"I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth."

--Ursula K. Leguin

November 2009

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'Training wheels' my ass

Brief rant, apropos of a passing remark that broke the camel's back.

I am sick and fucking tired of fanfic being presented as "training wheels". That's a load of BS. Fic is its own practice, with its own locally variable stylistic and presentational rules and its own systems of distribution and compensation, all of which are thoroughly distinct from commercial writing practices. Authors may enjoy writing both. They may write both sequentially. But fic is not somehow an annex of commercial publishing, nor is commercial publishing some kind of evolution of fic. Face it. Those first hundred thousand words are going to be crap no matter how you slice it; if they're written as fanfic instead of drawer-fic, it may appear that writing fic helped one get better. In fact, writing period helps one get better. Do not fall into the logical fallacy of mistaking the venue for the mechanism.

What pisses me off the most is the fanwriters who naively embrace this myth because it offers fast validation. Do they not see that this is the same political maneuver (albeit on quite a different scale) as saying "give us rights because we can't help being deviant" instead of "give us rights because we're human beings too, fuckers". No, of course they don't see it, never mind. The point is this "validation" is only available to writers who implicitly agree to denigrate their fanfic work, to be a shill, a practitioner of fanfic who presents it as of lesser value than commercial work. This offends me in purely logical terms, the two not being commensurate in the first place. It also gets me wound up in defense of my community, even considering that I want to give the vast majority of my fellow community members a good trouting on a regular basis.

So rather than being bamboozled into apologizing for our activity, try this one: "I write fanfic because I like it."
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Comments

(Anonymous)
Oct. 11th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
I take a lot more chances with fanfic than original fic, which means that the fanfic comes out better than my original work. I'm not sure what that dynamic is, but I think it's due to feeling a lot more relaxed with the medium because it is 'someone else's sandbox.'

Cheers,
Phae (7veils)
Oct. 11th, 2009 05:57 pm (UTC)
*nods* Fic definitely supports more experimentation, and I think that has something to do with the local conditions we write for.
Oct. 11th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
This, so much.

All of it. So much. If someone were to replace "fanfic" with, say, "romance", and say that writing romance novels were "training wheels", then those who wrote romance novels would get offended.

So why is it that it's different with fanfic, that those who write it have to make some sort of apologetic or self-deprecating remark about it? I myself may never know.
Oct. 11th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
Exactly! We have our own standards and we don't bleeding well need anyone else's.
Oct. 11th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
And standards vary between fandoms, and even between subsets of the same fandoms.

Actually, that'd be really interesting to write about...
Oct. 12th, 2009 10:08 am (UTC)
Whilst I agree that it's just wrong to label fanfic "something to be shucked off like a despised excess skin when one progresses to 'real fiction'", could I also suggest that fanfic does often function as an extremely useful set of "training wheels"?

I mean, how often does one put a completely original short-story out there and receive forty reviews from strangers? Feedback is great. Feedback lets you know that you did something right, lets you know what you did wrong (I wince at some of the errors I've made, which were corrected for me by helpful strangers) - and sometimes a lack of feedback is itself eloquent.

Does this mean one becomes a "feedback whore"? Not at all, but ultimately one does write to communicate a particular vision to others (otherwise one might as well just write for the drawer), and it's always helpful to hear whether one's succeeding in that objective. That's why the venue can itself be important.
Oct. 12th, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
I agree in part, at least that some feedback can help one gauge one's effect on an audience, but fandom feedback as a body is geared toward fandom tastes and modes. Getting better at those won't help one with commercial tastes and modes (with a few exceptions for limited genre overlap in places like romance novels).
Oct. 12th, 2009 03:27 pm (UTC)
I agree. I'd also like to add that being able to write good fanfic does not automatically translate to being able to write good original work (the reverse is true too, obviously). I know writers who produce amazing original work but who can't work with someone else's characters no matter how hard they try, and other writers write amazing fanfic but have problems when it comes to those things you can't really train with fanfic (making up and introducing us to your own universe).

If anything, writing fanfic might be good training for writing tie-in novels or comic books in known universes. Original work often requires a different set of skills, at least that's my experience as a writer of both. With fanfic, you often have to adapt to another author's style and work and be very conscious of your own style (and change it, if only for one story), for example. Not a skill many authors of original work possess.
Oct. 12th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
Exactly. Some few fanwriters write the kind of story that has overlap with commercial genres, but the vast majority of us don't and don't want to. In most cases, the skill sets are quite distinct. (And, honestly, if I hear one more commercial writer run off at the mouth about how much easier fanfic must be, without ever trying to write it, I'm going to have to do something extreme.)
Oct. 12th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
It definitely isn't easier. Sure, you don't have to worry about making up a world and characters, but instead, you have to stay IC and you have to worry about your style and tiny little canon details your readers totally know about. If you do anything differently than the author does, you have to make sure you explain and develop said change properly.

Writing fanfic is different, not easier.
Oct. 12th, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)
Some few fanwriters write the kind of story that has overlap with commercial genres, but the vast majority of us don't and don't want to.

Yeah. I'll readily admit that I read fanfic precisely because it allows for characters and stories being taken in directions where canon (usually that includes spin-offs, AU book series, etc. as well) won't go. And I don't just mean that in the relationship (pairing) sense, but also, say, taking a dark premise of the canonical world's rules to its darkest consequences while the show itself is restricted by ultimately having to keep the status quo. Maybe that's what some people mistake for the easy part, thinking "you can write what you want to, so where's the problem"...?
Oct. 12th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)
*nods* I really like that part of fanfic, the fact that it runs out in so many different directions from a starting point we're all familiar with. I mean, this is dozens of people's worth of creativity (if we just count the cream of any one fandom), often bouncing off each other too. It's great.
Oct. 13th, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
And, honestly, if I hear one more commercial writer run off at the mouth about how much easier fanfic must be, without ever trying to write it, I'm going to have to do something extreme.

I hate that attitude so much. I will join you in that something extreme if I hear that, from anyone.