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A Rant of Writing Expectations

So, in December I posted what I had intended to be the final chapter of a series I had started waaaaaaay back in 2006. I got some good comments on it, some great responses from people who'd been with me during the main writing of the long story of the series for two years. And then I got some other responses.



From 2006-2008 I wrote my first serious piece of fanfiction, a Sky High story called War and Peace In Mind (link to Ao3 series), originally posting it on FanFiction.net. I wrote several other short stories in the same universe, but most of my attention was on WaPIM, which ended up being over 330,000 words long. I also wrote three transitional pieces from 2008-2009, which were intended to bridge the chronological gap between the end of WaPIM and the start of its sequel, We Are Legend. I had intended to write We Are Legend several years ago, but about the time I finished up WaPIM, brighteyed_jill had tempted me to come over to LiveJournal, and I discovered the Heroes fandom.

Those of you who've been following my journal for a while know I wrote a ton of Heroes fanfic, and a lot of it had explicit sexual content, which isn't allowed on FF.net. Add to the fact that there was a better sense of community on LJ, as well as a relatively higher maturity level, I didn't feel a pressing need to immediately return to Sky High fanfiction. FF.net is usually the first stop for most young, budding, fanfic authors, and since Sky High was a Disney film that dealt with a lot of teenage issues, a large number of the people following FF.net's Sky High stories were teenagers. (I cannot tell you the number of Mary Sue-type stories that exist over there. I know it's a phase most writers go through; but once you've seen fifty variations of the same thing on one page, you start to twitch.)

Also, Sky High was a single movie, while Heroes was an ongoing show. There was new inspiration happening 22-24 weeks out of the year for four years, and I wanted to write in that. That led me into Supernatural fanfic, Firefly, Sherlock, and many other fandoms over the next three years, and the Sky High sequel to WaPIM faded in importance.

I really did intend to do a sequel, but once I started writing in other fandoms, I knew I was not going to be able to devote my full attention to a single super-long fic again.

War and Peace In Mind was written at a very different point in my life than what it is now. From 2006-2008 I was single, with a job that allowed me a great deal of free time. I also did not have a DVR. I chose to use that free time to write, and at the height of my productivity was pumping out a 5,000+ word chapter every ten days or so. I was devoted to a single story in a single fandom. I also did not have a clear idea of where I was going when I started the story, and a simple retelling of the movie from a different character's point of view turned into a sprawling epic with a lot of world building as I slowly figured out a plot. I am quite proud of the work I put into the WaPIM universe, but once 2008 rolled around, things did change.

I got married, I started writing in other fandoms, we got a TiVO, and my social life picked up. By the time I started seriously thinking about doing a sequel to WaPIM, I was a regular participant in several annual exchanges and big bangs, and was keeping up with a couple dozen shows with the ideas and stories they engendered. If I was going to do this WaPIM sequel, it was going to have to be in the context of something I was already participating in.

I chose to do the sequel, We Are Legend, within the timeframe of the journeystory big bang challenge. I needed to have tight plotting and firm idea of where to end, because I knew there was no way I could do another 300k+ epic, not with the other stories and series I had going on. I did like the world of WaPIM, but not enough to live there for another two years.

I buckled down and did it, getting a high-stakes story for the characters into an intense, tight, 25k big bang. And felt proud of myself for doing so. I hadn't written anything for that world since 2009, and it felt good to finally finish the sequel I'd always planned.

I posted it first on FF.net, as a thank-you to all the fans who'd waited so patiently for so long. It was clearly labeled as "complete," just so there'd be no confusion; with an additional author's note at the end spelling out this was my last serious foray into this world. And I got some good comments that made me happy inside. Most of them were actually pretty darn positive, and all was good. I so loved that people were still reading my stuff after so long.

And then I got some that were like, "Great first chapter, can't wait to see more!" Or, "IT'S ABOUT TIME!" Or, "It's too short."

...WTF? For the first one - it's labeled as complete, and author's note says I'm done. There is no, "second chapter," this isn't the first part in some huge epic. It's done.

For the second... Ok, I can understand the frustration of some of my readers when I said I'd do the sequel years ago. However, considering that there were three years between the last story and this one, you probably should have been more concerned that I'd ever post at all. It's not unusual for authors to abandon old stories if their interests move on, and it's not like I'm getting paid for my time. Posting, "IT'S ABOUT TIME!" like I owed you something doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling of accomplishment - it makes you look greedy and demanding. It doesn't encourage me to write again. Actually it makes me resent having written my own story, just out of a desire to spite your thoughtlessness.

As for the third, the complaints of We Are Legend's shortness... Sure, I could have made it longer. I could have made it 300k longer if I had started two years ago and ignored every other story idea I wanted to write. But I didn't. I had a thing I wanted to tell, and I told it in 25k. In WaPIM, the characters had quite a bit of time to adjust to their circumstances, and the pace only really got super-frantic in the last massive battle. And even then I had a big wind-down afterwards. For We Are Legend I wanted the pace to be fast and for the characters to not have too much downtime, because they were in a race to save the world. I didn't want to drag things out because I wrote it over the course of a few months, not years, and I didn't have time to fiddle around with a longer story. Also, do you know how hard it can be to find someone to beta a very long story that already has over 360k (including the supplementary stories)-worth of backstory? That's a lot of commitment! I was lucky to find people who'd already read all of WaPIM and were willing to help, but that was something I had to consider.

Also? 25k is pretty damn long. Lemme break down some numbers for you. There are about 1,500 Sky High stories on FF.net. 167 of them are 20k or more. We Are Legend is longer than 89% of the stories available for that fandom on that site. 25k is a big bang, a very decently-sized big bang. Don't talk to me about short. Just... don't. I am probably never going to match the circumstances that let me write War and Peace In Mind again, and I don't like feeling guilty for completing an old series only to be told it wasn't enough.

Sorry I somehow didn’t meet your expectations, you few commenters who were less than polite, but I was never going to recreate your first experience with me as a writer. I’ve changed, and so has my writing over the past seven years.

Overall, I was happy I wrote the story, happy to do the sequel, and quite happy with most of the comments I got from my fans. It was nice to write about these characters I’d known for three years, and I’m even contemplating doing some one-shots at some indeterminate point in the future. But I sure as hell am not giving anyone a date this time!

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
game_byrd
Feb. 8th, 2013 12:13 pm (UTC)
As time has passed, I've come to understand why some authors don't allow comments at all. Not that I'm suggesting that or that I plan to implement it myself, but I've come to realize how destructive one or two bad comments can be.

Sky High was a cool movie and 25,000 words is easily enough to tell a really rocking story. It's also pretty fricking long by just about anyone's standards. Sure, it's not the epic you'd written before, but it's ridiculous to think everything you write will be the same length!
jaune_chat
Feb. 8th, 2013 12:33 pm (UTC)
The thing is, the last three transition stories I wrote for that series were much shorter, like in the 2-6k range, but no one complained about them.

I've had a few bad comments on other stories before, and they can be incredibly destructive. A single bad one can not only negate every nice thing other people say, but also the entire story. And even if I agreed that the story was not my best work, some people can be incredibly douchy about it. There are ways to leave concrit that don't involve making someone's day terrible, but alas some people don't get that (or don't care). If don't write something perfect that fulfills their unspoken specifications, you suck. And if you do? You get a "Moar plz!" which is almost more annoying than no comment at all.

Common courtesy - not so common!
game_byrd
Feb. 8th, 2013 01:00 pm (UTC)
I'm ashamed to have left my share of less-than-constructive comments early in my fanfic-reading career. I wish there was a guide - something more specific than 'be nice'. I picked up a lot of input on what's allowed and not-allowed for comments by lurking on fanfic rants. Someone ought to compile a list of do's and don't's.
jaune_chat
Feb. 15th, 2013 09:29 am (UTC)
Ya know, that would be a really good idea. I wrote a rather short post about commenting a while ago, talking about a few different kinds of comments that really ground my gears, but a more comprehensive one would be, well, more comprehensive! I'm actually working on it now, and I'd really like it if we could get other people's takes on commenting netiquette. ('Cause it's unlikely I'll be able to come up with all the situations that can arise.)
game_byrd
Feb. 15th, 2013 01:13 pm (UTC)
I'd be thrilled to contribute to or otherwise collaborate with such an effort!

On comments that are difficult to handle, for me the biggie is anything that criticizes my characterization, especially of the main characters in the story.

Things I'm not all that bothered by, but I know some people rant about them:
O People missing the point of the story.
O Similar to the first point, people missing important clues in the story. I don't obsess about either of these. I just hit people more firmly with the clue-bat in future stories, which then leads to:
O People complaining that my stories are too obvious. I don't write mysteries, so I'm cool with this criticism.
O People pointing out loopholes, logical inconsistencies, grammatical errors, etc. I'm fine with that as long as I don't get the feeling that I'm being held to an impossible standard. I'm human, I make mistakes, and maybe I forgot that character X had Y ability and could have fixed the whole thing ...
O Don't compare one story to another, even if favorably.
O Don't point out that other people have written very similar stories. Some people get really irate to have that said about their work. Personally, I regard it as inevitable since we're all working with the same source material and there's zillions of fanfics out there, with a limited number of tropes. 'Oh, you wrote Peter as a vampire? Well, these other 16 people did, too!' And I'm like, 'Yeah, duh, it's fanfic.'
O I'd rather have a comment that said, 'Hi' than nothing at all, but other people would rather have no comment than one too brief.
O Watch out for words that have multiple meanings. I really pissed off someone by saying a particular plot twist was 'funny'. What I meant was 'ironic' or 'unexpected'. What the author took my meaning to be was 'hilarious' and since the plot twist in question was Peter blowing up New York, I think I came off as something of a psychopath.

I'll read up on your link over the weekend. Gotta run now.
perdiccas
Feb. 8th, 2013 02:10 pm (UTC)
*hugs*

It sucks when people are destructive with their negativity. I know these kinds of comments are hard to shrug off but I hope they don't taint the awesome accomplishment of what you wrote! Honestly, getting a sequel done after so long seems like a huge triumph to me! I'm sorry people were raining on your parade. :(
jaune_chat
Feb. 8th, 2013 02:51 pm (UTC)
It won't deter me from being proud that I did the sequel, I just now know what to expect from certain people. And also to never lock myself into a date for a sequel when I'm not on something like a big bang schedule. People can't feel owed if they don't know anything's coming! :D
aurilly
Feb. 8th, 2013 02:22 pm (UTC)
The "awesome first chapter" comments on a story that is labeled complete just cracks me up. People are ridiculous. 25K is definitely long and juicy enough, and I'm impressed that you were even able to return to such an old fandom a all! And no, no one owes anyone anything. People write fanfic for the love of it; it's part of the territory that if that love of a fandom ends or real life gets in the way, stories may remain unfinished or sequel-free. It's life.

It sort of frightens me that now that ff.net started cracking down on the types of content allowed there, more and more of those immature teenagers have migrated over to AO3. The Once Upon a Time fics (and quite a lot of Avengers, especially about Loki) are largely unreadable...
jaune_chat
Feb. 8th, 2013 02:55 pm (UTC)
It's like they weren't even reading all the headers before commenting. Peeps, just because the first story was long, doesn't mean the second one will be. RTFM, ya?

I know ff.net wants to see themselves as being some pure playground for teenage writers to spread their wings (despite the fact that there's a lot of fanfic written for very violent movies, the Saw franchine, anyone?), but they aren't doing the rest of us any favors. I'd rather the young 'uns cut their teeth over on FF.net than Ao3 and LJ.

Lord... don't get me started about Loki. Some people have turned him into the "poor understood outcast, just like me!" It's frightening. :-O
aurilly
Feb. 8th, 2013 05:11 pm (UTC)
Loki is simply the new Sylar. Bad guy played by a very compelling and attractive actor. Same haughty snarky personality, same daddy and "I wanna be special" issues, same "daddy thinks this other guy is more special than me so I'm going to go on a poorly-thought-out murderous rampage". Thor/Loki is totally Mylar. And the same thing happened in Heroes fandom. For every well-written, semi-remembering he's a villain Sylar story, there was a horrible woobified outcast travesty. And sometimes those can be really fun! Sometimes I like to read about a snarky asshole whose badness is somewhat toned down so that writers can explore what his relationships with the other characters would be like if only everyone's first instinct wasn't to shoot. But there's a difference between that and turning the character into a poor little woobie to glamorize your own feelings of misunderstandedness.

And while Robert Carlyle is hugely compelling (without being at all handsome), a similar thing is happening with Rumple/Belle. Like, "Let's have them have babies!" Which... there are a lot of seriously messed up things in that relationship that I don't even know where to start. It's compelling because he's a good actor, but whenever I stop and actually think about it, I'm creeped the fuck out by how this is portrayed as 'true love' and by the particular way in which fandom seems to respond to them. I hope she stays amnesiac for a good long time and they build a more normal relationship from scratch.

Sorry, that was a rant you probably weren't expecting. These things just BOTHER me. They're fandoms I would read more fic for, but it's hard to sort through the badness to get at what might be good.
jaune_chat
Feb. 8th, 2013 09:50 pm (UTC)
Hee! Oh, that's some good comparisons between Loki and Sylar. At least with Sylar there was some backstory portrayed before he went entirely off the rails that one could extrapolate about, whereas by the time we meet Loki he's already planning his brother's exile and father's death. Not that that ever stops a determined fangirl!

Rumple/Belle kids? ...eek. That is an astoundingly strange relationship (interesting, but strange and very weird with the power dynamics), but not normal. Not at all.

I guess this means we can only have uncompelling plain guys playing villains from now on! :D
dizzykj
Feb. 8th, 2013 05:22 pm (UTC)
As someone who reads, but doesn't write fanfic - thank you for everything you and others write.

As for the "you should write more of x" brigade, I'm reminded of Neil Gaiman's comment to about GoT fans being impatient and annoyed about GRRM's other projects: "George RR Martin is not your bitch". This also now has a delightful song and YouTube vid created by someone (can't remember who, sorry).
jaune_chat
Feb. 8th, 2013 09:52 pm (UTC)
LOL, nice comeback from Mr. Gaiman! And even if Mr. Martin is getting paid for his work, that still doesn't entitle the fans to crawl into his brain and dictate what he does.

(And thank you, we appreciate it.)
brighteyed_jill
Feb. 10th, 2013 05:50 am (UTC)
Promising start to this rant. Can't wait to read more!
jaune_chat
Feb. 10th, 2013 01:13 pm (UTC)
*dopeslaps*




:D
boudecia7
Feb. 14th, 2013 06:43 pm (UTC)
Man, how crummy! Sorry those comments made you feel bad--I've had the 'can't wait to read more' ones to things that were meant to be one-shots before too, and it's really frustrating. It makes me feel like the story wasn't good enough as it is, although I guess in some cases it's just how some people express that they really enjoyed something.

I've had long-standing guilt over not finishing Chemistry Lessons, which believe it or not, I STILL have intentions of someday picking up again, but I'm a little afraid by now that people would give me the 'about time!' crap that you're talking about here. Although I think it's a lot more likely there just wouldn't be readers left to look at it :P.

Anyway, at least most of the feedback was positive, even if there were some stinkers thrown in. Here's hoping it doesn't happen again! <333
jaune_chat
Feb. 15th, 2013 09:41 am (UTC)
That whole first paragraph really helps crystallize what I dislike about the "Great, sequel plz!" comments I've gotten on some fics. Now, I completely appreciate the enthusiasm of the reader. It's killer that they liked my stuff so much they'd gladly read more. But if all they can offer is a request, nay, a demand for more, that doesn't inspire me. It actually disheartens me because, as you said, it makes me feel like my story isn't good enough to stand on its own.

I did so appreciate that I still had readers left after a three-year hiatus from that fandom, so overall the experience was pretty positive. :)
ldarkfire
Apr. 15th, 2013 03:32 am (UTC)


Hi

I first read WaPIM at the end of 2008, and from there all your Sky high stories, I admit that I tought that you weren't going to write the sequel, I was sad for that but you had already writen a reallyyyyy epic story in a fandom that doesn't have that many good fics, so I was just glad for what you already did.

Thank you for this sequel, life hasn't given me the time to get to it (I want to finish rereading WaPIM first) but the fact that you took the time to write it when its not a fandom that write anymore is really nice of you.

I hope to see if you finish the other stories of this fandom but if you can't I really liked them all and they are great even incompleted.

I'm sorry if there are errors but english is not my first language :P
jaune_chat
Apr. 15th, 2013 06:34 am (UTC)
I'm so very glad you're liking WAPiM! All the stories in the WAPiM universe are finished as of now, with nothing incomplete, thank goodness! I wanted to be sure that if I was going to do the sequel, I was going to tie up as many loose ends as possible.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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