Camp Nano Mid-way Update

The halfway mark for Camp Nano: July 2018 edition has arrived.  Word count wise I’m doing good, with an expected (according to them) end date of the 26th.  However, in actually accomplished projects I’m not doing as well.  I’ve been writing my blog posts which accounts for much of my word count, as well as some shorter stories that have come to mind.  However I had two projects I wanted to complete this month that have yet to be completed.

One is a multi-chapter fanfiction that I’ve been working on several years now (2012) and its starting to get a little ridiculous that I haven’t finished it yet.  Especially as I have several chapters mostly written.    However on the other hand its been one of my more popular works in fanfiction so perhaps the long time working on it paid off.

I also had a project from April where I had 30 songs that I was going to translate into writing prompts.  I have yet to work on this at all.

Mostly I think it’s an issue of time management, which I’m apparently bad at, but also inspiration.  There are some days where just nothing will come out (which ends up being the days I get more work done on my essay series for this blog.

I’m hoping that when I give my end of month update I’ll have a lot better news to share.  I plan on trying to manage my time a little bit better and getting the stories done I wanted to get done.  I also plan on finishing some of the essays that I have that are left incomplete – including one WOH essay that was meant to be posted over a week ago.

I’ll be posting the end-of-Nano post on the 30th.  Not actually the last day (as July has 31 days) but it’s the last posting day for this blog for July.

Disclaimers Discussion

Recently I came across a social media post that had a screenshot of a conversation about the history of disclaimers.  It made me want to revisit the topic, which I wrote about during my Fanfic Primer series.  A Disclaimer, traditionally, has been a notice on any piece of fan-made media that explains that the content is based on someone else’s creative property and the creator of this media is not out to make money on it.   When I first started writing in middle school, everything had a disclaimer.  It was common practice particularly on fanfic.  Culturally, fanfic had not quite made it as a true expression.  People still saw it as plagiarism, and an attempt to use someone else’s creativity instead of your own.

The amount of conversations I had with people who asked me when I was going to start to write something real was high.

There was also a fear of getting punished for your fanish endeavours in your public life.  Fanfic archives were password protected at times, and disclaimers could be lengthy.  Some creators of the original content *would* at that time pursue fan-content makers.  Anne Rice in particular had a history with prosecuting fanfiction writers.  Fanfiction.net won’t allow fanfiction based on her works, and authors of content from that time have found themselves sent cease-and-desist letters, or further.   Anne McCaffrey, an author I love had the opinon that having others play with her characters would be hard to keep seperate, so she made a forum for the fanfic and allowed it no where else.  Whether or not that kept her from actually seeing it, I’m not sure.  I haven’t participated on that forum in many years, so I also don’t know if they have loosened up on that since her death.

I feel disclaimers are important for a multitude of reasons.  Historically they protected people (or at least attempted to) from being accused of trying to make money off of someone else’s intellectual property.  But it was also a place to show that you acknowledge you are taking some leads from other sources. This is where I think it is still important.  While places like Archive of Our Own, and general culture have given fanfic more respect as a medium, an author should still acknowledge the author of source material.  Any source material.  This is why I am glad that AO3 has allowed author notes sections where I can credit any other sources outside the main one I tagged as well as thank any betas/helpers that helped out.

Fanfic itself is not only for free anymore as well.  If you go on Amazon and type in Pride and Prejudice you can find hundreds of variations and adaptations to the classic novel.  Some are free on Kindle Unlimited, others are not. Other older books are simular.  However, the balk of fanfiction is made by people who either want to play in universe that they love, or want to see where the story go go.

So while a debate can exsit on whether disclaimers are necessarily needed when its clear contextually that its a fanfic, I think they are important to keep at least in theory.  It can be used in a author’s note, or a full traditional disclaimer.

What do you think about disclaimers?

Fandom Writing: The Importance of Trigger Warnings

WARNING:  This post mentions several triggering subjects in the course of covering Trigger Warnings.  

There has always been a debate on the use of trigger warnings..  Triggers are words and or images that can trigger adverse reactions in people who have suffered trauma or have various anxiety disorders. It also extends to things that people know, without having the anxiety, that they don’t care to see/here because its just not something they want to digest/handle.  People over the years have developed the idea of ‘Trigger Warnings’ to help people who have issues with these things avoid them, or at least be prepared to handle them if they still continue on.

Trigger warnings are important.  The debate on trigger warnings is that some people believe they are over used, and warning about things a person should be able to handle.  Others believe that not using it is showing a lack of compassion against those who have problems with triggers.  I am in the middle on this argument.  I believe common sense warnings about possible triggers is important and should be done.  However, if someone doesn’t write a trigger for something its not right to say they are not compassionate.  Perhaps it something they are unaware of being a trigger.

The common sense triggers are often built into archives.  Violence, character death, etc.  And it is already common to put tags to express when a fic has sexual content.  Its important to put these messages because not everyone is okay with everything.  Even if its not a trigger, some people simply don’t want to read smut, or want fluff only and no violence.  They might not want to read something descriptive in gore, or deals with a particular event or activity that makes them uncomfortable.

One of the generic ones is gore.  Some people don’t like the sight of blood or any other bodily fluid.  Sometimes its because an particular event, and sometimes it is just something the person knows they don’t like to see.  I used to have trouble remembering to tag these on posts because I wouldn’t think something was gorey, but then I would get messages asking for the tag.

If you are writing something that includes a sensitive topic, its a good idea to tag it, or make a warning in your chapter notes.  While you might not have a problem with it, or feel its important to your story, some people may just need to avoid that for their own personal reasons.   I have known people who refuse to tag stuff like this because they feel it gives the story away, but it would make it so much easier for people to avoid situations where they might be triggered.  It’s a courtesy to your readers. At the vary least it allows those who are picky about what they read the time to decide if your story will be one they choose.  It will also help those who have severe reactions to certain triggers to avoid them.

I think the fact that I have an anxiety disorder myself I understand the trigger system.  I am not triggered by anything written, but I can sympathise with those who are.  Sometimes surprise is not a good thing. So just take a few moments when you post your stories to think if there is anything worth tagging, anything that might trigger anxiety in people.  Things you should tag include sexual violence (including dubious consent), fertility issues (like miscarriage and stillbirth), detailed violence and torture.  Respect requests for added tags as well.

 

Ship & Let Ship

This post is actually linked to my last writing post.  The villainization of characters is a common trait among ship wars, and that is a part of today’s post.

Fandom in general is a fun, happy place for people to join together and enjoy something.  Be it a sport, a book, a movie or a TV show. If it’s a collection of fans of something, its a fandom.

However, particularly in the fictional work driven fandoms (Tv, books, movies etc) there is a dark element that pops up from time to time.  It’s called a Ship War. A ship, for those who are wondering, is a term for a pairing you prefer to see in a relationship. Most people have ships and have no problems letting others have their own ships.  Some, however, do seem to have a problem and make fandom less friendly, less happy and less enjoyable.

My first experience with a ship war was in the Doctor Who fandom.  I was late to the game, having watched but not been sucked in till I rewatched season 1 of the second series (or Nine’s tenure if you prefer) after catching an episode of Torchwood and Season 2 of Doctor Who.  I found myself really enjoying it, and immediately started shipping Rose/Doctor. I found that the Doctor Who fandom is thriving and has many little niches and sub fandoms. There was a lot out there, from fanfic, to fan made videos, and academic meta.  You can find a lot.

But one day, while surfing through various social media and fanfic sites, I started noticing something.  A strange undercurrent in the fandom. It turned out there was a division in shippers who prefered Rose and those who prefered Martha, his next companion, as a romantic interest.  I personally love Martha, though I found her season a little hard to watch. I found fanfics where either Martha was downgraded to a women who clung and became obsessed with the Doctor, totally ignoring the kickass character you saw on-screen or Rose likewise turned into a caricature of her characterization.  It just depended on what the author/video editor decided was the ship of choice. People took it further than that, and it made me back off for a while and want to rant about the fandom.

Sherlock, a television series based on Sherlock Holmes, was another fandom I saw this in.  However this fandom war made me completely drop the fandom. It made me uncomfortable enough that I have yet to go back and watch the show after season 2.  In particular one following of a ship decided to not only be horrible to other fans, they were horrible to actors whose character had, in their point of view, got in the way of their ship.

More recently I have come across a shipper war in The 100 fandom.  I came into the show, enjoying it. I liked the show, liked the books.  I was (and still am) a Bellarke (Bellamy & Clarke) shipper. I could argue why I felt they were the endgame couple.  On the screen, Clarke and Bellamy both had various other love interests. In particular, Clarke fell in love with Lexa, a character I didn’t care  for that much due to some writing issues. However I saw shippers on both side go to extremes to fight each other on it. Bellarke fans would exaggerate Lexa’s bad qualities, and Clexa shippers would state that Bellarke shippers were homophobic (whether they are or not as individuals can be debated.  It’s a poor generalization of a ship following however). They threw petty insults towards each other, but not in a fun “we all love each other anyway” sort of way. To the point I avoid the main 100 threads and tags because I’m always finding something happening.  And I’m not alone. I have heard stories from various fandoms where someone choose to leave or just stick to very specific tags because of overall tension due to a ship war.

There is a difference between good-hearted debate between shippers and shipper wars.  I have had conversations with my friends who have had different ships. For example, one of my best friends and I often disagree on shipping Jack & Gwen in Torchwood.  It’s good-natured debate. I have several friends who ultimately hate Trip/T’Pol from Star Trek: Enterprise. Yet when I write it/talk about it, they shrug and it’s the same when they talk about their prefered ship (Trip & Hoshi is a popular one).  The point is – we ship and let ship. We have our ships, our OTPS, our crackships and our “they are cute, so maybe” ships. They aren’t always the same. But we enjoy the same fandom, enjoy our friendships and our mutual love for whatever it is we are fanning.   We don’t go warring against each other over a disagreement with a ship. We don’t attack the actors who are just doing their job for getting in the way. We don’t let our shipping take over our lives, and our fandom enjoyment.

If you do not like a ship, do not read it.  Don’t write it. Treat your fellow fandomers with respect, and let others ship what they want to ship.  Yelling at them won’t change their mind, abusing them certainly won’t, and abusing characters in your writing will just make people avoid it.  It can also make people just peeking into the fandom run away from it.

If you don’t like a type of ship (be it slash, femslash, or het) don’t click on fics that use it.  Don’t target authors who write a ship you hate and give them bad reviews. I actually had this happen to me as a writer.  I saw a review, and got excited that someone had taken the time to leave one. When I opened the review up, I found a rant on how my couple was disgusting and how I should be ashamed to ship them. I was bewildered, and I know of others who have gotten similar reviews.  Once a friend and I decided to do a fic exchange. I wrote (well, am writing as I never finished it….meep!) a Jack/Ianto fic while she wrote a Jack/Gwen fic. She got a review that called her a homophobe for writing a bisexual character with a woman. Beyond the fact that it wasn’t even changing the sexuality of the character, it was confusing as to why this person took the time to seek out a Jack/Gwen fic and berate someone.  

So in the end, enjoy your ships and let other people enjoy their own.  Fandom is supposed to be fun, not somewhere someone is made to feel uncomfortable, or berated.

 

Fandom Writing: Writing the Opposition Badly

One of my pet peeves when reading fan fiction is when a character, usually someone who is the other possible love interest, is villanized to make another character look good or to make a ship seem more plausible.  Not only does it often come with out of character writing for said character, it makes me feel like the person who is writing is not all that sure in the ship they are writing.

You do not have to villainize a character to make your main character, or main ship, look better.  If the character is a villain already, then at least there is canon backing to your character being a villain.

My most recent example of this was in the Arrow fandom.  I am a big fan of Felicity and Laurel, and of Olicity.  However I found way too many fics that villainize Laurel.  Laurel has her own character set-backs, but she is no way a good choice for a villian in an Olicity fic.  And I’ve seen it likewise when people decide that Laurel/Oliver should happen, and make Felicity into a villain or an unhealthily clinging person.  None of it makes sense with the characters we see on-screen, who are in fact friends and strong women.

Another example is found in Doctor Who.  Martha and Rose are alternative villainized depending on the ship choice of the writer.  Honestly if you don’t like a ship, don’t write it.  I’ve found most of the time the ships resolve themselves around each other and you can avoid the other alternative fairly easy without villainizing a character. If you must deal with a ship that you dislike, resolve it between the characters and move on. Most of those reading are most likely already fans of your ship, and you don’t have to prove to them why your choice is better than the alternative.  That is best left to fandom meta essays.

I’ve also seen this with just characters.  Most often female characters, but occasionally male characters.  They will exaggerate bad qualities to the point of OOCness or completely villainize a character to make their favorite look better.  Your favorite character can be awesome all on their own.  That is why they are your favorite.  You don’t have to miswrite a character to make your fave look better. Again, most of your readership most likely already thinks your main character is awesome.

For a good example of how to deal with a love triangle, there is The Hunger Games.  The love triangle in that series is between Katniss, Peeta and Gale.  Peeta and Gale don’t fight each other over her, and both characters are allowed to have flaws and good things about them without comparing to each other.  In the end there is a little comparing when she finally makes a decision, but for the most part all three characters are allowed to exist on the same side.  Neither is completely villainized either.

My suggestion is if you really don’t like a character, have them take a trip, or be otherwise out of the picture of the story you are writing.  If you feel you can write the character well, and not villainize for the sake of making them look bad, go ahead and write them.  Take a look at canon.  Be honest with yourself as to why you are writing the character the way you are.

If you are just writing angry fic about a character you hate, label it as such so fans of the character know to avoid it.  And people who may hate the character but prefer to stick to canon can know that going in. For example, bringing back the Arrow fandom, I have seen people post “Anti-Felicity” or “Anti-Laurel” as a tag, letting me know that their story is not favorable to that character.  So I can avoid those stories.

Even in original writing, take a moment and think about the different features of the character.  Are you writing a well-rounded character or are you just focusing on bad parts so its clear they are the wrong choice?  Are you trying to make a compelling villain or just make your other characters look better?

Consider your characters and your readers before writing a character simply to be the anti-choice.

Spring & Camp Nano

Hope everyone is having a fantastic April.  Spring seems to be a little sluggish in waking up and arriving.  I’m writing this while looking out a window at snow.  Had a brilliantly sunny day yesterday, today is snow.   But that is what I get for living in the Northeast.

This month is Camp Nano, so there is going to be some writing posts.  A while back I did a series of essays on starting to write fanfic, so I won’t be redoing those right now.  But there are some other topics suggested to be that I’ll be covering.  It’s mostly to do with fanfic writing,  but some of it has original fiction writing connections too.  These include using triggers, why it’s a bad idea to villianize a character to make your character look good, and its good policy to ship and let ship.

I also have two bookit reviews coming and every Friday remains my Women of History series.

For those of you who don’t know what Camp Nano is, its a month-long writing challenge.  Every November is National Novel Writing month, where in people try to write a 50,000 word story.  It’s not quite a full novel, but it’s getting there and allows you the pleasure of knowing you wrote something.  In April and June they run Camp Nano, where you can work towards any writing goal.  Some use it to help them prepare for Nano, others for finishing up outstanding WIPs they have (I am one of those people).  But it’s basically up to you whether you write 1000 words or 100,000.  You get to set the goal.  My goal this year is started at 30,000 and I want to complete two chapter fics and a series of drabble challenges I haven’t finished yet.  It’s possible to adjust your word count so I may raise it later on.  On the 18th I have planned an update post, so I’ll talk more about my goals for Camp Nano then.

If you feel interested and or want to learn more, you can visit the Camp Nano Website.

Hope you all have a great month, and that spring finally arrives – and sticks around!

Writing and Plagiarism: How Cassandra Clare affected my life

When I first started to be active in fandom, the first fandom I really found myself falling in love with was Harry Potter.  It was the first time I started seeing a lot of stories just like the ones in my head, where I continued scenes, or made whole new ones.  It introduced me to the concept of OTPS, and various other fanfiction terminology.  It drove my creativity in my mid-teens.

One of the things I loved was the Draco Trilogy.  I eagerly awaited the updates.  In fact, my friend and I actually would take turns checking to see if it was updated. It was novel length, and I started reading towards the end of the second book.

Then I got slammed with the truth.  Around the time I graduated high school, it came out that Cassandra Claire (since changed to Clare to avoid the association), the author of the series, had taken almost whole chunks out of other people’s published works. She didn’t credit, and when the issue was brought up didn’t add a credit.  The one thing I’ve always been taught is to always credit when it’s not yours, be it fanfiction, an academic paper or some kind of artwork.  You always credit what you use that isn’t yours.

I was stunned to find out my favorite fanfiction author at the time was doing this.  The evidence seemed pretty damning (still does)  and it was liking finding out your role model fell from grace.  Suddenly you had to reexamine what you liked about what she wrote, and was it really hers or someone else’s?  There was a loss of trust in the author.  I imagine this was similar to when people found out that Milli Vanilli didn’t actually sing their songs.  I was sad, I was disappointed.  I felt betrayed myself.  I felt angry. Continue reading “Writing and Plagiarism: How Cassandra Clare affected my life”

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Reviews, Flames, and Kudos

Like with most of the topics we have gone over, the post-publishing part of fanfic mirrors the professional writing world, but has its unique terms and looks on things.  In this post, I will discuss the different kinds of responses that readers can make to your fic, as well as things you can do when you get a responce.

Kudos/Likes

Most archive systems, particular those made especially for fanfiction (like Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own) have a system where the reader can show how they like what you are writing by leaving a Like or a Kudo.  This usually only involves a series of clicks, and is what you will get the most often.  These allow the reader to tell you they like it without making an actual review.

Some sites have pages where you can track the statistics of kudos/likes and see what stories got the most likes and the like.  I like this because it sometimes is nice to see a story that might not get a lot of comments, yet many left kudos.

The Comment/Review

Depending on the site, you may see reviews called, well, reviews or comments.  Sometimes replies.  This is what we all wish for.  That occasion when a reviewer has decided that they were interested enough in our story to let us know in a way that takes more then a simple click.  These range the gamut from the simple “This is awesome/This Sucks!” type of comments to long paragraphs.  One of my happiest moments in writing was when someone wrote a long long email with comments and suggestions on how to improve my writing.  I was 15 at the time, and it was the first time I had gotten any input other then “This is great!”

Comments and reviews that are lengthy usually come in three forms:

  1. The Critique
    The critique is where a reader has criticism and writes you to help you improve your writing and your story.  These are one of the best reviews a writer can receive because we can always improve.  It also means this person took the time to really take in your story. Respect this reviewer.
  2. The Discussion
    These are fun.  I had a review on a story that started a back-and-forth discussion on a canon plot arc in Doctor who.  By the time we were finished (actually probably by the second or third reply) it no longer had anything to do with the story.
  3. The Flame
    Ah, the flame.  This is a negative review that has no constructive criticism.  Most of the time if someone doesn’t like your story, they just won’t review and move on.  But occasionally you get that one person who just wants to tell you how much you suck.  Half the time nothing they say will make sense, and you’ll wonder what they were reading.  The other half of the time its just disheartening.  Often times flames can be really short (the “You suck!” type) but they can be longer, depending on much effort the troll is trying to make.

    Usually the longer ones come from people who hate the character/pairing you write and make you wonder why they clicked on it to begin with.  The Answer:  So they can write bad reviews and make you feel bad.

Responding to Reviews.

To the short reviews, just a quick thank you is usually good.  The longer the review the more there is probably to respond to.  Just remember to be polite.  Being rude to a reviewer usually does no one good.

If its a Flame, feel free to ignore them.  They aren’t worth your time.  Just recognize that a negative review is not automatically a flame.   NOt everyone is going to like your story.  If they write a review and say they don’t like it,  its not a flame.  If they write a review saying “You suck!”  it is.  Constructive crit is always a good thing, so if they say they don’t like it, and explain why, that’s not a flame, its a critique and you might find yourself finding tidbits of things to improve upon even when people hate your story.

Occasionally you’ll get reviews that make you just shake your head.  I once got a review for a fic I called “Photographs” because it had the main character looking at a series of pictures.  Someone reviewed and asked me where they pictures were.  I still don’t know how to respond to that, but that is probably one of my favorite reviews simply because off its oddity.

Keep in mind this is all for fun

Don’t take negative reviews completely to heart.  Or the fact that you never get reviews.  It might seem like no one is reading, and that might be disheartening.  I know that since I have fics in small fandoms where no one is writing anymore and no one thinks to go reading it either.  Its a little depressing, but I keep in mind that I wrote the story because I felt inspired by the original story, or felt that something was needed.

Fanfiction should be primarily for yourself.  You are its primary reader.  You are the audience you are writing for.  Now, taking into consideration your audience is always  a good thing in writing, but with fanfiction you can afford to be a little more self-centered about your writing. And like an original writer you don’t have to take every suggestion your readers/betas give you.

Enjoy yourself.

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