In My Defense…

An Old Lady’s Random Thoughts on Writing and Fanfic

My twelve-year-old daughter loves to watch The Golden Girls with me in the evenings. She finds Sophia amusing and thinks Blanche is the best character ever! (Thankfully, she does acknowledge that Blanche has some issues when it comes to her obsession with men.) She watches each episode intently, taking everything in for the first or second time. I, on the other hand, can already quote most episodes verbatim, so the other night I decided to do a little writing while we watched.

At one point, during an ad break, she turned to me and asked what I was working on. I told her it was a chapter of a fanfiction story. To which she replied, “You need help, Mother! You write fanfiction as a forty-five-year-old woman! Most people get over that in like… eighth grade!” (Yes, all the exclamation points are necessary. Everything with her is very dramatic!) 

A moment later, the show came back on, and there was no responding to her. Actually, even if the show hadn’t come back on, she probably would have ignored my response. She tends to ignore most things I say these days. That is, when she’s not groaning or rolling her eyes at my comments. The poor child. It is hard to put up with me. So many of my ideas are completely annoying, archaic, or completely absurd. Anyway, she probably wouldn’t have listened, but if you’ve read this far, you might be apt to continue, so I’ll share my thoughts with you.

It is true that many middle school students write fanfiction. Many of my students do. Some of them may even write it reasonably well, though I probably couldn’t begin to tell you what their stories are based on. It could be about a Netflix series, a YouTube Channel, or a Tik Tok video for all I know. And their motivations, like mine, are probaby personal. I do not object to teenagers expressing themselves in this way. In fact, I encourage it. Writing, even for fun, is how writers get started. Writing anything and everything is how writers keep going. It’s how we hone our skills. New writers, experienced writers, even delusional old-lady writers like me.

Many people of all ages read and write fanfiction. My Twitter friends can attest to that. Why? Maybe because we want to right an on-screen wrong or explore an alternate outcome. (If the 1992 film Wayne’s World could explore the Mega Happy Ending and the Scooby Doo Ending, why can’t we?) And sometimes we write it because the show or the storyline has ended and we just want more. More adventures, more explanations, more romance… Whatever the reason, it boils down to one simple truth. We want to give more life to the characters we love. That’s no different than TV execs creating spin offs. How else would we have gotten form Dallas to Knots Landing or Dynasty to The Colbys. (Okay, money could be a factor in those cases, but the people who watched them wanted more. And maybe not all spin-offs were quality. As much as I love The Golden Girls, Golden Palace was no gem. But I digress.) Fanfiction writers are like novelists creating a series of prequels or sequels so they can explore the backstories or happily ever after bits. The difference is, we’re not doing it for money, we’re doing it for love of the game.

When I’m not working on my novels, I write about Soap Operas. Specifically, my most favorite characters ever from General Hospital – Robert and Anna. I didn’t create those characters, but I know them. (Maybe better than the writers on the show, but that’s an entirely different post! Shhh!) And writing about them gives me a chance to delve into their psyches and walk around in their heads. It’s great practice for working on character development and definition, even if the are not CKT originals. Writing their stories allows me to stand on a familiar shore, but wade into a whole new sea of writing experiences. I can keep exercising my romance muscles (Does that sound a little risque to anyone else? Too bad, I’m leaving it!), but learn new strokes in mystery, suspense, and intrigue. The extra practice helps me with style and presentation as well. So why should a serious writer spend time writing such a frivolous thing as fanfiction? If I can improve my skills and have a good time doing it, why wouldn’t I?

There is one risk that comes with writing a just-for-fun piece. I remind myself of this risk frequently. (Here it comes. #WriteTip by Cat K Thompson) Don’t let frivolity and fun lull you into a false sense of security. Enjoy yourself, but remember, if you intend to share the piece online or anywhere else, you want it to be a respectable piece of writing. Honor the characters. They are worthy of the time it takes to create a quality piece. If your organization is all over the place, if your grammar is a mess and you don’t know how to punctuate, it will affect the reader’s experience. Some readers may not care. They may read it anyway, just for fun. But your style and use of language will say something about you as a writer and can definitely affect the delivery or intent of the material, especially with regard to dialog. This is less of a concern for those who are casual writers than for those who also hope to encourage people to read their published works. (Don’t let me get started on Indie Authors who thing editors are unnecessary! That’s another post too!) But I think it’s reasonable to say that most of us want our readers to enjoy reading our stories as much as we enjoy writing them.

Now, back to my daughter’s observation and what she doesn’t know. She doesn’t realize that I actually wrote my first piece of #GH #RnA fanfic when I was a freshman in high school. Truth be told, I didn’t realize it then either. That was before FanFiction.Net. Possibly even before the internet. (I’m that old!) I didn’t know that what I was writing had a name. All I knew what that I had to write a one act play and create some cover art for an assignment in English class. I came up with a play called Opposing Forces about two international spies who fell in love and were on the run from their archnemesis, Klaus. The beautiful heroin, who was shot and died in the arms of her gorgeous, blue-eyed lover at the end of the act, bore a striking resemblance to my favorite soap character. Of course, even if I had called it fanfiction, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to admit my love of General Hospital to my teacher, and certainly not to my classmates. But I’m older and wiser now. I know who I am. I like who I am. I like what I write. So, to my darling girl I say, as long as there are still people out there who want to read my fanfic, (Many of whom are also hovering around the big four-five! #JustSaying) I’m going to keep writing it!

Note: For those who are wishing I would stop writing fanfic and finish that darn book… I hear you! Suffice it to say that it has been a complicated couple of years in both life and writing. I promise I am working on it. I promise I will do my very best to ensure that, when the third book in the Lily trilogy finally arrives, it will have been worth the wait. Your support and encouragement are appreciated more than you know!

Writing in the Rain

img_3321What do you do when your plans of hiking and enjoying the natural beauty of Hocking Hills are rained out? Easy. You visit the local winery, grab a pizza at a nearby restaurant, then find a cozy spot in front of the fire and catch up on all the things you’ve been wanting to do since school started last fall. You nap, you read a good book (The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand) and you finally get back to writing, or at least editing the messy draft you abandoned back in August.

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Of course, that last part, while a productive use of time, was not exactly what I’d call relaxing. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Part of the reason I’ve let the draft go for so long is that I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s not to say that I don’t know how to write. I’ve learned a lot about writing in the last few years. I just don’t know how to write the third part of the Lily Trilogy because the story is going to take an unexpected turn and may end up in a different genre all together. This book is going to force me to grow as a writer, but it is also going to be a challenge. There will still be love, friendship, and romance, but where it ends up may be a bit of a mystery or even create a few legal problems.

But wait… there’s more. Not only am I not sure how to write the story I want to write, it seems the part of the story I have already written may not be the one readers want to read. I’ve only shared the first draft with one person so far. She is one of my dearest, yet most brutally honest friends. She’s been my confidant, biggest cheerleader, and most cherished advisor with both of the first two books. I trust her completely. But right now, she and I are at odds as to how Lily should react to the events in the story. Adopting her point of view could mean cutting tens of thousands of words and reworking much of the current plot. Sticking to my guns might mean that readers are turned off by a main character who is more selfish and abrasive rather than flawed and confused as I intended. It’s my story, but because of that, I may be too close to it to see the issues. Then again, it’s my story. Because of that, I may know the characters better than she. What’s the right answer? Can I find a happy medium? Will I have to cut those scenes I once felt were pure genius in order to make it fit for public consumption? Only time will tell.

There is still one more problem I haven’t discussed yet. I have often heard that when you finish a draft of a manuscript, you should put it in a drawer and leave it alone for a while. The idea is that you will then be able to detach yourself from it and edit it with a more objective mind. You will be better able to “murder your darlings”, as they say, and cut those scenes or pieces that you are so emotionally attached to. The trouble is, when you leave it for as long as I did, you have to read the whole thing over with in order to remember all of the details even though you’re the one who wrote it in the first place. In other words, the editing process has begun again, but it may take a while before version 2.0 is ready to roll out.

So, what was the point of this post other than to inform you that my vacation was rained out? Maybe I just needed to vent. Very possible. But that’s not all. I also wanted to share my journey. I’m not Nora Roberts or Mary Kay Andrews. I don’t knock out several books a year. But I am proof that with hard-work and perseverance anything is possible. If you are an aspiring writer, don’t expect to publish your first draft. Write, re-write, edit. Lather, rinse, and repeat. And with any luck, the final product will be worth the work and wait.

I’m looking forward to sharing the third and final part to Lily’s and Tony’s story. Eventually. I’m not sure how I will feel when it’s all over. I suspect I will miss Lily and Tony. I may even grieve their loss. As silly as it may sound, they have been a part of my life for so long now, that they feel more like old friends than just characters in a book. Maybe subconsciously that’s another reason I’ve been putting off finishing the story. But it’s time. Time to roll up my proverbial sleeves and get to work. I left readers wondering about the mysterious phone call on the last page of book two. We all need closure and another chance at happily ever after. As Tony said, “Once in Love with LilyAlways in Love with Lily.” Time to decide what happens with Forever, Lily.

 

#Writer Problems

Your computer updates and deletes all of your bookmarks on Explorer, so months’ worth of research is lost. You are frequently irritated by grammar and vocabulary errors, even on Facebook and Twitter. You’re supposed to be making a career out of writing, but you delete more than you write on any given day. These are just a few of the things you’ll find under the “writer problems” hashtag. But if you ask me, the biggest “writer problem” isn’t something that happens to the writer. The problem is the fact that their families are forced to live in a constant state of paranoia.

Anything they say can and may be used against them in a future novel. If they’re lucky, it was something funny or debonair that will be quoted by the hero. If they’re not so lucky, words they used during an argument will be uttered by the snarky jerk of a protagonist.

Their spouses hear voices. They develop multiple personalities as they walk around talking to themselves in strange accents as they “write” dialog. And the poor things never know if their author partners are just letting their creative juices flow or if their just one step away from a DID or schizophrenia evaluation.

The author’s search history can be downright disturbing. My poor husband borrowed my computer to google something one day and when he pulled up my browser, he was met with one disturbing book mark after another.

• Cancer
• Can I drink beer with one kidney?
• Early signs of pregnancy
• What to Expect When Expecting Twins
• Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

The poor guy didn’t know if I might have cancer or I was pregnant. And the bigger question… If I was pregnant, who on earth was the father, since I had apparently already diagnosed him with Erectile Dysfunction.

Writing is hard work, to be sure. It takes hours and hours of research. You have to live and relive every scene you write just to make sure you get it right. Once you’ve written it, you worry if your brilliance is actually total crap. But at this point, I think I’m glad I’m the writer. At least I know what’s going on in this wicked head of mine. I know why I spontaneously break out in a fit of laughter or burst into tears while staring at my computer screen. Men and women have always had a hard enough time understanding each other to begin with, but my poor husband doesn’t stand a chance.

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Image from The Writer’s Circle on Facebook.