Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How Fanfiction Writing Makes You Wonder What You're Doing Wrong

I'm a fanfic writer.

I'm proud of it, too, even though a lot of "real" writers shy away from admitting they are fanfic writers or have been in the past. It's not considered a "real" form of writing, and in the writing community is considered an almost taboo subject (sort of like self-publishing?).

But I am a proud fanfic writer. I've been writing fanfic since I was thirteen, possibly younger, even, and over the years attribute a lot of honing my craft to my fanfic. I will always, always thank fanfic for making me a better writer.

Lately my fanfic has been in the Vampire Diaries realm, which is fitting considering how much I love my LJ Smith and my Kevin Williamson. (I used to write Dawson's Creek fanfic back in the day--it was horrible. I was still learning back then.) But it's a nice outlet for me to explore my love of Damon and Elena and get some freedom from the grueling original writing trenches. I don't have to edit and re-edit my fanfic. I can just write it, edit it once, and go. It's a relief--a nice, easy outlet. I <3 fanfic writing. (And, of course, it helps me to show the writers, "Haha, I can totally do this better than you!")

An amazing thing about fanfic is how honest readers are. They are willing to tell you, point blank, if they dislike something. If they like something. You know, immediately, how well you're doing--or not doing--chapter-by-chapter.

I submit for your attention the latest story I posted on yesterday. It published at approximately 8:30 P.M. PST. By EOD on 2.15, it had received 1.12 thousand hits, and 172 visits. (You can think of it as page views vs. people.) Today I just checked and the story has received 1.67 thousand hits, and 275 visits.

The story has received 8 reviews.

As an author, this tells me something. Either I'm doing something wrong--i.e., people don't like my story--or people don't feel the need to comment because the story is complete.

From previous experience, I know these things:
  • The story lacks angst the fan base generally prefers. It was a nice, happy story, and written to be angst-less because I wrote it as a Christmas present.
  • The story lacks a plot. It's just a bunch of fluffy-happy-fun-times. Also not designed to engage readers and make them want more.
  • It is complete. No one feels the need to tell you it's good or to continue if it's complete. If I had posted chapter-by-chapter, would I have received more comments?
  • The most important stat is the last chapter compared to the first. On today's count, 384 people started the story today. 275 made it to chapter two. 273 have continued to the end. Most of the people starting are continuing the nine chapters to the end. (This is a good sign--it means people who made it past chapter one are sticking through it to the end. It's a 10k word story. It's not super long, but it's not super short, either.)
Things like this make me think about my original writing, and the direction it heads. A lot. Am I engaging my readers enough? Am I giving them enough of what they want? What else should I be doing differently? I think about all these things when I compare the number of readers to the number of reviews. Not because I'm so vain I feel the need to be constantly praised, but because I worry. What did I do wrong?

And so I wonder--has anyone else ever felt this way?