet, resulting in not-so-much-fun in the fandom. And because fandoms are microcosms of the world in which we all live, there are misogynists, racists, and anti-LGBTQ people who participate in fandoms. And some of these people are themselves LGBTQ. I see biphobia and anti-trans sentiment in LGBTQ fandoms as well as non-LGBTQ fandoms, in addition to racism and misogyny. And I see ageism, too, whether it’s nastiness directed by younger fans at older or older directing it at younger.

But I also see a lot of love, respect, support, and an unbelievable amount of creativity flowing in and out of fandoms. I’ve seen fandoms effect incredible change, spread a whole lot of good cheer and positive energy, and grow into amazing networks and friendships.

Like the world-at-large, fandoms are what you make of them and because we are human, we bring all the messy, angst-ridden, hurt, beautiful, and redemptive aspects of being human into them.

I bring this up because almost two years ago I started writing fanfic and posting it. I’ve written a bit of fanfic in the past, but it lurks in the nether regions of my laptop and I used it as a stress-free writing exercise. That is, no deadline, no expectations, no pressure. Nobody has ever seen that fanfic on my hard drive except me, and I reveled in the sheer joy of writing when I was working on the story. It was me, the story, the characters, and nothing beyond sharing the adventure with them.

But one of the fandoms I’ve been participating in made me want to write fanfic again and post it, as my contribution to a fandom that is still reeling, in some ways, from the death of a beloved lesbian character.

Here is a handy hint about that character (in all her badassery):

Utterly gratuitous photo of Commander Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) from The 100.

In fanfic, we can re-write the story, and the character lives on in canon and AU (alternative universe), and can help provide a bit of healing to fans — especially younger ones who perhaps haven’t had to deal with the crappy bury your gays trope as long as older fans have. And maybe we can provide inspiration to others to write more stories, and maybe take those stories into other arenas. Like, say, TV and film, and thus really start changing the industry and bringing stronger and better representation to traditionally marginalized people and communities in media.

So the fanfic I’ve been writing in that fandom has been immensely profound, in some ways, for me. I wrote my longest-ever tome (weighing in at about 509,000 words and over a thousand single-spaced pages), and it required a bit of research and use of the language developed for the show by a linguist. It required intensive plotting that involved political intrigue, battles both personal and beyond, inner demons, and romance set in a post-apocalyptic world. It was an intense experience, and required attention to detail because I was using canon elements and re-writing an entire season of a particular TV show.

I worked on it almost every day for over a year, posting every week or couple of weeks, because in the fanfic world, posting regularly is important and can make or break a journey. But keeping to a schedule like that forced me to really write, even when I wasn’t feeling like it, or had other things to do.

And it was so much fun.

Why?

Because I was writing it for me, as part of my healing from the BYG trope and, frankly, from the toxicity that has become our world, seemingly accelerated in the last few years. I didn’t have deadlines on which businesses depended. If I didn’t post every week, I didn’t lose any money. Nobody worried about something not being available on Kindle or in some other format. No stress over cover designs. No money spent on posting it, as the site I use is free (though donations are appreciated).

I had forgotten how much fun writing is, and how much fun I have doing it.

Fanfic reminded me of that, and it’s a good thing, friends, because I’ve been wavering about stopping writing for publication.

Yeah, go ahead. Read that again. I’ve been thinking about stopping writing outside of fanfic.

It shouldn’t be too surprising, since I do things backasswards all the time. A lot of lesfic writers START in fanfic and then move into publishing. I started publishing lesfic first THEN moved into the fanfic world and I’ve seriously been thinking about not writing anything else besides fanfic.

source

I mean, I’ve been writing lesfic most of my life and  publishing it for over 10 years, and I’ve been wondering about the point of it all, about why I bother publishing anything I write when it seems it doesn’t make much of a difference. I remind myself that I love writing fiction (I do), and I love working in publishing (I truly do), but it seems the work I write for publication doesn’t change anything or mean anything, especially in the current environment.

I’ve been feeling like I’m shouting into a void, and everything I write and then publish just…disappears after it’s published. It’s there for a minute, and then people move on to the next thing and all the time and energy and work I put into it means…nothing.

Fanfic reminded me that I write for the love of writing, first and foremost. And ultimately, I have to do that because if I don’t love writing, then I really shouldn’t be doing it. And fanfic also put me directly in touch with people who read it and offer immediate feedback and comment (it’s not for the faint of heart…lol). There’s an immediate response to fanfic, and some people let me know that my stories have made them FEEL, and ultimately, made them feel GOOD.

That, too, is why I write. For connection.

So even though there can be toxicity in fandoms, there is also a lot of hope. There’s a lot of support and sharing and learning, and a lot of it is immediate, something that doesn’t really happen when you publish a book. And some authors don’t hear from readers about the book they spent so much time preparing. So they never know if anybody cared. They have to trust that somebody out there did, whether from reviews or sales, which are more impersonal than the back-and-forth in the fanfic world, but it’s not the same as hearing directly from people who read their book and it moved them to contact the author and let them know that it did.

I’ve enjoyed that immediate contact/connection in the fanfic world. And it’s making me feel a bit better about writing for publication.

So, yes, I’ve been thinking about some things and wondering what my next steps are. As deeply tired as I am on an almost cellular level in this arena that is showcasing the absolute worst of humanity, I do know how important it is to tell our stories.

And I’m working on connecting the energy I find writing fanfic to the stuff I do for publication.

Heh. Like everybody else up in here, I’m a work in progress, too.

At any rate, happy Friday, all. And may The Force be with us all.

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27 comments

  1. Absolutely loved Grounded, Andi. I thought it was brilliant. Looking forward to reading bang shui as well 🙂

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    • No you goof that’s not what anyone is saying. You’re incredibly talented no matter *what* you decide to write. I’m just really digging on your fanfic lately 🙂 But I wouldn’t be mad if Far Seek Chronicles got some love in books 2 or 3 🙂 🙂 🙂 or even if you put something together entirely new. Just keep your head up, either way.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Your writing has made a difference, you are not just shouting into the void, I promise. I’ve not read your fanfic yet, but it is in my TBR pile/list.
    And I agree with you, writing fanfic is fun, and demanding and rewarding. Don’t stop writing…either for $ or fanfic. Your fans will miss you if you do!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. But would they, though? There are THOUSANDS of authors out there to choose from, after all. So I don’t really think they would. And they could still read my writing. It just wouldn’t be published. It would be posted on fanfic forums.

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  4. Andi, I’ve never written (and have hardly read) fanfiction, but I know what you mean about publishing. You pour hundreds or thousands of hours into the writing, polishing, rewriting, and then money spent on editing and the cover and formatting and marketing (at least I do, since I don’t have those skills) – only to find sales abysmal. I know we don’t set out to write in the hope of becoming bestsellers, but doesn’t the very act of publishing bring a bit of “sales gratification” with it? I think that element can’t help but seep in. So, I can understand the appeal of writing something purely for the love of the writing journey – something that has no tangible attached to it. Whatever you write, I hope you keep writing.

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  5. I’m not sure it does bring “sales gratification.” At least not for me. It’s a strange position I’m in, because I really love writing but I’m just not seeing the point of publishing my own work– of putting all that work into something I write and spending lots of money to do it, and not even breaking even. I personally LOVE working in the publishing industry, and helping other authors in that regard, but it just doesn’t seem my stuff does much once it’s published. It could be that I’m not doing the right marketing. But it could also be that I just kinda suck at this whole thing. LOLOL

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  6. Andi, I should have been clearer. Maybe I should have said “lack of sales gratification”. When you publish, the gratification switches a bit – at least it does for me. It goes from an internal sense of gratification of having written something, to the external gratification of waiting to see what readers think of it. That means sales and/or reviews. And that, as they say, is the rub. And where it seems you’re at. I’m not sure how or if that can be reversed once you publish. And like you, I’m not sure I’ve ever broken even (I’ve never actually tracked the hours I’ve spent writing a book). Perhaps that’s why the fanfic thing is where you’re getting your gratification now – writing for the pure love of it. And that’s pretty cool!

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    • It has been pretty freeing. I’m just not sure anymore why I write for publication. I mean, I started writing for the love, and then the next logical step was publishing my stuff, so I did that and then I realized I’m working my ass off and spending a ton of money to get things on the market only to lose all that money when sales don’t do anything. And I’m not an amateur at this whole marketing thing. I think there are people who just don’t want to pay those of us who create (it’s this expectation, anymore, that all content online should be free and why buy books anyway), and in a way, maybe I’ve been forced to just accept that, so why the f*ck not write for free? I mean, it’s cheaper than spending tons of money and not getting it back in sales. *shrug*

      I dunno. I still have lots of stories I’m thinking about that would make cool books, but I’m balking at the cost of producing them…sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey, Andi! I spent all of 2016 reading nothing but Clexa fanfic, thousands of pages, from alternate endings to alternate universes–it was the salve on my broken heart and I wasn’t alone in that. The response from the fandom was awesome, and the writing! It was funny and sweet, from the slow burn and angst to the meet cutes and the happy endings–always the happy endings! I fell in love with every writer I read, because they knew what everyone needed and they gave in such wonderful ways, and I always left kudos and encouraging words in the comments.

    Some of my most favorites are still on my tablet and I hope that the authors never take them down. I’ve gone back on occasion and read them again, and I still feel all the feels even though I know how the stories will end.

    Fanfiction brought the world together at a time when we needed it most. I will always stand up for it.

    Take the path that makes your heart beat a little faster. It’ll be worth it.

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  8. I think we all think like that, but it depends on how many people are dependent on you, how much it costs to keep a roof over your head, a car, all that.

    Back to the basics is a good place to start.

    I stripped my life down to the barest essentials so I only work to pay the bills. I’m living like I did when I was twenty. It’s only me, though, that I have to consider, so I’m lucky that way. I may come to regret this, especially when I’m pushing a shopping cart with all my worldly possessions down some street one day, but I’m old and Life goes by way too quickly. I’m writing every day, so it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

    What’d JK Rowling say? I may be paraphrasing but it was something like “I had to hit rock-bottom to find out how high I could go.” I’ve never taken that to only mean financially, for what it’s worth.

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  9. Damn, Andi. I’ve been where you are – as a matter of fact, I’ve floundered for a couple of years in the void. Do what feels right to you. Make yourself happy.

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  10. Right? I mean, what’s the point, really, of writing to publish? I’m just not clear on it anymore. And things could change. I am working on some fun stories that I may end up publishing, but I really need to totally revise my expectations about what it means to publish. I think I’ve lost sight of some things.

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  11. Ha. I have a million things to do and deadlines that are tighter than a fish’s bumhole, but I really have to comment on this.
    First up, I love your writing. I do. Really. There was the short story you pointed me to about a couple struggling with the aftermath of infidelity. It was this knife-edge of pain and your writing was simply glorious. Subtle, understated and it still stands as one of the best stories I’ve read, bar none. That doesn’t mean I can remember what it’s called though. I suck like that. And there was the breast cancer story that I was honoured to include in an anthology I edited. Bloody marvellous. I could keep going, as I love your writing, but I have more to say.
    Seems to me, that fandom is giving you the love that you’re missing in published stories. Yeah, I get that. Sure, there are some wonderful reviews from bloody awesome readers, and there’s the occasional WTF review where you wonder what book they actually read as it sure doesn’t sound like yours, but most of the time, it’s a big, fat nothing.
    Crickets.
    So if fandom gives you the love and the mojo to keep writing and creating and doing something that you love, then GO FOR IT. As you’ll be doing it for the purest of reasons (love, to make people happy, and creating exactly what you want) rather than writing what you think will make you the most money. HAH. Maybe you’ll find your way back to published writing, maybe you won’t. But what will you have lost along the way by only writing fanfic? Nothing that I can see. As you point out, there are gazillions of lesfic writers around now, and stars shoot up into the stratosphere with one perfect book (or one perfect marketing plan) and then fall away like panties with loose elastic. So you could, if you wanted, make a triumphant return with the perfect book at some point in the future. You’ll still have your backlist. You’ll still have readers that will remember you. And if it’s saved you production money, deadline angst, and stifled creativity, then that’s got to be good, right?
    I’ll be honest: I haven’t read your fanfic, and I doubt I will. I don’t know the fandom (I know, that’s a shooting offence) but I watch very little TV, hardly any series, and I haven’t read any fanfics since the days of Star Trek DS9 and Voyager and the wonderful Battlestar Galactica remake. But that’s okay. You’re not writing for me, or for anyone except you, and YOU don’t owe ME anything.
    Go for it, Andi. Do what makes you happy.
    Love and hugs, Cheyenne xo

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  12. “Like panties with loose elastic.”

    Omg. I’m one of your hugest fans, Cheyenne! And that story is “Cookies,” the one you’re thinking about. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, as hard as it was to write.

    Anyway, thanks for the words. REALLY appreciate it. Speaking of my backlist, I’m trying to get it back on the market. In the meantime, I’m just having fun in fandom. 🙂

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  13. If fanfiction is one way to manage the possible fatigue or disillusionment you’re experiencing with writing for publishing, then why not allow it to have that role in your life? For however long you need it to be at the helm of that role?

    It’s clear you love writing. Nothing should stand in the way of that love. It’s a great love. So, if you need to step back from publishing to recuperate and rejuvenate and “get back to the basics” within the realm of fanfiction—and perhaps let those ideas you may want to hammer out for publishing, down the road or not, percolate—by all means do as such and don’t be so hard on yourself about it.

    Do what Andi Marquette needs to do in order to be her best self. There’s something to be said about the positive feedback, connections and dedication within fanfiction communities. When you need that, you need that. I’m reading “Bang Shui” on AO3 and I have “Some Kind of River” and “From The Boots Up” on KU. I’ll read you, the writer, in her many manifestations.

    Just don’t stop writing. Even if, at some points, it’s only for yourself. Barring some unforeseen events, the publishing industry should still be here when/if you return to it. But, writing is a part of you… allow it to be what you need it to be when you need it to be.

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  14. There are monetary factors at play, too. I just can’t afford to publish my stuff. It’s a substantial investment to get something on the market, and I’m just not a popular enough writer to get that investment back. That’s the other part of this equation. Maybe I was never meant to be a popular writer. When I’m writing, I’m in the middle of the story, and I’m caught up in it. But after 12-13 books that I’ve written and published, I’m still not a popular writer. And that’s okay. But I can’t keep spending money on publishing and not getting it back. I might as well just put my stuff out for free, because at least then I’m not spending money on it and ultimately losing money. That seems…odd, to do that. So there’s that issue, too. Regardless, I love writing and I will keep doing it in some form.

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  15. Selfishly, I want you to keep writing, because I love your books, in fact you were one of the first lesfic writers I tuned into. I haven’t read much in the way of fanfic, but I have read your bang shui. Class. If you’d released that as an actual book? straight onto my kindle. You just seem to ‘get ‘ characters, and boy, do you make the romance real!
    The thing is, and I might be wrong (I frequently am) but if you aren’t happy in what you do, what is the point? Life is terribly hard, and where you have a chance at doing something you love, then grasp it with both hands. If fanfic gives you that, then travel that road and see where it takes you. I am so sorry that such an amazing author isn’t popular, but take it from me, your work does not disappear into a void. You do reach people. You do make a difference.
    BTW, if you do quit the writing for publishing world, you’d make a bloody good ‘author’s advisory aunt’ … triple A with a difference!

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  16. We shall see. I may publish a few things to ebook only; it’s not as expensive as the print route in a lot of ways. And I will be making my backlist available again, too. And I am a publisher for others. I’m not going to stop doing that because I like the act of publishing, and the work and attention to detail. I love that, actually. But my stuff…it’s just not that popular. LOLOL

    And I can’t write a typical formula for romance or any other genre. It’s not me. And it doesn’t seem to sell. *shrug* So it is what it is.

    In order to publish “bang shui”, I have to change all the names, all the references to canon fic, which are embedded throughout, and make it something it’s not, and I think it’ll lose its appeal and part of its soul, because it’s not meant to be something other than what it is. Even if I published it, it’s not quite “formula,” and thus would probably not find an audience. It’s fun fanfic, and that’s what it needs to be.

    And I already do a lot of mentoring on the side. I do it because it’s the right thing to do and it feeds my soul. I think that’s why I’m writing fanfic. Because THOSE stories do seem to make a difference, especially for younger LGBTQ people who maybe don’t have the money to spend on books, or don’t know lesfic is a thing. Fanfic is representation, and it’s extremely important that younger people see it. I feel like maybe I am contributing somehow by writing it, and it feels like writing in a pure sense–because I love it and it’s contributing to a world of rep.

    That said, THANKS FOR READING MY STUFF!!!!! MUCH appreciated. We’ll see how things go. I’m pretty good at being flexible and adjusting as things change. 🙂

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  17. Andi, that WAS deep. And good, and informative. I, for one, have not read the fanfic – but after reading your subject and how you re-wrote the first season, has me running for it. It’s not for lack of want but lack of energy to get things done at all and I totally admire everything you manage to do. As a reader, I really love your published work as well but MAN did you hit the nail on the head!

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  18. I do seem to have tapped into something. I posted this on my Facebook timeline and holy crap, several other authors admitted they’d been feeling the same things. It’s not just me, which made me feel much less alone. 🙂

    I’m re-thinking some things. I need to shift my perspective, because it’s not working at the moment, and I need to re-think this whole writing and publishing thing. Because it’s not working for me right now as it stands. So I’m going to take a different approach and see what happens. But right now, I’m still thinking.

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  19. […] busy woman—writer, blogger, publisher, fangirl of various fandoms, advocate. She blogged HERE about her struggles with whether to continue writing for publication (and losing money at it) […]

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