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eternaldungeon

What I owe to the slash world

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Jun. 12th, 2007 | 06:00 pm
posted by: duskpeterson in eternaldungeon

I posted this at a forum for professional writers and thought it might be of interest to some here. The initial quotation is reprinted with permission of the person I was responding to. It was part of a thread where a bunch of us were talking about professional authors who take part in the fan fiction community.

* * *

"yeah, and you're known forever afterwards as 'that [writer] who started off in fan fic'... eesh!"

I should be so lucky.

I know that you're talking about the fanfic stigma, which is certainly there. And I see that you have a bunch of fanficcy LJ interests, so that I don't need to tell you the other side of the story. So this post is for the sake of others who've never been in the fan fiction world and might only know of the stigma, not of what lies within the fan fiction world.

At the time I discovered the slash world (m/m fan fiction and original fiction), I had been a professional nonfiction writer for thirteen years. I thought of the slash world as a trivial stop on my way to real publication of fiction. Slashers were just amateurs, after all; they had nothing that would be of value to me, other than some nice art. (I looked at the art before I deigned to read what I assumed would be horribly written fiction.)

I owe everything to the slashers. Seriously. They were the first people to give my stories feedback (and readers in the fanfic world are very good about giving feedback). They were the ones who became my beta readers (critiquers/editors), which are an absolute necessity to me now that I'm self-publishing. They were the ones who wrote the stories I read that helped me hone my writing. They were the ones who provided me with a place to post the stories that no publisher in his right mind would have touched, because of the taboo subject matter. They were the ones who taught me the marketing value of e-mail lists, fiction archives, LiveJournal, and fan conventions. They were the ones who taught me how to take part in all of the above. They remain my most loyal readers, and they are the ones, I'm quite sure, who will be buying most of my books.

I would not be writing gay fiction today if it weren't for the slashers. Period.
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Comments {10}

lemursexbot

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from: lemursexbot
date: Jun. 12th, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
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The days of editors like John Campbell are over. Editors no longer have the time or luxury to groom new writers. The writer has to have finished, publishable work from the start of entering the traditional publishing world. The publishers are in similar positions in that they can no longer afford to publish non-mainstream books. They can't hope that someone's first book makes just enough waves to get a good review of their second book. Now, every first book must also be a blockbuster. In some ways this is even more true for small imprints, as they have even less margin for error and less time for grooming.

Writers aren't just released full-grown from an editor's head during a headache. Writer's have to learn their craft. Even the most gifted person with words, which you don't have to be to be a good solid writer, has to learn conventions and styles and when to use them and when to break them. Nowdays the best place to learn and practice this craft is in fanfic and original slash communities. To me, these communities are the ultimate extension of all the writer's workshops and writer's critque groups from the 70's and the 80's.

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Dusk Peterson

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from: duskpeterson
date: Jun. 12th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
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"To me, these communities are the ultimate extension of all the writer's workshops and writer's critque groups from the 70's and the 80's."

For me, it goes back even further than that. I grew up reading memoirs of science fiction authors who had belonged to the Futurians in the 1930s. It never occurred to me to dream of belonging to such a group myself, where authors were tossing story ideas back and forth. Then I found the slash world.

I know that a lot of authors find the same sort of thing in today's SF/F critique groups. But the SF/F world has grown so big. Slash is still a genre where one can learn from the core writers without having to stand in line to attend one of the authors' panels.

I remember keenly being approached after a litslash session at a slash con by someone who said, "I've read your stories. Do you mind if I do the fan-girl thing?" That turned out to be Parhelion, from whom I've learned a good deal about writing.

As for the publishing world, you're quite right that it's in a depressing state. However, I haven't given up hope in it. Most times, when an industry grows stagnant, a group of new players come along who shake things up.

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lemursexbot

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from: lemursexbot
date: Jun. 12th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
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You would feel like that because you are, at least to me, one of the core writers. For someone like me just getting started, It's more about having the support of other amateurs all the time rather than once a month or just for two weeks in the summer.

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Dusk Peterson

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from: duskpeterson
date: Jun. 13th, 2007 07:23 am (UTC)
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"For someone like me just getting started, It's more about having the support of other amateurs all the time rather than once a month or just for two weeks in the summer."

I think our thoughts are the same here. The Futurians were nearly all amateurs when they started out - they became pros partly because of their interactions with each other. And while I had nonfiction credits at the time I entered into the slash community, I was an amateur where fiction was concerned. To this day, my only fiction publishing credits are with a semi-pro zine that is semi-pro only because the editor liked my stories enough to be willing to pay for them.

I had a bit of a head start in the slash world because I'd been writing fiction on my own for thirty years. (One of these days I'll have to show you some of the first draft of Blood Vow, written when I was sixteen, so that you can see how excruciatingly bad a writer I was back then.) But even so, I was making major mistakes in my writing - don't get my beta readers started on my former fetish for semi-colons - till I came into a community where I could get feedback on my stories. I think all authors need this, no matter what their level of writing is.

One of my beta readers will cheerfully tell you that I still haven't kicked my passive sentence structure habit.

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lemursexbot

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from: lemursexbot
date: Jun. 13th, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC)
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Oh No! I was hoping you'd help me with my fetish for semi-colons, not have it yourself. :)

I can recite the Rule for proper use of semi-colons, I used them so much in my college freshman essays.

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Dusk Peterson

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from: duskpeterson
date: Jun. 13th, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC)
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Thank god, because I'm still trying to figure out the difference between when it's proper to use semi-colons and when it's proper to use dashes. Any advice to give?

Rest assured that, thanks to my wonderful beta readers, I am now hypersensitive to the overuse of semi-colons.

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lemursexbot

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from: lemursexbot
date: Jun. 13th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
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Well, dashes were completely banned in Freshman comp, as not being academic. But my personal rule for my fiction writing is if I want the motion of the sentence to continue, I use dashes; if the sentence is static, I use a semi-colon. I also try to avoid semi-colons in anything but descriptive parts as I have had it battered into my head that semi-colons are too elite for fiction.

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Dusk Peterson

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from: duskpeterson
date: Jun. 15th, 2007 03:14 pm (UTC)
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"But my personal rule for my fiction writing is if I want the motion of the sentence to continue, I use dashes; if the sentence is static, I use a semi-colon."

That's a helpful rule.

"I also try to avoid semi-colons in anything but descriptive parts as I have had it battered into my head that semi-colons are too elite for fiction."

Yes, they tried to convince me of that too. I'm not converted yet. :) We had a long thread about this over at the Erotic Romance Writers Forum.

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s t a r l e t

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from: lovefromgirl
date: Jun. 12th, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC)
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And we're glad you're here. ♥

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Dusk Peterson

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from: duskpeterson
date: Jun. 12th, 2007 09:26 pm (UTC)
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:)

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