Remember in grammar school when the teacher decided you’d achieved enough gold stars and moved you to a harder group? Remember your first day in the group when you realized those coveted gold stars would be harder to achieve? (Well, that’s the way it was back them thar days, so bear with me). That exact feeling hit me after joining my new online writers’ group.
The group emphasizes writing original fiction, (read: stories with original characters), not fan fiction. There’s a certain snobbery element attached but I understand the reasoning. The site’s purpose is to stimulate creativity so a writer can spread her wings. This is not to disparage fan fiction writers (indeed, I’m one of them) by saying their stories cannot be quite creative. However, it’s not until a writer branches into her own universe can she take full flight without the encumbrance of copyright issues and the preconceived notions of an audience.
As soon as I joined, I posted examples of my fan fiction. They received only a few reviews. There has not been enough feedback upon which to assess my strengths and weaknesses or even receive validation that I have real marketable talent. So, I felt stymied by a low lying creeping fear. Now that I had talked with writers intent on publishing their works, I heard a niggling voice in the back of my mind. Could I make the transition from fan to original fiction? Could I leave the preconceived world of Guy of Gisborne, for example, and create my own universe? Did I have the imagination? Of course, I should not have compare myself to people who have been honing their skills a lot longer than I have but I know in the publishing world, TPTB make comparisons all the time.
I’ve been reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness for the past several nights. It soothed me a bit not because it’s astounding award winning material, but because I felt good enough to have written that book that an editor thought well good enough to publish. (This isn’t a slur on Harkness, or maybe it is; I could be delusional and unmarketable). Then there’s the 50 Shades of Grey series which in my opinion is poorly written fan fiction, but those books have flown off the shelves. I don’t fancy myself a Maya Angelou or Colleen McCullough but I wouldn’t mind being somewhere in the ballpark some day. I don’t expect to compose a classic talked about long after I’m gone, but I do want to make a living as a published writer.
This brings me back to the fear of having stepped out of my comfort zone by joining the group. I’ve been warned that before I even get to The Book, I need to write – a lot. But over the last several weeks, I wrote nothing. I used to write stories in my head, behind my eyelids, but even that didn’t occur. Feeling a bit paralyzed, I finally poured all this out to the writing group. They all said they felt the same fear. It’s what motivated them to keep improving. Confidence and no fear, they said, would indeed leave me clutching at delusions.
Finally, somebody in the chat counseled that I simply sit down and write. Write less than 1000 words based on a set contest prompt. Keep it simple, change it up, and don’t think too hard about it. Just do it, they said, like the Nike slogan: dredge up anything, polish and post it. Then the big fear and angst would be out there, over and done with. So armed with the prompt, “There was no reason to look back” I finally hashed out an original short story and posted it to the contest. I don’t expect to win, but the whole point is to gain experience writing. Funnily enough, it’s only been three hours and already I’ve gotten 2 very good reviews. Whew. I’m not sure if I expected to implode had the story not gone over well but I’m happy for the positive feedback.
You know, the chat group was right. All I needed to get that first story out there. I feel the flow already.
If you want to read it, it’s here.