Well, I’ve been reading through my “back catalog,” if you will.
I’ve been writing fanfic since I was 14*. I spent a ton of time on it in high school, which was in the late 90s, which means I was around for many of the awkward developmental lunges that fanfic made. I was in a niche fandom that never got very popular, but I wrote tons of stuff. I ended up being a sort of BNF (“Big Name Fan”) and “owning” the fandom mailing list when it had to migrate servers and I happened to be awake and online. That ML is dead now, but I’m still in touch with some of the survivors, and I’ve been “writing buddies” with two in particular since then. Over the last eighteen years** our tiny fanon has wandered very far off from where it began.
So, reading through my back catalog, I’ve been wondering about whether or not any of the things I’ve written (many–but not all–of which are hideously cringe-worthy and Shall Not Be Spoken Of Again***) might be adaptable into something I could, well–sell.
Of course, E.L. James did quite well after her Twilight fic, Master of the Universe, wandered far enough away from its source material that she could just “file off the serial numbers” by find+replace and changing the names of the two main characters. And I did really really love Wide Sargasso Sea, aka Some Really Great Jane Eyre AU Fic That Got Published. And John Gardner’s Grendel. (In the classes I teach, I even assign fanfic annually, in the form of a Creative Writing Challenge where I have students rewrite part of Beowulf in first person, as an updated poem/rap, or
as AU fic with a changed setting.) So anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that there’s clearly a precedent for this sort of thing, both in commercial fiction and literary fiction.
With the movie version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies set to release in February, I thought for NaNo I’d take a stab at A Room With A View of Werewolves, but even with E.M. Forster having already written most of my NaNo I’m still, like… 22,565 words behind (but who’s counting?).
But I have literally–literally–hundreds of thousands of words of fanfic written, most of which focuses on a character who’s the made-up kid of a canon villain who’s in like five episodes out of forty. And some other people’s characters jump in and out. Over the years I’ve written about my OC as a teenager, a young adult, and a thirtysomething (why, yes, my character does tend to age with me… can’t wait to be writing his geriatric adventures in thirty more years). Various incarnations of the story have different enough backgrounds that I think I could turn it into a couple of different things: YA trilogy that’s vaguely Romeo and Juliet-y, NA trilogy that would appeal to fans of Chuck, Burn Notice, and Leverage, and romantic suspense (that I’m currently–if by currently we mean actively within the last year or so–co-writing with a friend, who re-re-rebooted it recently in Boston with older adults).
So, to connect this back to the world of literature: I’m no F. Scott Fitzgerald or Hemingway, but I do find myself circling back to the same themes, the same characters (my own Nick Adams has a much worse attitude, but he sure does turn up a lot)… And, if I think of the contemporary authors I love (Connie Willis, Jenny Crusie, Tamora Pierce) keep returning to similar archetypes, similar themes.
What do you think? Are we all trying really hard to tell one story, and we keep writing until we get it right? Or am I just working through ten thousand drafts of this story and once I get it right it’ll be out of my system and I can move on? At this point I’ve had some of these characters with me for eighteen years, and they’ve changed and I’ve changed, but I’m not really sure they’re going anywhere.
And now for the real question: do I get to count this blog post toward my NaNo wordcount? And if yes, then what about the lesson plans, parent emails, and comments on student work that have been soaking up my time this month???
*(well, actually, I think my first fanfic was the time my mother and I wrote a screenplay for The Mighty Ducks (the cartoon about hockey-playing ducks from space, not the live-action movies of the same name–still not 100% sure why they had the same name) while in a van driving to Florida to see my grandmother… I don’t have even the slightest memory of what it was about, but I do remember being very excited about the project, and having some vague plans to mail it to Disney to see if they wanted to use it for a real episode; I was probably… nine? Twelve? Let’s say I was between nine and twelve).
***I was really bummed out when it happened, but my dad’s old computer crashing and eating the only extant copy of my Green Day filk about a doomsday-cult-leading-maniac-villain is probably for the best (this was meant to be a humorous piece, btw)