For the Love of the Game

July 26th, 2011 § 2 comments

Fic Pulling: I don’t get it.

And before you start in on it, YES, I understand that occasionally people have personal problems. And YES, I do agree that authors have the right to do with their fics what they want. For the life of me, I never understand why that’s the counterargument. Maybe some people are saying the author doesn’t have the right to take fics away, but that’s certainly not my stance. I’m simply saying taking fics down is a shortsighted move, and it makes me wonder if people understand the real beauty  of fic writing is in the first place.

I’m going to start out with a true statement that is going to make people mad.

The word publish means ‘to make available to the public.’ There is no addendum that says, ‘to make something available to the public that is not based on someone else’s story’ or ‘to make something available to the public in a bound, printed volume’ or ‘to make something available to the public and get money for it.’ Fanfiction, like it or not, is published work. It is published the second you hit “submit” in that little form on FFnet.

There are no takebacks. For better or for worse, you’ve put it out there. Now, that’s not to say you can’t take it down. Of course you can. Again, I’m not arguing against an author’s “right” to take it down. But some people will have “bought” it, for free. They will have saved it for their safekeeping. And even if they haven’t saved it, they still can’t unread it.

And why on Earth would you want them to?

The beauty of fanfiction is that it is 100% free from the things that pressure professional fiction. You can do ANYTHING within these nonexistent walls. You can write the raunchiest porn that no publisher in their right mind would ever get behind. You can write disgustingly amoral stories with little consequence beyond a few disgruntled people writing impassioned livejournal posts. You can write fic that quotes Shakespeare and uses a vocabulary so big that every agent would think it’s way too esoteric to ever find a market.

And no matter what you do, for the most part, you’ll get readers. Maybe, if it’s truly awful, only a handful, but chances are, if you post a fic, at least SOMEONE is going to read it. Which is more than can be said for a most of the writing that is done the world over.

A really good sell-through for a first novel is about 10,000 copies. A fic which has about 6 or 7,000 reviews may get upwards of 20,000 unique hits for each chapter. That means that on average, two times as many people read that fic as read the successful debut novel. And yes, the first novel’s readership is improved by people loaning the book, or the copies that are bought by libraries, but still. Plus, the fic author gets the benefit of hearing from as many as 10-25% of her readers. Even in these days of author twitters, and blogs, and facebook accounts, I promise you it’s a tiny, TINY number of authors who could boast that level of feedback. Even the measly .5% or 1% that is the reported review rate for some high-review count fics is still more than the professional author can hope for.

And to get there? To the point where you put books out but hear from next to no one, except a few book bloggers and if you’re lucky, a few people on Goodreads? You made sacrifices. The book that came out of the editing process was probably not in the form that you first wrote it. The characters are changed, the plot is altered, you’ve edited the thing to within an inch of its life, and although all these things may make for a stronger book, they take what once was something that was very uniquely *you* and shape it into something else. This is nothing against commercial publishing, which, many of you know, I am a HUGE proponent of. But many writers write fan fiction in addition to writing fiction that is commercially published, because there is a purity in fan fiction that is unparalleled once a book goes through three rounds of edits.

If you’re writing, on some level, you’re doing it to reach people. Deep down, all of us write because we want what we put down on the page to strike a chord in someone else. When a fic is taken down, what is lost is the author’s ability to do that for anyone other than the people who originally read. Plus, no reader gets to have the wonderful moment when they go back to a work which touched them originally and have it speak to them again in a new way. And who does this hurt most?

The writer. Because it’s she who loses the ability to move people with her work.

If I don’t have my fics up, people will read other fics. They’ll simply find something else that moves them. It is I who lose out. I miss the wonderful experience of having someone read a three-year-old story for the first time and go, “Wow. This is just how I always thought these characters would sound.” I miss making a new friend because she’s read my fics tons of times. I miss finding other good writers because they popped up on my radar. I miss the unadulterated joy of freely sharing a piece of my soul (even if it’s just the piece that is madly in love with the character of Carlisle Cullen!) and seeing it accepted.

Fic pulling to me isn’t about who gets what, or who has rights to what. It’s not about google databases or copyright issues or DCMA takedowns. It’s about the sacred relationship between the reader and the read, and the way that the symbiosis drives the creative endeavor in the first place.
Please. Read my fics. They’re up now in six different places, and if you want, you can have a PDF or an ebook of the multi-chapters if you want. You don’t owe me a review, although I’d love to hear from you. I write fic because I want to share my deep love of these characters with you. Someday, I fully intend to publish a novel, probably several. But I will go down kicking and screaming if some agent or editor tells me to take down my fic (and if that ever does happen, go to Archive of Our Own–they will all be “orphaned” there). I write because I have to. For me, it’s like breathing. I can’t not do it for a long period of time and expect to keep living. But I write fanfiction because the joy of sharing it is so blissfully, exquisitely pure…and I refuse to take away my own joy by taking away others’ ability to read.


§ 2 Responses to For the Love of the Game"

  • Sydney W. says:

    Well said. This is everything I’ve ever wanted to say about people pulling fics, but much more eloquently. Thank you.

  • Pastichey says:

    I agree with you. Also, I really like Archive of Our Own. They have the best slash. 😉

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