I was emailing back and forth with a friend earlier this month, and as frequently happens, our discussion turned to writing. She teaches writing at a University and we both have aspirations to write mystery novels. We’d talked about NaNoWriMo and she asked if she could see what I had for my project so far, so I sent off the first couple chapters. She responded that my chapters seemed pretty polished, especially for a first draft, and wanted to know my secret. Did I outline? Had I planned out the story in great detail before I started writing? I answered that no, there was not usually a great deal of advance planning for me. I am a pantser. I generally go in with an idea of who these people are, what the big problem is, and I have an idea (sometimes a fairly vague one) what the conclusion will be. My secret, if I have one, is practice, and what I practiced on for several years was fanfiction.
Yes, I said fanfiction. I spent several years writing fanfiction. It was actually what got me back in to writing after several years hiatus. I learned a lot doing it too. Before I wrote fanfic, I didn’t know how to make chapters. I just wrote one huge long narrative. I learned how to put out a polished chapter in a short period of time (whether all those chapters always added up to a good story is another matter). I got my first real feedback as a writer from my fanfic. I made several online friends as well, and did my first NaNoWriMo with them. Most of us are still in touch. Some of them are still writing fanfic. One is a published author who continues to write fanfic on the side. Another has pretty much stopped writing altogether. A third blasted through NaNoWriMo this year, finishing an original fiction project in 20 days.
After I emailed my friend back, I started talking to my husband about my fanfic. It’s still out there, and I still get reviews on it from time to time. Reviews are generally something to enjoy, as most times readers who don’t care for the story just stop reading rather than commenting, but when I get these kinds words, I don’t feel happy. I feel guilty. My husband asked me why and the only answer I could come up with was that I felt that I should be focusing on my original fiction. Fanfiction was fun, but it doesn’t help me pursue my ultimate goal of having an original novel published. My husband, astute man that he is, asked me what I wanted to get out of my writing. What am I trying to create when I write? The answer, for me, is to write a story that will entertain a reader, something he or she can get lost in and enjoy. Saying that out loud made me stop to think. I did do that with my fanfiction. I created a story which entertained, and people enjoyed reading it. They enjoyed it enough to tell me so, which says something. At least, I like to think it does.
The upshot of all this is that I think it’s time I stopped feeling guilty about having written fanfiction. It was a wonderful learning experience. I made new friends. And I put out stories which entertained and gave enjoyment. None of that is something to feel ashamed about.
I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I updated this blog. Wow. I did not intend for October to get away from me like that!
The Midwest Writer’s Workshop Manuscript Makeover session was wonderful! Terry Faherty is an outstanding teacher. He made many helpful suggestions for everyone in the session, and found a way to make us all feel encouraged about our writing. It was a terrific session and we wound up going longer than scheduled because he was willing to keep going and none of us were eager to leave! I came out of the session feeling good about the possibilities in my manuscript and ready to work on it.
My 5k was slow, but I had a lot of fun anyway. I got to run with a co-worker, who was doing her first 5k. We got lots of high-fives from Charlie Cardinal (races with mascots > races without mascots). My co-worker’s daughter ran the 1 mile race with a friend and we had a lot of fun cheering them on to the finish line! There we all are after our races, hanging out with Charlie.
The culminating event for October was attending the 21st Magna Cum Murder conference! Magna is a mystery writers/readers/fans conference. It’s organized by Kathryn Kennison, the director of the EB and Bertha C Ball Center at Ball State University. The conference started out as a small event, meant to help connect the community to the university (Cum Murder is a play on Cum Laude). The conference rapidly grew and these days we have guests from all across the country as well as internationally. There are several people who have attended every single Magna, and it’s terrific to be part of something which inspires that sort of loyalty. There are always new people each year as well, and it doesn’t take long for them to recognize how special this conference is. No matter if we’re meeting for the first time or we’ve seen each other many years, it always feels like you’re getting to talk with old friends at Magna. I had an amazing time at the conference but, as I’ve been asked to do the wrap-up write-up for the official newsletter, Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence (how we do love our plays on words), I’ll limit myself here for the moment.
Technically Saturday was the last day of October, but we had one more October-ish event which didn’t take place until today. My husband and I went to the EB and Bertha C. Ball Center this morning to give a talk on Haunted East Central Indiana. We shared stories we’ve collected over the years, as well as evidence we’ve caught on investigations, with an attentive audience of about fifty people! We had a grand time sharing our stories and hearing a few from our audience as well.
Now that the October fun is over, it’s time to buckle down for November! I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (you can see my word count in the right hand column). All the lingering October excitement has put me a bit behind, but I hope to catch up soon and be able to finish my 50k by November 30th! I’ll also be taking my first knitting lesson tomorrow morning. There’s another 5k coming up as well, plus Thanksgiving! All in all, November is looking to be as busy as October! I hope it will be just as much fun!