liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Pimpin' others...and why Norwegianne rocks

Supposedly I'm cleaning my house, doing my taxes, joining Weight Watchers, going to the gym, writing Living History...

Well, I managed to join Weight Watchers and write more Living History. I've moved beyond the Buffy block and posted it before my test audience with some good results, so I'm happy. A little more tweaking because of some typos, but it's finally good to go. I'm now working on some later chapters and polishing those up. Yike. Once again, Faith surprises me with her quick thinking and and streak of insightful compassion and Xander gives an insightful answer to one of her questoins that creeps me the hell out.

What is it with me and Insightful!Creepy!Xander?

Oh, and managed to find some interesting fics out there.

Pimping one from mara_sho called Darkest Day. Saw it earlier on XanderZone and then spotted it on my friends list. Sweet. Sad. A nice Buffy/Xander friendship moment. Postively lovely stuff.

Nikitangel has the wonderful A Better Place. I never got the UC fandom for Buffy/Doyle (and they're out there) but this works for me because of her set-up. Nice character interaction. Plus, *sniff* Doyle.

Another odd one called The Coffin. It's only got one chapter up on, but I did see the second chapter on XanderZone (for those of you who are members). The writing is a little rough around the edges (too much telling and spelling out, not enough showing), but the concept is rather intriguing. Puts me in mind of DOA for some reason. I'll be interested to see where it goes.

Since y'all probably know nwhepcat, no need to be pimping the Lilac City crack she's putting out. Woman's a machine. Turning out such high-quality stuff on such a tight over here.

And swiping something from norwegianne about the professional approach to writing fanfiction. (And yes, it definitely struck me as a professional approach...)

Not a terrible idea.

She talks about in her LJ entry on why she writes Fanfiction and why she spends so much time working on it. Couldn't agree more with the list:

Anne: 1. Learning to write, and complete, something that will probably be as long as a book is useful.

Me: Especially if you're wondering if you *can* do it. I've spent a lot of my life writing 12 to 24 inches of copy. It gets to the point of wondering if you can do more with what you got. Hell, Neil Gaimen started out as both a journalist *and* a fanfic writer. Look at where it got him. He actually offered this advice to fanfic writers (something I've been thinking more about these days as I piece together Living History): Writing fanfic is fun and good. But sooner or later, you have to let go the crutch and try to stand on your own (paraphrasing heavily here).

Anne: 2. Fitting things together in a fanfiction demands just as much research, if not more, as an original work of fiction.

Me: Yes and no. Depends on the original work, I guess. But I think if you approach fanfiction without a big agenda, with the attitude that all the characters need to keep as close to cannon as possible, it forces you to take characterization into consideration as well as plot. That means heavy research. I can't tell you how many hours I put in on BtVS episode sites writing Whisper so I could position Xander's troubled past with his family just right. The show was all over the map about how "bad" his bad homelife was (some hints of physical abuse, some hints that it was just verbal abuse, some hints of no abuse just rampant alcoholism, some hints of nothing more than child neglect) so I had to figure out how to make all of those conflicting things fit together.

On second thought...Anne kinda has a big point there.

Anne: 3. Plotting everything out - and then discovering that you've plotted yourself into a corner - is a quite useful thing to learn off, and how to avoid.

Me: Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. I can't tell you how many times I've nuked chapters because they didn't fit quite right or for OOC reasons. Problem is, you may have less instances of that as you move along to the next story, but it still happens.

Anne: 4. Developing characters from the beginning and have them, even characters created by other people, grow during the story. Not perfect, but with flaws like everybody else.

Me: Amen again. The hardest thing to do is to avoid Mary Sueing characters you like and avoid demonizing characters you don't. I'm not terribly fond of Spike, Dawn, Andrew, and Robin as a BtVS characters (although I somewhat enjoy Spike's AtS incarnation), but I always write them as somewhat likeable, or baring that, at least sympathetic in my fics. If you write OCs to throw in the mix, the temptation to try and make the audience love them is an even harder pull. I know in Living History I fight against making Catherine too perfectly imperfect by forcing inconvenient moments and irrational dislikes into her character.

Plus, Anne makes an excellent point: The whole idea of any story is for characters to change. They have to be different in some way (note that I didn't say better off, necessarily) at the end of the story. Sometimes they regress, sometimes they grow, and somtimes the outlook is changed. Change is the whole point. Otherwise, why are you writing a story?

Anne: 5. Plan ahead. You can't kill off a character if you'll need it later. (Sorry, Josh.)

Me: Something I wish some television producers would note.

And may I add: woe unto you if you kill a character people like. Sometimes the characters they like will shock you. I got people *furious* with me when I killed off an OC in my second installment of Where Fools Go. She appeared maybe three times in that story and I had no idea people were rooting for her. I'm still apologizing almost six months later. So I'd also add: If you kill a character, do it for a damn good reason.

Anne: 6. Not everybody needs to be paired up.

Me: *stands and whoops on chair* Glory be! Someone said it! I *suck* at writing shipper stories (which I admit has worked somewhat against me both as a writer and with some readers) and tend to fall into the easy give-and-take of friendships because those are more interesting to me.

That's not to say I don't like shipper stories. There are good ones out there. Although I do tend to be harder on stories that are shipper for the sake of being shipper.

I know that's not what Anne is saying. She's saying it's okay to have some characters pair off and others not pair off and she's dead on. I've come across some slash stories (yes, I've read my share, I've nothing against well-written slash and rather enjoy it) where every. single. BtVS. male. is. sleeping. with. another. male. Aside from the fact that it stretches my suspension of disbelief beyond the breaking point, it's just bad writing. Unless you live in an area where there is a significant population of gays and lesbians (and I have) that simply doesn't happen in "real life" (I just used fanfiction and "real life" in the same context...shoot me). It absolutely drives me nuts.

And by the way, the above paragraph holds true for some het stories I've read.

Anne: 7. I'm writing it solely for me - a story I'd want to read and read and read.

Me: I agree and disagree. To an extent, yeah, I'm writing stuff that amuses me and that I'd want to read. But to another extent, I'm writing a story that *other* people will want to read and read and read. Nothing gives me warm fuzzies like someone who's read Whisper, then has gone back to it and discovered whole new layers on the second read and then told me about it. That is a compliment.

Now I admit, my RL job in writing for newspapers, magazines, Web sites, and now technical medical has probably given me this point of view. If people ain't reading your stuff and if you're not writing for the reader, you don't have a job. Pure and simple.

Although I often say you have to take your audience into account when writing, I admit that I'm not always smart about putting it in the right forum. I know on XanderZone where I test-run Living History, the story is slightly off the beam for the audience since it isn't Xander-centric. Xander is one of the two most important characters in the story, but it's much more of an ensemble piece and I know that. However, the audience is okay with that, so it's good. I also know that is getting to be an increasingly difficult place for me to post to because of the signal-to-noise ratio over there (some have said: "declining quality of stories" but I think it's not an entirely fair assessment) and because of an increase in trolling. I've had to shut down my unsigned reviews allowance because of the problem, and that's actually cost me readers/FB.

So in all, I *basically* agree with Anne's point, but I think the audience is important too.

Anne: 8. Expanding my knowledge of the English language.

Me: And that goes double for people who are native English speakers (I'm assuming here, probably incorrectly, that Anne's first language is not English, although I think her written English matches up against and surpases anyone in the U.S. any day of the week).

Grammar. Is. Important. Go by Strunk & White's Elements of Style, even if your writing is perfect. It's not perfect enough. I have several copies, all of which look like they've gone through wars. Every writer and editor I've ever worked with is the same. If we can't live without it when we get paid for writing, no one who's serious about improving their writing can either. It's less than $10. You can find it anywhere.

Sorry. Ranting. I've had this rant before. You may call me "asshole" now.

Anne: 9. Becoming more critical of my own writing.

Me: Oooooh. Did this and still do this. I read some of the stuff I wrote in my early newspaper days and *cringe.* I look back on what I wrote six months ago and *wince.* I'm never entirely happy with what I wrote after the fact, so I keep trying to improve.

There is one thing I want to add to Anne's list:

10. Never start what you don't intend to finish.

That's not to say that RL doesn't get in the way. Hell, I hit a spot where I landed a freelance contract, then landed a job, then had a hellish commute (three hours round trip), then got into a car accident, then had to buy a new car, then had to move, etc. etc. Sometimes you have to put a temporary halt to deal with RL.


I can't tell you how many WiPs I've come across (not knowing they were WiPs) got to the end, and was jonesing for more. The I find out that the author had abandoned the story and was working on a new one.

No. No. No. No. And once more with feeling: No!

That's not fair to the readers. They deserve to get the end of the story. Even if it takes a year. Even if it takes two years. They deserve the ending because they've given you their time, their attention, (sometimes) their FB. They deserve a story worthy of them.

Now I admit: I did start writing a "darkXander" story and testing it on a newsgroup. However, I wound up abandoning it (the only WiP I've out there that I've abandoned) because:

1. It was actually NC-17 and I discovered I don't enjoy writing NC-17 stories

2. I'm not known as a "darkXander" writer, so there was definite suspicion in some quarters when I popped up on this group with this story (which I heard about in private email, most of it going: "What's your game?")

3. The group itself took on a tone and stance that actually made me uncomfortable to be there (Pedophile!Xander anyone? No. Me either. Yet people were virtually cheering around me.)

Since it was a *very* small group (about 35 members at the time) and no one was asking what happened to the story, I backed away with a sigh of relief.

That said, I still feel guilty about leaving it like that.

But on the whole, please don't leave your audience hanging. *puppy eyes*

Long post today on ruminating. Wow. I really want to avoid filling out those tax forms, don't I?

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