What would make me feel successful (as a writer)?

clear glass sphere on the beach at sunset reflecting the sand, water, and sun Photo by Paul Basel: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-lensball-1816819/

Variations of this question get asked in workshops and writing circles, a lot. It’s something I get asked frequently now that I’m involved with a writing community and speak with other authors, essayists, and aspiring writers on a regular basis.

It’s a good question! It helps me visualize the future that I want for myself as a writer, but it comes with a reality check from experienced (read: published) authors… It’s often accompanied by comparisons, statistics, and advising the writer to set more attainable aspirations so they aren’t “let down.”

Some people do dream about becoming household names, seeing their books on the shelf in their favourite bookstores, going on national launch tours, being interviewed , finding a fan base to interact with, or having their work adapted into other forms of media (movie, television, graphic novels, etc). I love those dreams! I would never fault someone for their heart-wants. Dreams don’t hurt anyone, keep dreaming big!

What would make me feel successful as a writer? If someone (anyone, only one person) wrote fan fiction based off of my story.

Fan fiction is criticized, reviled, and derided pretty well across the board by authors. There have been legal issues for fans generating and publishing the content online. Anne Rice was very vocal about her stance on fan fiction, and she’s not alone. Several famous authors have voiced their distaste over fan created content of their own works as well as fan fiction at large. Some authors are undecided on the subject, and some approve with caveats (J.K. Rowling is okay with it as long as it is not done for a profit).

In the wake of 50 Shades, small publishers and vanity presses have begun to consider that fan fiction is viable material for the book market. There are services that help scrub the content from the internet, provide editing advice to help distinguish the story from the source work, and take into consideration the content creator’s follower count when accepting applications.

Breaking into print is an uphill battle!

Authorpreneurs, online writing personalities, and book promoters, all agree that marketing and branding are the keys to success (plus posting consistency… I’m still working on that one guys, don’t judge).

You can’t sell books without an audience, and you can’t break into the mainstream market all by your lonesome – even if you are traditionally published.

All of the authors I know helm their own communities. From newsletters to events; they self promote, encourage discussions about their writing, and answer questions from fans, interviewers, and fellow writers.

Having a book is not enough, and like other social media, fan fiction platforms have their own vibe, niches, and and lingo.

There are several online communities for fan fiction (my favourite is AO3), each with millions of stories posted, tons of authors, and both registered and guest users regularly returning to devour the content.

Occasionally, when I’m pissed off about a book I’ve read (ahem, The Captive Prince trilogy’s abrupt ending… I still haven’t read the collection of side stories), I will seek out fan fiction to make me feel better. More often than not, I seek out fan fiction to explore ships or themes that were not covered in the source work.

My forays with fan fiction

I grew up in the 90s, with Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon as the only popular anime in North America at the time, and it wasn’t until years later that I realized how edited and censored they were compared to their originals. I started reading fan fiction as a teenager and (to date) have not written (read: publicly shared or posted) any of my own. The stories I sought out were about characters that weren’t heavily featured in the shows I watched.

I have seen Wrath of the Dragon exactly once, but Tapion appealed to me so deeply that I still seek out fan fiction about his character to this day.

Watching DBZ, I always related more to Vegeta (and so does most of North America) because I found his drive for self-improvement very motivating (his physique, flame shaped hair, and resting bitch face are all a bonus). I read stories that cast him as the main character. Narratives where he becomes the legendary Super Saiyan, blows up Freiza, fucks up planet earth, takes Bulma as his war prize, and continues to arrogantly flaunt his empty title across the galaxy.

Then I found omegaverse and there has been no hope for me ever since… but that’s a subject for another post!

My love for fan fiction was recently revived (see above comment about The Captive Prince trilogy). I managed to find stories I read when I was a teenager that have been completed or were abandoned (where are you LittleSaru?!), and also explored new fandoms.

I’ve been happily buried in toxic thrupple tags for The Untamed and Módào Zǔshī for months with no sign of stopping (#xue yang is his own warning).

Why fan fiction would make me feel successful

Have you ever been to comic con or a full costume LARP? The idea of taking something fictional, historical, or conceptual and bringing it into the real world is a special kind of magic. The original creation is cherished, transformed, and then re-birthed through this fan process. It’s a labour of love.

I’m not one for dress up, or make up, or crowds, but I still belong to many fandoms. Writing is what I feel most passionately about, and I would want people who read my work to show their appreciation in a similar way.

Both reading and writing are how I comprehend and interact with the world around me. It would be such an honour to have the message in my writing be more than merely absorbed.

In reality, I want it all: cosplayers, stans, fan fiction writers, and questionable hashtags. But out of all of those things fan fiction would mean the most to me.


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