Keeping the Perspective

It’s hard sometimes when in the midst of a problem to see past it.  Everything looks blurry.  The road ahead is unclear.

It’s easy to let emotions take control during these trying times, and next thing you know, you’re blowing up a balloon meant for a birthday party into a hot air balloon — yes, lots of hot air and a balloon not meant for flying, so it pops.

This is when you and I need to stop.  Just stop.  Seriously.

Take a deep breath.  Several if you must.  Close your eyes.  Count to ten.  Or one hundred.  Whatever it takes to calm down.

My latest frustration — well, one of them — has been educating myself on how to market better.  I am a writer, not a marketer.  I do not have a business degree in marketing.  I am no expert.  Neither am I foolish enough to think that the stuff I write is just going to sell itself.  Something like 1000 books are published every day.  That’s 30,000 books a month!  

It doesn’t take long to get up to my eyeballs in terms like “author platform,” “branding,” and “target audience.”  Say what?

Okay, so I’m a newbie at this marketing stuff.  I don’t know heads from tails, really.  I’ve been reading daily for two meager weeks about marketing, but I am learning.  I highly recommend Rachel Thompson’s book, BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month.  It’s somewhere to start.  I’ve learned to use Twitter more.  I’m creating simple, hopefully eye-catching graphics using Pablo at Buffer.com — free and easy to use.  I’m using Buffer.com to regularly post things daily across my social media platforms.

The posting has been going for about a month, and I have to be honest — it’s not generating the “likes” I was hoping for.  Then again, what did I honestly expect?  These things don’t just happen overnight.

So, this whole marketing thing has gotten to me.  It’s easy and tempting to want to whine about it and think that I’m just being ignored.  Oh, poor me.  Pity party city.

To which the grown up side of me says, “Grow a pair, Cynthia.”  Seriously.

This is where I need to stop.  Take a deep breath.  

Let’s talk about keeping the perspective.pablo (12)

I’ve only been writing original works of fiction for a little over two years.  In the sea of authors, that’s dipping a toe in the Pacific Ocean.  I have self-published one book to little success, but I have gotten a handful of reviews.  I have gotten people outside of my circle of family and friends to read it.  That’s a start.

Three years ago: I wasn’t writing anything original.  My first book idea was stuck at four chapters I’d written more than five years earlier.

Two years ago: I was just starting out on my journey as a writer of original stories.  I had no idea if I was even going to finish my first book, but for the first time in my life, I was committed to sitting down every day and writing, even if it was only for ten minutes.

One year ago: I had finished my first draft in ten months.  It had subsequently gone through four months of edits by friends.  I was querying agents, not really having any idea what I was doing.  I had just started (and I mean just) writing my second and third stories.

Now: I have finished books two and three in their first drafts.  Book two is nearly done going through edits.  Book three is about to enter the editing phase.  I am writing books four and five.  I have ideas for six and seven.  I am blogging regularly on a site that has a domain name.  I am active on social media.  I am beginning to market.

Whoa.

And that’s not even to mention all the amazing people I’ve met along the way!  If it hadn’t been for writing, I would have never met most of my online friends years and years ago.  Long before writing original stuff, I was hanging out in the realm of fan fiction.  I made lots of good friends and have years of fond memories because of it.  I have met many of these folks in person.  I have hugged them.  We’ve laughed and cried together.

More recently, I have met and become friends with several people from a writers group that meets regularly at my local library.  We have the commonality of being writers, but when we meet, we bare our hearts and souls at times.  After all, as writers, we often pour our deepest selves into our writing.

pablo (13)

It’s the people who are the greatest blessing from all of this.  And I’m writing, doing what I love.  Yes, even in the midst of learning how to market.

One step at a time.  

When you’re overwhelmed by whatever problem is trying to eat you, eat it instead by remembering how far you’ve already come.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  That only brings misery.  The only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday.  

You got this.  Keep going.  It’s worth it.

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The Value of Fan Fiction

My story has over a million reads and over six thousand reviews.  Wow.  Impressive, right?

 

Notice that I said “story” and not “book.”

 

That’s because what I’m referring to here isn’t an original story written by me that’s been published as a book.  Rather, what I’m talking about is a work of fan fiction.  Yes, I wrote this novel-length fan fic that I’ve been kind of bragging about, but the characters and the world aren’t mine.  They belong to the imaginative, wonderful J.K. Rowling.

 

I’ve dabbled and dove deep into the world of fan fiction on and off for twenty years.  I started writing it back in 1995 at the age of 15, before sites like fanfiction.net even existed and when the internet was still very much in its infancy.  My parents didn’t even have a computer, so I was basically writing the stuff for myself, re-imagining ways that the characters I loved would behave in different scenarios than had happened in their canon world.  For me at age 15, this was Disney’s Aladdin.

 

Before I continue, for the uninformed, which I don’t think is many, fan fiction is writing fiction using someone else’s characters.  The possibilities are endless.  You may choose to write them in a different world or do a crossover with characters from another universe (meaning story/movie/book).  You may have two characters fall in love who never did so in canon.  There are really no rules for fan fiction.

 

Why am I writing about fan fiction now?  Because, for me, it’s been a vital part of my writing history, and I don’t believe I would have gotten where I am today as a writer of original works of fiction without it.

 

Because of fan fiction, I also met many friends online and got to make connections with other writers, even if what they wrote was fan fiction.  Not only did I write my own stories, but I spent hours and hours reading the works of others and leaving my thoughts and even beta-reading for a few people.

 

Writing fan fiction was usually easy for me.  Using someone else’s characters and world they’ve already crafted is, of course, more simple than having to come up with everything from scratch for something original.  I was already in love with these characters, so I felt like I knew them inside and out and loved the endless possibilities that fan fiction posed.

 

I was one of the first to join the fanfiction.net community when it opened its doors in 2001.  To this day, I have an account there under the internet pen name of “Sindie.”  It’s funny the fame that my most popular fic (The Moment It Began) got, because to these readers, I was “Sindie,” a faceless writer of Harry Potter fan fiction.  I never expected anything I wrote to gain that much popularity, but what it did tell me was that I was capable of writing something novel-length that most of my readers would enjoy.

 

For any writer, I think, while we first write for our own pleasure, it’s also a wonderful thing to be able to share our stories with others.  Just knowing that there are people out there who read something by me and that they actually liked it is all the more rewarding and compels me to write further.

 

writingWhile I’ll be forever thankful for my history in fan fiction, I must admit that it held me back from writing original fiction for a long time.  The very thought of writing something original was downright daunting for many years, despite I first had the idea for what would become my first original story back in 2006.  In March 2015, I finally began to seriously work on my story instead of writing fan fiction.  Now, I wouldn’t turn back.  I’ve self-published it on Amazon after a year and a half of writing, editing, sharing it with friends, and editing more.  I’m now working on two more original stories.

 

All this got me to thinking: Do other authors and writers create fan fiction or did they write it at one time?  Did they find value in it?  Did they think it helped them become better writers?  So I asked.

 

The vast majority of them said they love fan fiction and have written it.  They agreed with me that there is value in it for many reasons: improving their own writing, practice at coming up with original ideas (even if those involved someone else’s characters), making connections, getting useful feedback, and bolstering their confidence as writers.  And it’s just plain fun.

 

A few said they’d never written fan fiction, but they had read it and could see how writing it could be beneficial for the reasons listed above.

 

There was a small group who thought it a waste of time to dedicate so much to using other people’s characters, but this was a very small group.

 

There is a general consensus that some fan fiction is just downright awful, but the same could be said of original stories, too.

 

Overall, it would seem that many writers are of a mindset like mine when it comes to fan fiction.  That’s good to know, for it validates what I already believed: that fan fiction adds value to our experiences as writers in a number of ways, the best of which is probably the practice it gives us by just doing what we love.  Write.

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#writing #fanfiction