Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thoughts on Beginning with Fanfiction

Written by Nancy, one of our 3 fabulous ND betas.

I’ve been on a fan-fiction reading frenzy lately. Why? I could say that, “I don’t know why.” But that wouldn’t be the truth. I do know why.

I got my start in writing – a jolt to the heart of my need to write – via fan fiction. And, just last week, I finished the very first fan-fiction story I ever started. Granted, the phrase ‘the end’ came six-and-a-half years after I wrote ‘Prologue’. But, so be it. Anyone who knows me knows my propensity for procrastination. Except, I don’t think procrastination is entirely to blame.

For those of us who love to read, there’s a certain sense of loss that comes with finishing a story. Maybe that’s why series are all the rage; you finish a book but you haven’t finished the story – get my meaning? For those of us who write, the sense of loss that comes with typing the last word of the last chapter is much more acute. It really does feel like this part of us, the part that we dredged up, stirred about, tapped into, and channeled, has died, never again to be. Yes, we’ll write more stories, but not ‘that’ story. I remember feeling that sense of… writer’s mortality, if you will… when I finished Another Way. I felt depressed. I felt listless. I felt adrift. The men, women, places and motivations I had been living with, exploring, and exploiting, for eleven months were no longer part of my day-to-day existence.

Hence one of the bigger reasons why my Harry Potter fan-fiction story, Hooligan of Hogwarts, took more than six years to complete. I didn’t want to let it go. Through that story, I’d met the most amazing array of people, from all over the world, of whom I’d never have ever interacted with otherwise. Several of these people I lucky enough to call friend. Who’d want to end something that could hurt them?

That got me to thinking… about Cassandra Claire. Yep. The Golden Girl of plagiarism. The Cinderella of fan-fiction writers as she, through fan-fiction, secured a three-book deal with a major publisher and had one of her books appear on the New York Times Bestseller list.

I admit, I got caught up in her Draco Dormiens series. It was fun, full of quips, lots of angst, and populated with characters from the Harry Potter universe. Then, as I read more, and the scandal unfolded, I realized why her ‘voice’ was so familiar. It was Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer voice. Her Draco series was a re-packaged version of the Buffy/Angel television series, with just enough Rowling-ness to hook Potter fans.

Why would someone do such a thing? Especially when Claire has a talent all together her own?

I can answer that one…

Acceptance. Fame. Notoriety.

How do I know?

Even though I never achieved the success that Claire attained, I found my own fan-fiction writing gaining a modicum of popularity. Man – it’s heady stuff. Truly. The reviews, the e-mails, the comments, the flames, the praise, the fan-art, the interpersonal relations; it all culminates to fuel the approval junkie that resides in every single person who creates art in which ever medium they utilize.

I can see Claire getting caught up in it. Who wouldn’t? Does that justify her faux-righteous indignation? Her attempts to vindicate herself? Her constant denials? No. Not in the least. Plagiarism is a foul, cowardly act. It’s deliberate and calculated. To use a Potter-verse term, I consider it Unforgivable. She should have confessed to plagiarism, shrugged her shoulders, and the matter would have dropped in no time. Instead, it has dogged her every step and stemmed her publishing career.

As I stride forward with my publishing career, I take the lessons I learned from Cassandra Claire: own what you do, no matter what it is.

I also take with me the lessons that I’ve learned along the way. In particular, the lesson pertaining to grief and how to grieve for a story: cherish its roots, pay homage to where it came from, the original source of inspiration for the story.

That’s why I’ve been reading so much fan-fiction this past week.

That’s why I’ll continue to read fan-fiction for years and years to come. Hopefully, one of these days, there will be fan-fiction based on one of my stories.

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