The Unfinished Fic
July 31, 2015 § 1 Comment
Every day my to-do list gets bigger.
I have multiple jobs, many articles to write, and 181 episodes of The X-Files left to watch. But in my brain two very small voices take shape, knocking on the door that hides the treasure: all the headcanon and conflict and kisses that have yet to be recorded and released into the wild of the Internet.
Yes, I started a fanfic a few months ago that I never continued. It’s possible that I’ve begun more fics than I’ve ever finished, and I’ve started to wonder what that says about me. Does it mean I’m a BAMFy lady who’s got too much to conquer? Or does it mean I’m a coward who can’t finish what I’ve started?
There are many reasons why we abandon fanfiction that we write, whether our readers realize it or not. Maybe when we die we’ll have to wrap them all up in fic-writing purgatory before we ascend to fangirl heaven (where we star in all our favorite shows and our hair is SO SHINY THOUGH). Here are a few possibilities why you never finished that angsty multi-chapter roller coaster, and what they can help you learn about yourself.
1. You outgrew the characters.
All relationships take work, and if you neglect fictional folks for a while you might find yourself falling out of love with them. But fangirls also mature and grow as humans, and they may find that that old Glee ship no longer seems appealing to them. I’ve often wondered myself how one ship can be my be-all and end-all, and then a few months later seem so. . .blegh. You can blame it on the writers for out of character plot, but ultimately there’s nothing wrong with outgrowing a pairing.
What this says about you: You’re a maturing lady who doesn’t have to apologize for wanting to ship a more mature pairing. GO FIND THOSE MIDDLE AGED REPRESSED IDIOTS.
2. You weren’t ready to be vulnerable.
Oh god, this one is so me. *hides face* Fiction writing is hard because it often feels more revealing about ourselves than writing nonfiction does. And putting those vulnerable moments in your story is hard work, especially when you’re not anonymous and your friends are going to read it. I’m not talking about sex, per say, because not all good fic has to be M-rated. Sometimes there is just a scene or a moment of conflict or even joy that we just can’t seem to write. We blame it on lack of experience with certain plot points, but deep down the next chapter just feels like it might reveal too much about ourselves, our struggles, and our deepest fears and dreams. So we stop, and our readers wonder what the hell happened.
What this says about you: Maybe you’re not quite ready to have a reader see what’s hard to write. Try pushing forward and finishing the chapter without showing it to them. Think of it as more of a therapeutic exercise. Then if you’re proud of what you’ve written, maybe you’ll have the courage to share. Or you can keep it just for you.
3. There was too much pressure from your readers.
Reviews. We say that writing fic isn’t about the praise, but I call BS. Because fic readers are always in search for MOAR (especially for less popular OTPs), chances are they’re going to love your work whether it’s Pulitzer worthy or not. Who doesn’t love a low praise bar? The problem is that as a story continues, the pressure builds to either keep the story going forever or to construct an ending that everyone will like. So it’s easier to just hang up your hat, start a different fic, or disappear from the Internets.
What this says about you: You care too much about what other people think. Being focused on praise and approval and not the story itself is only going to make you anxious. To shift the focus, try writing an entire multi-chapter story before you start posting chapters. That way your fic will reflect your true intentions and imagination more than the pull of the demanding reader.
4. You no longer needed the crutch.
Sometimes we write fic just for fun, and sometimes we need it to get us through a difficult patch in our lives. Maybe you retreat into a story when you’re home with your crazy family for Thanksgiving or after a nasty breakup. The fic crutch isn’t unhealthy as long as you’re taking care of yourself with additional strategies, and a good hurt/comfort or fluffy fic can be just the trick. But you may find that your resilient unicorn self has bounced back faster than you can resolve the plot, and your readers still want the goods.
What this says about you: You are quick to retreat into the imaginary when things get rough. This is both a coping mechanism but also a symptom of possible depression. Keep writing fic, but also pay attention to the urges, because they signal that maybe you need some extra support and healthy habits to help you through the tricky plot points in your own life.
Ultimately, it’s important to be kind to yourself when you examine the junk yard of abandoned fanfiction. You can see what you want to pick back up and refurbish, or you can pay attention to the new direction your imagination is taking you. When fic becomes work, we’ve lost the point entirely. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two about ourselves along the way. Fic is the toy we pull down from the attic to play with time and time again, but it’s also a mirror that reflects how far you’ve come and how far you could go. So don’t be afraid to take a peek.