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I've spent the past three weeks in my first-ever writing class. It's been a blast! One of the pieces that's required is a 'Writing Process Paper.' Mine is part personal narrative, part manifesto introducing people to fanfiction, and part about my actual writing process. I thought I'd post it, for your amusement. ['Ware CoE spoilers within.]

People often tell me, “You’re a great writer; you should try to get published!”
I always respond the same way.
“I’m also terrific in bed, but I think going pro with either hobby might take the fun out of it.”
Now that I have your attention …

I first decided I was a writer in kindergarten. I spent weeks dominating story-time with my never-ending story about a baby mouse and his family. My teacher made me a deal. I could write the story down, and she would read it. She’d help me with spelling on any words I didn’t know, and for every page I wrote out neatly, she’d draw me a picture to show what I wrote. She was a terrific artist, and I still have the book, “The Adventures of the Mouse Family” lovingly hole punched and tied together with blue yarn so that we could add more pages at any time. (I’m still susceptible to this form of bribery, by the way. Record one of my stories for the iPod, draw a cover or some illustrations, translate my work into a foreign language and I will roll over, play dead, and jump through a flaming hoop.)

Sadly, my 1st grade teacher was not so gifted, and I abandoned the Mouse story. Writing was hard work, it made my hand hurt, and nobody but the teacher and my Mom ever read it. I gave up on the whole thing as not worth the effort.

Fast-forward ten years. I’m in high-school, dutifully writing book reports and lab reports. Writing is a pain, because you have to write everything out by hand, and then go back to write the whole thing out again from scratch, changing a few words to make the teacher happy. I don’t think of myself as a writer. Fast-forward five years. I’m putting myself through college working as a technical writer. Sitting in a cubical 20 hours a week. Tapping away on a computer, creating manuals, documentation, and on-line help files for a software program. Boooooring. Still not a writer. Five more years? I’m back in grad school part-time while teaching. Researching and analyzing, critiquing and responding. A writer? Oh please. I’ll write exactly as much as I need to for the requirements of the course.

Five years after that, a friend sent me a link to some stories on the Internet. They were ‘fanfiction’ – stories written using characters and settings from a TV show, movie, or published book. And they were fantastic. Well-written, fast-paced, snappy dialog. At the end of each story there was a link you could click to send feedback. So I did. I figured if these people weren’t getting paid, at least I should give them something for their time. Most writers I sent feedback to responded. She (almost invariably, the author was a woman) would thank me, discuss character issues, explain why she’d made particular choices, laugh or cry along with me. And when I commented on how differently I’d interpreted a plot point, one author invited, “Oh, you should write that version, I’d love to read it!” Suddenly writing wasn’t a spectator sport. Everybody could play. So I jumped into the game. And from that day on, I was a writer.

I write renegade, under the radar, under a pen name, in the shadow land of transformative works. I make no claim of ownership. The landscape of imagination, like satellite images of the Earth, admits no legal boundaries. I write, comment, beta, feedback, squee, and discuss. Every act of communication binds me tighter into a community that spans the globe.

I write fanfiction because story-telling is too important to leave in the hands of the professionals. Because Ianto lives, Milady was the most interesting character in ‘The Three Musketeers’, and people are still telling the Epic Love Story of Kirk and Spock forty years later. Because actions have consequences, emotions don’t reset a week later, and I’ve never seen someone piss on network TV. Because queering mainstream media is good for the soul, and there’s just not enough good character-driven kinky porn in the world.

When I write fiction, I throw a prompt out into the echoing candle-lit cavern of my mind, yelling, “Anybody want to take a swing at that?” Often, a character will step out of the shadows. “Sure, that reminds me of the time…” All I have to do is type, and keep up. My writing is powered by caffeine, emotion, and music; the mournful croon of a jilted lover or the snarling energy of a guitar solo. I write in no particular order. Bits of dialog, action, description from the beginning, the climax, the ever-elusive middle float around in my brain to be fished out, saved into computer memory, and later stitched together into a cohesive whole. There is no outline, no great plan, just the joy of discovery.

Once it’s all down in a first draft, I read it out loud. If it’s a short piece, I’ll repeat the words to myself over and over while walking the city at night. Adding, changing, rearranging like water smoothing a stone to a glassy finish. I send my work out to a beta, an editor who I know has a knack for just this type of writing. I sometimes email women whose work I admire, out of the blue, asking if they’ll beta for me. The magical invocation of the beta goes something like this: “I loved your story ______________. You did a brilliant job of ____________, and I’d like your help with that in this piece. Please don’t be afraid to be critical. It’s the only way I can improve. I welcome any and all feedback, but I’d particularly like you to address the following questions…” They rarely refuse. By this point I’ve built up a stable of specialists to call on as needed.

The final step, after I’ve revised based on the beta, or perhaps sent it out for another round of comments and revisions if there were major changes, is to publish. I don’t need to send out letters, find an agent, and hope that someone out there will buy and read my work. I just log-on, copy and paste the story in, add a little HTML code to pretty it up, and post. On a short piece, I’ll receive feedback in my inbox within minutes. For longer pieces, it might take an hour or two. Sometimes it’s just a “Loved it!” Sometimes it’s an in-depth commentary, hundreds of words long. I’ve gotten feedback longer than the original story! The comments are posted publically, and frequently discussion threads will start on aspects of the piece. Following the norms of my online community, the comments are almost exclusively positive. On the rare occasion someone wants to send slightly critical commentary, they’ll do so privately. I don’t revise published work based on feedback, but I do keep in mind what people found most engaging or effective, and use that to my advantage in the future. Because while I write first and foremost to please myself, the feedback? Doesn’t suck.

Comments

( 82 comments — Leave a comment )
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simplystars
Jul. 17th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)
I write fanfiction because story-telling is too important to leave in the hands of the professionals. Because Ianto lives, Milady was the most interesting character in ‘The Three Musketeers’, and people are still telling the Epic Love Story of Kirk and Spock forty years later. Because actions have consequences, emotions don’t reset a week later, and I’ve never seen someone piss on network TV. Because queering mainstream media is good for the soul, and there’s just not enough good character-driven kinky porn in the world.

I ADORE YOUR SHINY, PRETTY BRAIN. &hearts

I would tweak it a little in my own writing manifesto (but not the Ianto part *g* &hearts ) but otherwise... that's it exactly. \o/
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
*tackle-glomps* MANIFESTO! That is the word I was looking for! *steals it*
(no subject) - mikes_grrl - Jul. 18th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - keerawa - Jul. 18th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
akamine_chan
Jul. 17th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC)
Yes! This...exactly.

I write in no particular order. Bits of dialog, action, description from the beginning, the climax, the ever-elusive middle float around in my brain to be fished out, saved into computer memory, and later stitched together into a cohesive whole. There is no outline, no great plan, just the joy of discovery.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who writes like this. Bits and pieces, little scenes lacking a cohesive picture, waiting for me to puzzle it out. Though for me, the joy is tempered with frustration. I haven't resigned myself to working like this, and sometimes I fight against it.

The battles are epic and usually I lose...

This was a perfect essay, keerawa - it perfectly describes so much of why I write.

I write fanfiction because story-telling is too important to leave in the hands of the professionals. Because Ianto lives, Milady was the most interesting character in ‘The Three Musketeers’, and people are still telling the Epic Love Story of Kirk and Spock forty years later. Because actions have consequences, emotions don’t reset a week later, and I’ve never seen someone piss on network TV. Because queering mainstream media is good for the soul, and there’s just not enough good character-driven kinky porn in the world.

This resonates so strongly with me. This is why we're here.
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 05:56 am (UTC)
Eh, why fight your brain? Go with the flow. It obvisouly works, since you write gorgeous fic.
Glad it resonated with you, aka!
(Deleted comment)
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 05:57 am (UTC)
Renegade writers! *shows you the secret handshake*
inathunderstorm
Jul. 17th, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
YOU. YOU ARE SO AWESOME, KEERAWA. THIS IS...JUST...AWESOME.

I write renegade, under the radar, under a pen name, in the shadow land of transformative works. I make no claim of ownership. The landscape of imagination, like satellite images of the Earth, admits no legal boundaries. I write, comment, beta, feedback, squee, and discuss. Every act of communication binds me tighter into a community that spans the globe.

YES. YES. THIS..

This is fandom, this is why I love it. Wow, this whole thing resonated so strongly with me (esp. that opening paragraph LOL) and I just...THANK YOU for writing and posting this.

AWESOME. <3
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 05:58 am (UTC)
Heh, knew you'd like that opener, Sionnain. Fandom is love. *hugs*
(Deleted comment)
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 05:59 am (UTC)
I'm glad, umbo, thanks for letting me know!
isiscolo
Jul. 17th, 2009 05:08 am (UTC)
Oh, I love this. I write fanfiction because story-telling is too important to leave in the hands of the professionals.
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 06:00 am (UTC)
It really, really is. Thanks, Isis!
catwalksalone
Jul. 17th, 2009 06:58 am (UTC)
Oh, this is wonderful. Even if we don't all write the same way there's so much here that resonates. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 02:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading, cat!
j_s_cavalcante
Jul. 17th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)
“I’m also terrific in bed, but I think going pro with either hobby might take the fun out of it.”

Move over, Dorothy Parker. Heh.

Keera, I ADORE YOU MORE THAN I CAN EXPRESS IN WORDS (despite, you know, being a writer, which I have always been. As have you).

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Renegades unite!

Edited at 2009-07-17 07:31 am (UTC)
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
*throws a peace sign* I had to look up Dorothy Parker. "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." Heh.

Thanks, JS!
etcetera_cat
Jul. 17th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
This post gives me much in the way of glee. Even the bits that I can't relate to (I plod along in a devoutly linear fashion when writing, otherwise things go horribly, horribly wrong)
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)
That's the cool thing about writing. Everybody's brains are so different, but writing lets us meet in the middle and share something true.
luzula
Jul. 17th, 2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, this. *sighs happily*

I'd be interested to know what the teacher and the others in your writing course think of the fan fiction thing.
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC)
It's a writing class FOR teachers. They were fascinated. Those who had heard of fanfiction were rather startles by my positive view on it. And several made comments pleased by the iea of bringing story-telling to the masses.
(no subject) - blackjackrocket - Jul. 18th, 2009 02:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - keerawa - Jul. 18th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
vienna_waits
Jul. 17th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
Great manifesto. And it IS wonderful that "publish" means just hitting a few keys. No sending manuscripts out only to pile up rejection slips.
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
Yes - we had some authors in, talking about the long and painful process they had to go through to find a publisher. And in my head the whole time I'm thinking, 'Why didn't you just stick it up on the Internet for people to read?'
sundayscat
Jul. 17th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful essay!

I've finally finished recording your "Father Confessor", it's here: http://www.mediafire.com/?modlgzy4daz
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it, Sundayscat. I'm downloading 'Father Confessor' now, can't WAIT to hear it!
kill_claudio
Jul. 17th, 2009 07:35 pm (UTC)
\keerawa/

Fantastic essay! A manifesto for fanfic as well as for writing. I loved all the things that everyone else pointed out, although my favourite bit was probably Suddenly writing wasn’t a spectator sport. Everybody could play. That's how I felt when I discovered fandom.

Would you mind if I recommended this to metafandom? I think the rest of fandom will want to read this.
keerawa
Jul. 17th, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC)
One of my classmates wrote a comment on that during today's read-around, saying, 'But SHOULD everybody play?' She's a new writer, not very confident. I tracked her down at lunch to say YES.

Everyone should play. If you're not sure how, we'll teach you the rules. If you're not very good at it, you'll get better with practice. Don't let fear deprive the world of your unique voice.

Not sure how metafandom works, but sure, feel free to recommend it. I'd be happy to have more people bounce their ideas around here.
fluffnutter
Jul. 18th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)
and there’s just not enough good character-driven kinky porn in the world.

Amen, sister! That's why I write my stuff!!

:D
keerawa
Jul. 18th, 2009 02:43 am (UTC)
*high-fives*
thefrogg
Jul. 18th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
Here from metafandom! (It hasn't been posted, but it's in the comments, and I read those when I get impatient.)

This is awesome. So very very awesome. I'd point out all the parts that resonated with me, but I'd be quoting the whole darn thing. (Especially that one paragraph everyone's gushing over up there.::points up::)

Except this bit:

I write in no particular order. Bits of dialog, action, description from the beginning, the climax, the ever-elusive middle float around in my brain to be fished out, saved into computer memory, and later stitched together into a cohesive whole. There is no outline, no great plan, just the joy of discovery.

This is so so so very much how I write. Except for the longer pieces I've been trying to force myself into writing, because I learn towards very convoluted political stuff that I have to keep straight or else.::sigh::

But also! You've got the first metafandom link I pointed my writing partner at and she loved it as much as I do.::bounce::
keerawa
Jul. 18th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)
I'm delighted that both you and your writing partner were able to enjoy it, thefrogg!
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