The thing is, I know I should be incredibly grateful that I get the vacations that I do, you know? That I make a living wage (well, when combined with my husbands, at least) and still get built in vacations scattered throughout the year.
And I am! I know I am amazingly lucky, to have a job that not only gives me breaks, but also ample sick time (good for those mental health days when you’re hanging by a single, fraying fucking thread). But it doesn’t stop the end of vacation from being a bummer.
Not because I don’t like my job. Because, as I’m said many, many times before, I am also insanely lucky to have found a job I genuinely like, with coworkers whose company and collaboration I genuinely enjoy. But there is so much else I want to do, and when work is added back into the mix, I so rarely find the time or energy to do them.
This lead in week to summer has been mostly spent doing the typical summer festivities, especially if you have kids — sleepovers, parades, fireworks, pool parties. It’s been fun, but I am looking forward to this last long weekend to be something a little quieter and sedentary. I’ve even managed to get some painting done, as evidenced in my last post.
My current — entirely self-imposed — struggle causing me to lament how little time I have left in vacation is the July round of Camp NaNoWriMo. Yeah, I know, I know; I have written fairly extensively about how Camp NaNo generally doesn’t work for me, but I’ve also spent a good chunk of this year succeeding at things I’ve historically failed at, just by laboring through the stagnation and the sense of impending failure, sucking it up, and fucking Doing the Thing. I’ve made greater strides in my art and in my social life in the last seven months than I have in, hell, several years prior.
Plus, back in April, while I was already doing Blogging A-to-z and National Poetry Month, I decided to take on the April round of Camp with a fan fiction that had been nagging at the back of my mind, and actually wrote 4k on it, with actual interest, drive, and intent to continue. So, I figured, why not give it a go again this time?
I fell head first and hard into a fandom¹ in early June, and it seemed the obvious choice to write in, and about mid-way through a month, I got a bug in my bonnet for a pretty NSFW, PWP fic² that, over the following two weeks, actually morphed into what I realized could actually be shaped into a really thoughtful and potentially poignant character study.³ I was itching to write this thing, especially since, as much as I absolutely adore the fandom and the fic that is being produced, the vast, vast majority is variation on a single theme, so my idea would actually be relatively unique, which wasn’t a must for me, but definitely felt like a plus.
So I geared up, and got myself psyched for it, and read a ton of fic for “inspiration” (and because I just love the characters), and then July hit and — I wrote fuck all nothing for the first three days.
It’s the fourth, and I’ve still only cracked 200 words (which, hey, is something. It’s less intimidating than a blank page, and I feel like I have some semblence of direction now). Last Camp, writing in a fandom that had pretty similarly hit me fast and hard and was relatively new when Camp rolled around had gone so smoothly. Not that I didn’t have a few stops and false starts, but even while writing between other challenges and working full-time, I cranked out over four thousand words without a hell of a lot of thought or effort. So what’s different?
Weirdly, I think the fact that I’ve been immersing myself in fanfic this time around has actually been detrimental. Yeah, even though they tell you to read if you want to write. Yeah, even though they say “write what you know.”
Fanfic, I think, is tricky anyway. If you’re writing an original story, it’s not like you’re completely free of limitations. Your characters have to be believable, and act in ways that are believeable. Their actions and motivations have to have internal consistency, and your readers have to understand, at least to some degree, why your character — based on what we know of them through the text — is behaving in the way they are.
But writing original fic, the only version of your character is the one you’re writing. So long as you’ve taken the time to flesh them out and you maintain a sense of consistency within the narrative of your work, then the character reads like a fully developed character.
Writing fanfic, you can write a very internally consistent narrative. But you can absolutely write it wrong. Because the character already exists — and because your audience is, of course, people who already know and love this character — and because the character already exists in the minds of your readers who understand them and relate to them in a very idiosyncratic way, it is incredibly easy to write a character in a fanfic that just reads wrong. No matter how beautiful the prose. No matter how intricate the plot.
And that is incredibly intimidating to me. I have clicked on fics that have come highly recommended for the quality of the writing, and had a very visceral reaction to the way a favorite character is written because, goddamn it, no, this is not how they would act. This is not what they would say, this is not what they would do.
If I’m reading a story featuring your original character Bob, and Bob does X, I may or may not like his choice or agree with his motives, but okay — that’s just what Bob does. I guess that’s the kind of guy Bob is, whether I like him or not.
But if I’m reading your fanfic, and, say, Gregory House, or Dean Winchester, or The Doctor does X, I am going to have some very strong opinions on whether-the-fuck-or-not any of them would actually do The Thing. And it will make or break a story for me.
So yeah, it’s intimidating. To the point of stagnation, at the moment. My April Camp fandom, prior to literally a week or two before Camp started, had no fanfic on the ‘Net. Can you believe, in this day and age? None. Right now, it’s got two. If I thought writing in an incredibly small fandom (with no fic to hide behind) was intimidating, my new fandom has grown by almost 4,000 fanfics in the last month (and that’s just on AO3).
And some of them are good. So many of them are good, and some are real good. How do I compete?
(I don’t; I know it’s not a competition. But it’s still harder than I thought it would be).
¹ Good Omens fandom. I read the book a long time ago — fifteen years, at least — and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t until the series that it really became a fandom for me. But it’s spread like wildfire, and I am loving it.
² So here it is, my secret’s out: I write (and read) smutty fanfic. I’m an adult, I’m allowed. But because I’m paranoid and try to keep my real life persona and my fandom life separate (except where they naturally intersect with like-minded adults, like at conventions), I might discuss fandom and fic here in the abstract, but don’t ever expect any links.
³ Legit, how did this happen? It really did start as a vague idea for a short, smutty kink fic, and suddenly I’m researching the hierarchies of angels and specific Biblical accounts of events because this all evolved so far out of my control. What even is writing, anyway?