A Replacement for "Why I Hate Most Fanfics"
Let me tell you a story.
Picture a 21-year-old girl (yes, girl, because adulthood hadn't caught her just yet) who puts everything she has into her writing only to have it overlooked in favor of fanfiction. Picture her, greedy for comments and follows and faves, furious that something as simple as writing fanfiction gets the attention that she so rightly deserves for doing the hard work of writing original content! When fanfiction uses someone else's characters and world! When fanfiction has a built-in audience and doesn't have to work at attracting other readers! Picture her thinking every petty, jealous thought you'd ever had about another writer. Picture that girl, and give her my face.
Picture her making a detailed list of her hate so that people will comment and favorite and agree with her. She titles it "Why I Hate Most Fanfics" and posts it to her deviantArt account. Picture her as she sits back smugly in her chair, pleased with her moral victory. She has shown them, she thinks, the foolishness inherent in fanfiction. And she's drawn the poison out of herself and sent it out into the world, where perhaps it will infect others with her thinking. And the deviation she wrote remains in her gallery, forgotten but for those rare times someone happens upon it and adds a new favorite or comment.
Now, years pass. The girl writes other things, deletes some things, adds things. She writes journal entries about her frustrations with growing up, obtaining a little perspective as she does. She gets her depression and anxiety under control through therapy and medication. She leaves her shitty fast food job for a better, more fulfilling tutoring job. Eventually, she gathers together enough credits at community college to transfer to a state university where she can pursue her degree in Creative Writing. Once there, she gets a job in the university's writing center and sees how difficult it is for non-writers to put their words on paper, and she takes classes that emphasize revision and workshopping and growth. She writes the same chapters over and over again in an effort to attain perfection.
Some days she hates writing and wishes she'd never started.
Her deviantArt account, once so important to her, languishes far in the background of her mind. She has papers to write and textbooks to read and new friends to hang out with. So mired is she in the world of academia that she forgets that she once wrote for fun, that once she had people who read her pieces not to tear it apart, but to learn what happens next. That once she didn't spend three days staring at a blank page because all the words in your head are wrong so why even bother putting them down?
So she works at her writing, and decides to go for a Master's degree. And so she spends three years deeper in academia and the technical act of writing, turning her love for the written word into a hyper-focus on the act of revision. She's asked to teach a class on Fantasy Writing, and she does, filling her instruction time with games and fun exercises and works at fostering the love of writing in others that she feels she's lost herself. And after three hard years she produces a thesis, the now-complete novel she'd been revising and revising and revising since she was thirteen and first decided to become a writer.
It should have felt like victory—and on one hand it does—but it also feels like defeat. Because some of the magic of writing, that feeling of letting the words fill her and spill out onto the page because she can't possibly contain them all, has left her. Her schooling has shown her the value of hard work, but has neglected to remind her of the fun of writing. The times where she laughs as she's writing are fewer, replaced with frustrated screams.
She's twenty-nine years old and feeling brittle inside. In an effort to recapture the joy she once felt, she logs on to her deviantArt account. She sees many of her old friends have moved on. And she sees that her most popular piece, "Why I Hate Most Fanfics", is still getting attention after all this time. New favorites, new comments. Attention she'd missed.
She was proud of the piece once. But as she rereads it for the first time in years, she cringes. She sees elitism and jealousy. She sees a person who created a sharp distinction between fanfiction and "real writing." She sees someone convinced that there's nothing of value in stories that take place in worlds the writer has not created. She feels ashamed.
Now let me tell you why.
When I first wrote that piece eight years ago, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was pouring out page after page of written work, sharing every piece I wrote with the deviantArt community. People commented. People faved. I had a significant amount of page views and followers. I slaved over everything, and like most people addicted to the social media scene, every comment/follow/favorite seemed to be a validation of me and my talent.
"Look at you," that proud little corner of my mind whispered. "You're good at this."
This being deviantArt, though, original fiction wasn't the only option on the menu. There is a lot—seriously, do a search, I'll wait—of fanfiction out there. And a lot of that fanfiction gets more views and faves and comments than even the most popular original fiction out there. And when you browse fanfiction.net or AO3, you see that some people even write fanfiction that's longer than the longest books ever printed in English. And that people are reading and commenting and saving that writing while your original fiction gets only a small but vocal bit of attention.
It inspires a lot of jealousy, is what I'm trying to say. And sometime that jealousy makes you act like an elitist asshole.
Writing used to be something I did for fun and because it brought readers joy. Each time I received a comment or a favorite on one of my pieces, I was thrilled. Early in my time with deviantArt, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who were supportive of the stories I made and eager to read everything I wrote. No one told me to quit writing, or said there was no value in the things I wrote. No one belittled my choice to write worlds full of talking Unicorns and bespelled Princes and teenagers prone to visions of the future. And while I never actively sought out fanfiction for the purpose of mocking the choices the writer made, the fact is that I wrote a piece of nonfiction condemning an entire genre of writing. And I've let that piece of writing sit there without revision or rebuttal for eight years.
Now let me tell you what I've learned in the years since I first wrote that piece. When I look at fanfiction now, I see it differently.
· I see a group of writers who haven't forgotten the importance of playfulness.
· I see people who remember that writing should entertain the reader.
· I see people who have struggled to find representation in mainstream media and eagerly latch on to characters they find, granting those characters the adventures they feel they've lacked.
· I see people who realize that coloring in the lines is boring and there's no reason you can't mash up Harry Potter and the Redwall series if it makes you happy.
· I see people with kinks they want to safely explore and introduce to others.
· I see people who want to see evil characters get redeemed, good characters learn humility, and background characters get their day in the limelight.
· I see people who still wonder about what happened to Susan when her family died and left her behind, and reflect on how Teddy will never suffer like Harry suffered, and pray that maybe Lyra and Will ultimately find a way to be together despite it all—and they make sure those things happen.
· I see people challenging the status quo and asking the questions mainstream media is afraid to ask.
· I see people trying to create something not because it will bring them money or fame, but because someone asked, "Um, hey, what if…?"
· I see people like me, who love writing and love sharing their words with people and get that chemical rush of having someone read your work and say "Yes, I see you, I acknowledge you, and I love this thing you've created."
My views in "Why I Hate Most Fanfics" are elitist bullshit born out of jealousy and a belief that somehow my original fiction has more imaginary value than fanfiction. The ideas within that piece are no longer indicative of my feelings on writing or fanfiction, and I wish to apologize to anyone I may have—intentionally or not—hurt by those words.
The presence of that piece in my gallery makes me angry now, which is why I'll be deleting it. Whatever purpose those words served for my 21-year-old self, it no longer serves that purpose for my 29-year-old self. As a writer, I should be supporting the act of writing and not allowing petty nonsense to stick around when it's not needed.
To all the writers out there, original and fanfiction, beginners and experts, please excuse me for my dumbass remarks in the past; I'm going to do better now.
Happy writing, my friends.