Monday, July 28, 2014

Write Fan Fiction

I have written fan fiction. To my knowledge, I have written four pieces of fan fiction in my life. I might be forgetting something, but I don't think so. Anyway, I'm not ashamed or embarassed that I've been a writer of fan fiction. I've also read a lot more fan fiction that I've written. I used to read fan fiction all the time. Fan fiction, if it's good, can be a great way to revisit a world that the original author has left behind. Those same characters and places and times offer so many more potential stories than any one author could write. Fan fiction is harmless fun and I fully endorse it. And I endorse you writing it. Yes, you, the serious writer, the would-be author, the professional aspirant. Write some fan fiction. Why you ask? Why put time into this? Why sully your good name? Well first of all, you don't need to share it. I shared mine the way I did because some folks wanted to read it and so I could make this point I'm about to make. So this can be our dirty little secret. Secondly, you need to experiment. You need to push yourself and challenge yourself and strive to be better. You need to go outside your comfort zone and do something new from time to time. Short stories are great for this kind of thing. Short Stories allow you to explore new ideas and techniques and genres without committing to writing 80,000 words of experimentation. Unless you want 80,000 words of experimentation. I've done that too. "But Carl, how does all this relate to fan fiction?" Look, nameless voice of the confused audience, you need to get past this prejudice you have against Fan Fiction before we go on. Even if you don't hate the notion of fan fiction and think it's harmless fun, there's still a good chance you think it's the land of young women living out their Twilight bondage fantasies, die hard Naruto loving japanophiles with not actual interest in literature or syntax or even just a "good jumping off point" before people become serious writers. I've heard all the reasons to hate, ignore, disregard, discount, look down on or patronise fan fiction and fan fiction writers. There's nothing you can tell me that I haven't heard and you're still looking at it the wrong way. Instead, start looking at fan fiction as a pre-packaged setting. You open the box marked "Harry Potter" and you have a world, a history, characters, rules, events and everything else that you need to begin telling a story. All you've got to do is mix in your own fresh ideas and tell your Harry Potter story. And those ideas - those oh so necessary creations plucked from your imagination - are what separates fan fiction from canon. New ideas are not optional when writing fan fiction. And those new ideas can be character archetypes you don't usually write, narrative voices you don't usually use, genres you're uncomfortable with, obscure themes you're not sure how to explore. When you begin writing a story from scratch, be it a short story, a novel or a play, you really are beginning with a blank sheet of paper. Everything that goes onto that paper has to come from somewhere inside you. You have to make the people, the places, the past, present and future, you have to make the heroes and the villains, you have to create the mood, the imagery, you have to come up with the themes and how you're going to explore and argue those themes, you have to give everyone names and personalities and purpose. I don't need to tell you that writing happens to be a shit load of work. Fan fiction fills in some of those blanks for you. It gives you more time to focus on a few key ideas that you want to experiment with. That's the beauty of fan fiction. Don't ever stop experimenting and don't let your prejudices get in the way of something that might help you to improve as a writer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

You're Supposed To Be Enjoying Yourself

Are you having fun? The author Joe Konrath came up with an idea some time ago called the "Eight Hour E-Book". It pretty much does what it says on the label. It's a challenge for authors to write, edit, format and publish an e-book in eight hours. Many of the readers on his blog did exactly that and in the space of one or two days, the kindle store had an influx of simple, often crude, often humerous and generally low quality e-books that authors had made in eight hours. He did this for a couple of reasons. Konrath wanted to make a point about the nature of the e-book market and his point was valid and worth exploring but it is also a topic for another time. The second reason he did this was because a lot of authors and aspiring authors follow his blog and he wanted to remind everybody that they should be having fun when they write. And that's a point that can't be stressed enough. I was going to talk about fan fiction today, but I'll do that next time. Today I want to make the same point that Konrath made with his Eight Hour E-Book Challenge. That point is: Writing should be fun. I swear, lately I feel like I've died and been damned to the hell of eternal editing. Don't get me wrong, I like editing as much as the next guy and I think editing is important, but by the twelfth time you're rewritten the same chapter, it's lost a lot of the artistic romance. If you ever get to this point, it's probably time you did something to rekindle that fire of passion that got you started. Write something just for fun. Writing should be fun. If you're not doing this for fun, why are you doing it? If you're like me, you've had your eyes on the prize for a long time. You want to be a professional author. You want to create work of quality. You want other people to read your work and you want them to enjoy said work. But hold on, let's go back to the beginning. Why did you start writing? Why did you decide that this is what you want to do? One day I'll give you the full story of how I started writing but for now, the short version of my story is probably the short version of your story. You started on this path of the literary artiste because you were having fun with words and telling stories. At least, I certainly hope that's why you got started. If not, then I'm afraid I've got some bad news. Creative writing is not the path to fame, glory, wealth and women. Actually, it might get you women, but not the fame, wealth and glory part. Writing is not the best way to leave your mark on history. Odds are, even if you're successful enough to be a full time professional writer, you still won't live a life of fame, riches, glory and women. Okay, there's still a good chance for women, but that's all. So if nothing else, you want to be having fun, right? Now, you probably don't need me to say "Hey, have fun!" because everybody likes fun and fun is reason enough to have fun. But there is another reason to keep having fun when you write. Your readers know if you were enjoying it. You've probably read something, where you reached a point and it became crystal clear to you that the author had stopped caring. When the author doesn't enjoy writing, the audience doesn't enjoy reading it. There's no life, no care, no interest in its creation and that is apparent on the other side of the process. Your writing will be better if you are having fun writing it. Reading should be enjoyable but their enjoyment begins with you enjoying the creative process! So have fun. If you don't feel like you're having fun, then you're doing something wrong. Fix that. Stop what you're doing and find the fun. It could be that you've spent far too long in editing and you need to do something new. Maybe you need to do something silly and frivolous. Maybe back of the emotional character drama and work on something you wouldn't normally do. Something like, oh, say, I don't know, a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan fiction. You never know what could happen. Then, when you've reminded yourself how much fun writing is, go back and keep working on the other stuff. Or do an Eight Hour E-Book. Whatever it is you need to do, do it. Find the fun. Writing should be fun. So go have some fun.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Death of Summer Sprinkles

So, a little while ago, while laying around sick, possibly with a mild fever, I came up with a couple of crazy ideas. Well, I say they were crazy but they seemed great at the time.

The first was a mash-up of Mortal Kombat and Spongebob Squarepants. The second one was a My Little Pony Neo-Noir murder mystery.

That second idea stuck.

Despite really only having an opening in mind and still feeling pretty awful, I decided to start writing. And I kept writing. Before I knew it, this silly short story had grown to be well over 10,000 words long. Not such a short story after all. Better yet, it actually wasn't bad. Well, if you can look past the absurdity of it all, it's not bad. So I kept writing it and writing it and before long, it had become a 21,000 word novella. It was a lot of fun to write and it has been some of my most productive writing in a while. It's silly but some parts of it are pretty good, if I do say so, myself.

It has been years since I wrote any fan fiction and it will probably be years before I write it again. After all this time, I can both see why it still has a lot of appeal and also why I've never really been interested in it. I've also learned a lot more about My Little Pony and the brony fandom than I did before I began writing.

Yes, even Fan Fiction needs researching. Take note, kids.

Anyway. The completed work (and when I say "completed" I mean as completed as I'll ever get a piece of fan fiction. It's been only lightly edited, but the story is complete.) has been uploaded to my rarely used Figment account for all to see. It's called The Death of Summer Sprinkles

Friday, July 4, 2014

I'm Going To Leave Deviant Art

For nine years, I've been a member of the website Deviant Art and an active participant in the literature community. However, I have decided to leave.

For the next week, my reasons will be on my Deviant Art blog. After that week, I will be deactivating my account.

I will continue to use this blog into the future. I will continue to write and create works I hope people will enjoy. I will continue to write my thoughts on the art of writing and try to teach what I know to anyone wanting to learn from my experience.

But my online gallery at Deviant Art will be gone.

I may continue to post pieces of fiction online. In fact, there is one big piece I am working on now, which I will find a way to share with the internet, but beyond that, I make no guarantees. My focus, for a long time, has been on providing publishing worthy material and that will continue to be my focus.

That is all for now. I will see you in THE FUTURE!