Friday, March 15, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Sam Schooler - What I Learned From Writing Fan Fiction

While I'm on vacation, Sam Schooler is taking over my blog for a little while. Without further ado...

I thought for hours about what to write for this post. Not only is it the first post I've written to promote a story of mine, it's also a post on the blog of an author that I kind of admire like a lot, so THIS IS A VERY DAUNTING TASK. I mean, I read over these book promo blog posts and it's like, my god, this person is funny and charming and a talented writer? Where does this shit come from? Hook me up to that IV, please. I want what they're having.

Really, though, after so much internal debate, I've decided to go with my roots. "Scented" is the first piece of original fiction that I've published, but I'm a child of the Internet, and I've posted dozens of fanfics, starting from the time I was thirteen until... oh, about three weeks ago. Fanfiction is where writing and I met. In the grand scheme, an obsessive love of things and thousands of strangers on the Internet are the reason I'm here today.


1. Critique.
People on the Internet are just that: people on the Internet. While very real friendships and relationships can result from these digitized connections (my fiancĂ©e and I, for example, met through the Supernatural fandom five years ago), most of the interactions are fleeting, and as such, it's easy for someone to shit on your work. What are they losing by telling you that DEAN WINCHESTER DOES NOT BOTTOM, OH MY GOD or that THE DOCTOR IS SO WRONG, HE DOESN'T EVEN TALK LIKE THAT or ICHIGO KUROSAKI IS NOT A GIRL, HOW DARE YOU GENDERBEND? Nothing.

There are trolls and flamers everywhere, lurking. Waiting to tear you apart. But there are also genuine and helpful commenters who will seem harsh and then turn out to be the key to your success. Listen to them, and learn from them.

2. Learning curve.
There is no harsher learning environment for a writer than the Internet. Like I said, there are trolls and flamers literally everywhere. I know, I know. I just said that there are helpful commenters. And there are! But those trolls will be there to tear down anything you write, using any weakness they can find.

So make yourself better. Read. Learn. Observe. Figure out why the Big Name Fans' fics are getting the attention they are (if they deserve that attention). Examine style and characterization. LEARN. As a writer, you can never stop learning and improving. If you go stagnant, if you think, "I really know that this piece is mediocre, but I'm gonna stop editing it anyway, blah," the trolls are waiting. Remember that.

3. Characterization.
If you write Tony Stark "wrong," someone is going to yell at you. Don't get me wrong – there are certainly character interpretations. There's room for uniqueness in each fic. But people have Opinions, and they will punch you in the face if they believe you've screwed up a character they love.

This will make you think about characterization – and this thinking will carry over into your original writing. Take the time to flesh out your characters, and pay attention to whether or not what's happening in your story is "in character" with your design. Learning to double-check yourself will prevent inconsistent characterization.

4. Don't be an asshole.
Fandom is all about community, and so is the publishing world (particularly the queer lit publishing world, which I've found to be fairly tight-knit and very welcoming). If someone reaches out to you about your fic, don't "forget" to answer their message. Don't be an asshole when you do answer. There's no quicker way to alienate your fanbase, because if you're shitty to one person, that person will take screencaps! Like Thing #3, this carries over into original fiction. Part of the reason I'm here, posting on Lori's blog, is because I reached out to her on Twitter after reading A CHIP IN HIS SHOULDER and she responded warmly to me.

Having a book published is sort of like hitting BNF status in fandom. You suddenly intimidate people, even people who knew you "before." Don't let it go to your head. I made this mistake myself in fandom, and that takes us back to Thing #2: learning curve. You'll hit it, and you'll hit it hard, and by the time you realize what went wrong, you're Public Enemy #1. It's hard to repair a damaged reputation, so don't damage it in the first place. Be welcoming to fans and fellow writers alike.

5. The end.
When I first started writing, I thought an ending meant wrapping up each minute detail. I didn't understand why the endings of my stories would stretch out for thirty or forty pages, filled to the brim with all the information I wanted to pass on. It wasn't until I went online that I realized that writers don't have to hand perfect, packaged endings to the reader. It's okay to have an open ending! It's okay to leave the main character remembering the words of their late lover and looking at the woman in the coffee shop who is amazing and who asked for their number last week.

It's okay to let the reader imagine what the rest of the characters' world will be. In that universe, people will die and disasters will happen and things will splinter at some point, probably, but when the section of time that you have slated for your story is over, move on. Don't linger. Don't hang on to those characters so hard that you're cutting yourself down at the knees for working on other projects. Your characters will love you after you're done telling the world about them.

Also? It's okay to kill everyone. Just make the readers feel it first.

A sequel to Torquere Press’s MASKS OFF! anthology, MASKS OFF TOO! is a collection built on mystery and seduction — and this time, there are vampires. MASKS OFF TOO! includes works by Jade Astor, Missouri Dalton, Anna Hedley, Laylah Hunter, Sean Michael, G.O. Noce, Sam Schooler, and BA Tortuga.

Check it out here!

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