The Fan Fiction Fanzine

Hunter’s Crosshairs: Curb Your Enthusiasm

By • Dec 12th, 2011 • Category: Features, Lead Story

I think one of the hardest things to learn as a fan-fiction writer is a lesson that I learned twice over the course of one day: curb your enthusiasm.

I’m not saying that in a cynical way, either. I’m not saying to chillax on your books, because let’s face it, you’ve already bitten off way more than you can chew. That’s actually not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying that sometimes, when we’re writing fan-fiction, we tend to let an idea eat away at the corners of our heads, thinking about it for quite some time until finally we can’t help it. We have to get it down on paper or in plotting or in an e-mail. We write it up, we send it out, and then we get a response back.

“Did you check the dibs? Character X who’s crucial to the story you had planned has long since been dibbed.”

“It’s a great story that I wish could happen, but it can’t because of Event X that’s happened in fan-fiction on this very site that it’d violate completely.”

Or, the one I find worst: “Great. Everything’s in order. But… you kinda violated Rule X when you posted it in a public place/stepped on so-and-so’s toes/broke a different site-based rule.”

When an idea takes hold in our brains, we can’t wait to write it, and there’s nothing more disappointing than writing it up in a burst of enthusiasm only to find that, well, yeah. You screwed up. Something, some key piece of the site or your proposal or whatever, something won’t work. And the worst part is when that exact thing is something you should have easily recognized.

I think the biggest problem that we can run into when this happens is the worst thing that can happen to any fan-fiction writer: burnout. When an idea gets ground to a halt by something you should’ve caught, it’s easy to lose the juice to write for a few days. I know that when I lost a thousand words of plotting to something as simple as a dibs list check, it kinda put me in my place. It reminded me that I’m subject to the same rules and the same stumbling blocks. It reminded me that just because I’m an editor doesn’t mean that doesn’t apply, and that it’s easy to make a stupid mistake.

Those are all good things. But it also took the wind out of my sails for writing for that night. That, my friends, is not such a good thing.

When I’m sitting in class (or at least in the ones where the PowerPoint, downloadable from the internet, is what the test is over), I typically have my notebook open to fan-fiction. I let ideas tumble around in my noggin all day, and then I let them loose on paper at night. Sometimes, I forget to do things I’d normally do in the plotting phase on the internet like, y’know, check dibs lists or rules or continuity. But the bad news is that it guts the creativity, the urge to write because there was a passion about a story that is now gone.

Now, that’s no one’s fault but my own. I’m absolutely not putting that off on anyone. At the end of the day, that’s my fault. And that’s essentially the reason that I’m writing this down.

Avoid my mistakes. Don’t get caught in a block because your story was never going to fit into continuity after you started writing it. Don’t kill your drive because the key character to your story is completely in someone else’s hands.

Do your homework.

Dot your i’s and j’s, cross your t’s and x’s.

Make sure you’re not in danger of screwing yourself up halfway into the story.

Curb your enthusiasm, but just long enough to make sure you’ve done everything right. Make sure you’re posting things right so that editorial reprimand doesn’t kick your inspiration in the teeth. Be prepared to find that the story you were daydreaming of in between Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoints on human sexuality just might not work out once you have access to the dibs list. It may not happen all the time or even part of the time. It may only be one in twelve ideas are the ones that can’t happen in your daydream form. Still, do your homework.

Because heck, sometimes waiting long enough to find that your story can go on unhindered? That can be the best inspiration of all.

is Hunter Lambright, a fan-fiction writer and editor at Marvel Omega (http://marvel.omegacen.com). He's done a lot of thinking and has a lot to say, so tell him to shut up every once in a while. Or, if you're not tired of hearing him yet, you can find him sporadically talking about comic books at Thoughts in Four Colors (http://thoughtsinfourcolors.wordpress.com).
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One Response »

  1. I would add that writing the idea down is a great way to get it out of your system. Don’t post it anywhere public just yet or even say to others oh I wrote this amazing story. But if you want it to go on a site, then I think its your responsibility at that point to check dibs, repercussions, and any other thing that might affect said site. If it doesn’t work there, maybe some of the other sites it might work for with some tweaking. My best advice is to ask the EiC, or read the last few updates and check out the forums of sites to figure out what is going on as a whole. You may find that your idea is one that doesn’t fit at one of the sites and at that point might be better on fan fiction.net or hosted on your Livejournal or Blog.

    I agree with Hunter, that enthusiasm for a new idea can be the downfall of many a writer as that idea consumes them and they lose focus on the titles that they already have. It happens to us all and its a trap we all must learn to avoid.

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