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Of Great Importance

Posted by TenthWeasleyWriter , 07 April 2012 · 384 views

I'm not good at doing really massive blog entries, but there are some things worth saying that would take up too much room in a status update. :) It's just a quick thought, this blog, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately, so maybe it's not so quick, in retrospect. It's one of the most important things I've found that goes along with writing, and fan fiction in particular, and I've been meaning to share this for a while. So, here goes.

I think one of the things about writing that is lost when one begins to write fan fiction, is the need to make the story appealing to you. So often people will tap into formulas (playing with characters they see to be the most popular alongside storylines they also know to be crowd favorites) in order to get more reads, or review, or favorites, or whatever they're striving for, and in the process I think they lose a bit of themselves along the way.

It's been said that anyone can write -- and if you have a knowledge of language, then yes, you can literally write, more often than not. But not just anyone can write in the sense that authors and poets and essayists, ad infinitum, can. It's a bit difficult for me to explain my thoughts in that regard. But I'm fairly confident we've all had that sort of experience where we read a story, and it just lacks... passion. And for me, a passionless story doesn't spark my interest enough to continue on, no matter how many reviews the story's got or how many people profess that it's the best thing since sliced bread.

What happened to writing for ourselves? Have we become so wrapped up in that review count, or that number of reads, that we've forgotten that storytelling is something not constructed, not molded, not built from a model, but created? Stories should be told because we have a compulsion to tell them, not because they have the potential to be popular. Not because it's what people are reading the most of. Not because you know that you can get a bright banner for the story. That's not what writing should be about, and any number of published harlequin romances or cut-and-dry teen romance novels are points proven in that regard.

Reviews are great. Reads are great. Favorites are great. But if you're writing solely to see that number go up, and not because you're genuinely invested in what you're writing, then it's going to be a bit like day-old soda: Flat and distasteful. Certain people like certain stories, and you're never going to please all of the people all of the time. We all write fan fiction here, and it's pretty safe to say that we're well ensconced into a geekdom that surpasses just general appreciation for these books. And it bothers me so much that people still seem to be competing for some nonexistent popularity prize.

We all start somewhere.

Above everything else, write for yourself, not for reads or reviews or favorites. Write for yourself, and you'll always have a story worth telling.

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Violet Gryfindor
Apr 07 2012 07:11 PM
Yes! This is so true! Thank you for posting this!

It's very easy to fall into the trap of wanting to write the next popular story - it's happened to me often and it's a strange, scary feeling because I know that what I like is not what's going to be popular (maybe it would have been 150 years ago, but not now). The stories I've written that mean most to me tend not to be popular, but then again, sometimes there are surprises: the weird stories catch attention while the ones written to a particular form don't. It's so hard to tell sometimes.

What I've learned is that there is no formula for writing that "popular" story. I'm sure that if you asked padfoot4ever, she wouldn't know exactly what made Delicate so popular. It just happens.

One has to find a balance between what one loves to write and what one knows people love to read. I don't know if an author can wholly write for themselves - there's always going to be that looming monster of "the market" lurking at one's shoulder because if one wanted to publish, one would have to write to a particular editor, publication, and readership, but there is always one person authors can satisfy: themselves.
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Apr 07 2012 07:40 PM
I have been thinking the exact same thing for the past couple of weeks; every time I see people ask for review swaps, in particular. There's nothing wrong with asking to swap stories, but I can't help but think about writing for reviews.

I know I like it when people review my stories, I love knowing what people think and any constructive criticism they have, every author does, but I think it's better when it's not asked for, you know?

I don't think any of my stories are particularly popular, not my plots or pairings, but I will write them anyway, because I want to.

I think popular stories are popular because people like them, not because reviews have been asked for. That doesn't make people go back and love the story, the story itself does. But whether asked for or not, I think every review is deserved. Everyone has that worry about whether or not people will like it or read it, but I hope that people won't give up if they don't receive as many reviews as other. If they do, maybe they are writing for the wrong reasons...

Thank you for writing this blog. And I agree with Violet:

there is always one person authors can satisfy: themselves.

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Apr 07 2012 07:47 PM
Yes! Ironically it takes someone a while of writing in a world where other people read their work to come back around to this idea...that it's okay to write what pleases oneself. And good, even. I read a quote the other day of Elie Wiesel's that reminds me of what you're saying, or, rather, says it differently:

"After all, one doesn't write to be published. One writes because one writes. The obsession that the writer has is that of the witness, meaning he or she must bear witness. Whether others are listening or not, that's not my problem; it's their problem. My duty is to write. Those who read, good for them. Those who don't, too bad. That was the attitude. It may sound a little bit arrogant, but believe me, it's not arrogance. It's sheer lucidity. It is simply a perception of reality, that we must do what we can do and what we do, do it well--as well as possible."
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This blog does feel very timely, as have the others that I've seen lately that deal with review-related issues like this one. Reading it has made me feel very guilty, I must admit, because I've fallen victim to the mentality that doing review swaps are fun but my favorite part is getting the review on my story. I feel like when I first started writing, and I was writing regularly (I surely do miss my free time), I felt like I was actually writing because I loved the story, just like I loved reading others' stories. For me, the two have become very much entwined. I still get a pleasant feeling when I break through a temporary block and come up with a great idea for my next chapter, but now it's more because I feel a need to update and less because I've gotten excited about the plot. In the same way, I used to get very excited when a beloved story on my favorites list was updated or I ran across an interesting-looking story on the Recently Updated list, but now I just don't have time to keep up with any of them. All I can say is that I really hope that my passion returns with the summer, when I have less RL stuff to worry about.

At the same time, though, I can't help but feel disheartened to see myself (and other authors) posting new chapters and getting little to no feedback unless it is specifically requested. Maybe everyone else is in the same boat that I am? And the larger question -- if I think the chapter is good, how many people do I have to get to say to me, "Yes, I loved this chapter!", before I'm satisfied? Lately, as I've been trying to crack the mystery of how to get people to fall in love with your work, I've found that threshold going higher and higher for me. It's not good. :(

It's food for thought, and it's good to reflect on these matters. Thanks, Jane!
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Apr 07 2012 09:59 PM
Thank you for posting this, Jane! :wub: It's given me a lot to think about.

I've been writing for myself for a really long time. In fact, I think I wrote my first story when I was 6 or 7, some little idea about teenagers in a boarding school (don't laugh :p) And one of the amazing things about this site, one of the main reasons I actually made an account instead of just reading the stories was because of the ability to have others read your work on the site. Because a writer has to want to satisfy themelves to write. Anyone can have a brilliant idea, but a writer is someone who takes the effort to put that down on paper. And if you don't want to write for yourself, you're not going to get far with that.

But before this site, I had never gotten farther than a couple chapters into a story. (ignoring the collab I did with a friend :p) And now, I've written 50k of OF, I'm halfway through with a novel length story, and I feel good about writing. Because really, why write? To tell a story? Well, you can't really tell a story to yourself. You already know the ending. The fun of it is to see someone else hear the story. To share your opinions? Once again, you have to tell them to somebody.

That almost sounded like I was disagreeing with you, and I'm not. I wholeheartedly agree. I think as authors, we sometimes get worked up over numbers. 3 reviews. 5 favorites. 20 reads. But that's all they are. They're just numbers. Really, if even one person has enjoyed the story. If they've been entertained, or even better, if they've gotten something out of it, that should be enough. And though a review is great for knowing that, if you've got something out of writing it, that should also be enough.

Now I'm conflicted! :p On one hand, you should be writing to please yourself. But you're writing for someone else, so it's only right that you want them to read it.

Though I think your last sentence rings through no matter what. Write for yourself, and you'll always have a story worth telling.

I think anytime someone is disheartened by the lack of read/reviews, they should remember that.


Write the story you want to write. But tell it to the world.

And that's what I was trying to say through that ramble. I really do talk too much.
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I'm so with you on this one, Jane. Maybe I'm naive, but I'm reading what you wrote and thinking, "People actually write fan fiction on a formula just to try and make a popular story?" I'm really just stunned that that actually happens. I honestly think that is just so sad. And kind of counterproductive. I mean, if you want to be popular, then writing fan fiction is probably not the best way to go about it :D I still haven't come out of the fan fiction closet to most people I know, even though I'm fiercely proud of my stories.

I've always written just for me. Every time I receive a review, I'm completely stunned that there are other people out there who like my stories as much as I do. I really just kind of write what makes me happy since a lot of the past decade for me has been spent being in very difficult situations personally. I think I probably would have been much more depressed if I didn't have my fantasy world of fan fiction to escape to.

I'm so glad to hear that you also write just for yourself. You're really very talented for your age, and I hope you never stop writing. Thanks for this blog post. I think there are probably lots of people here who need that bit of a boost and a reminder that it really isn't about the numbers.
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