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Fanfiction, Amazon, and the End of Literature as We Know It (Sarcasm)

When I first came back to writing, after over twenty years of not writing anything more than a check or a hasty letter, I wrote fanfiction. Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction, in point of fact.

Why? I had no confidence in my ability to create a character, create a setting, or write a coherent line of dialogue. As I gained that confidence, I added original characters (not, I might add, Mary Sues) to the mix. And then I quit writing fanfiction altogether and began writing completely original fiction.

I posted my fanfiction stories in small communities, not in the major outlets. I confess that I’m a bit ambivalent about Amazon’s plan to market fanfiction. It could be interesting — especially as Amazon is getting permission from the creators. Or it could be a disaster.

What’s all this rant about, you ask? You don’t ask? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway. I’ve been reading some anti-fanfiction posts and articles here and there. They gripe my cookies. I no longer write fanfiction. I no longer read it. But for me, fanfiction made for a comfortable set of training wheels when I didn’t think I could ride the fiction bike any more.

Two Great Offers (One New Release and One BOGO)

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Wow. I should do something about that.

Today I want to tell you about two offers from Valerie Douglas. One is a new release, “The Girl in the Window.” This is a different sort of book from Valerie. It’s more contemporary fiction. And it looks great. I bought it this morning. I love her work.  This one is only $2.99 for Kindle.

The Girl in the Window

 

Because Valerie is feeling generous, she has another offer for you. This weekend, she has a BOGO. Buy “The Coming Storm,” and you’ll get the sequel, “A Convocation of Kings,” FREE. These books are epic fantasy. Elves, magic, dwarves, battles. Good stuff!

 

The Coming Storm

A Convocation of Kings

 

If you have ever wanted to try out Valerie’s work, this would be an excellent chance to try it. These books are all under the aegis of Alexandria Publishing Group, by the way. This is always one  sign of a good book!

A Writer’s Pledge

Writers Code of Honor

I, as a professional writer who values my integrity, do solemnly swear that I shall

  1. Never write my own reviews, nor will I use sock puppets or other methods to falsely present my books as being of superior quality or to promote them over that of others.
  2. Never ask others to like/tag/review my book without reading it simply to ‘support other writers.’
  3. Never ask others to vote for my book without reading it in order to get a positive review or vote in order to have my book selected by an agent or publisher over that of other qualified writers.
  4. Never ask others to give another writer bad reviews in order to make my book appear better than that writer.
  5. Never attack a reviewer over a review for any reason. Negative reviews happen.
  6. Never use another’s post in order to promote my own book.
  7. Not advertise my books on sites that do not allow it, nor will I spam (advertise) endlessly. One post per day per site should be enough.
  8. Always read the rules on every site, and respect those rules as they have been laid out, without looking for loopholes.
  9. Agree to always treat other authors with respect and act in a professional manner.
    (signed)
    Mary Ann Peden-Coviello

* * * * * *

 

My own comment here: It’s rather a shame that other writers and I feel the need to state this so baldly. Every one of these points –- and every one is important – should be self-evident, fundamental, and not up for discussion.

But here it is. I think it’s a thoughtful pledge, not burdensome, not difficult to fulfill, not self-righteous. It could be summed up in the words said long ago and more honoured in the breach than in the observance since then: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Smackdown!

All right. Let’s say, just for argument, that Polly Prolific has written a novel. She thinks it’s a marvelous piece of literature, for sure. Now Polly could send out a query letter—or seventy-three queries—and contact agents and publishers, or she could go indie and self-publish.

This being today and not, say, 2006, Polly decides to go the indie route. She works up a cover, maybe hires a freelance editor, formats her book, and publishes on Kindle. So far so good.

Then she starts the marketing and promotions. She arm-twists her mother and sister-in-law into downloading a copy. She persuades her preacher’s wife and her next-door neighbour.

Finally she picks up a few reviews on Amazon. Five stars (and she’s thrilled!), four stars (and she’s happy), three stars (and, instead of being pleased, she’s annoyed but can’t quite figure out why). And then, of course, it happens. The blasting, flaming, scorching, “I hated this book and everything about it right down to the punctuation!” review.

Now, how is Polly going to react?

Every writer gets those reviews, even the greatest.

Lately, I’ve seen a few writers, mostly indies, administering a smackdown to those whom they feel have “wronged” them in their reviews. Right there in the comments.  Telling the reviewers that their opinions weren’t valid, that the points they made were wrong, that – in the words of one I’m thinking of now, “giving this book a two-star rating is just wrong!” Well . . . I have a bit of a problem with that. The review is that person’s opinion. See that word: OPINION. It’s not gospel. It’s not going to ruin your book if someone doesn’t like it.

I know, you put hours—weeks—even years into writing this book. But calling out reviewers who don’t happen to care for it isn’t mature, isn’t wise, and in the long run isn’t going to win you any fans.

Grit your teeth. Take a deep breath. Ignore the living daylights out of a bad review.

Unless, of course, the reviewer has bothered to mention something you might need to take note of. When I write a less-than-happy review, I always give my reasons: bad grammar, shifting point-of-view, errors in punctuation. These things need to be fixed, not fumed over.

Sometimes a bad review can actually intrigue a reader anyway. I have picked up a couple of non-fiction books precisely because a reviewer went off on such a clearly biased rant that I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Indie writers, I love ‘em, but sometimes . . .

I love indie (also known as self-published) writers. I really do. My Kindle (which I also love) is chock-full of outstanding indie fiction, indie memoir, and indie writing advice. I am in several indie writing communities.

But, I have to tell you that every time someone raises – usually under a flag of neutrality, but sometimes with his freak flag flying and daring you to tell him that some rule actually matters – *takes a breath* Where was I? Oh, yes. Sorry. Whenever someone raises the subject of rules and do we really have to follow them, I just want to reach right through the internet and knock some sense into people.

I could end this now. YES, rules matter. They are there for a reason. DO NOT break them until you are quite sure you completely understand them. Grammar rules. Punctuation rules. Sentence structure rules. Point of View rules. Plotting rules. Sure, most of these can be bent and some can be broken if you’ve got good enough a reason. But if you go breaking them without knowing right down to your bones what you’re doing, you will write a mess.

Point of View is one of those tricky little beasts. I’m not going to write a whole book about point of view. There are are excellent books on that subject. Here are two just off the top of my head:

The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley

Write Great Fiction – Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

You can find others.

Let me just say now that skipping around merrily from one character to another giving the reader the thoughts of each of them all in the same scene on the same page will eventually wear out our patience. And, no, just because Johnny is kissing Sally at the same time Sally is kissing Johnny we still don’t need to be inside both their minds at the same time.

One last thing. NO! George R.R. Martin is not breaking the rules of POV characters when he uses ONE, count ‘em ONE, POV voice for each separate chapter of his epic Song of Fire and Ice books. Because, ladies and gentlemen, that is the rule: One POV per chapter. It’s been further sliced to one POV per scene but classically and traditionally One POV Per Chapter is totally correct.

Why in the name of all that’s writerly would someone use Martin as an example of someone who is breaking the rules?

My own preference – not always adhered to – is to write in first person. Yes, it’s limiting. I like that. I like showing the reader only what the narrator sees and hears and knows. Because, guess what, the narrator can be wrong. She can trust the wrong person. She can misinterpret what she sees. And she takes the reader right along with her. Then I write third-person chapters (NOT just paragraphs and not usually scenes, usually whole chapters) that take place away from the first-person narrator, showing events of which she has no knowledge.  After all, Joan Hess and Elisabeth Peters use this technique all the time. Not that I’m in their league, you understand. It’s just an effective technique.

I’ve said it before and will no doubt say it again.

Indie writers have got to be BETTER than traditionally published writers. We have to write cleaner, fresher, prose; we have to make fewer typographical errors; we have to create stronger plots and more lifelike characters. We have to be twice as good to be thought half as good.

As long as we settle for almost as good – heck, as long as we settle for the faint praise of “just as good” – we are doomed to live on the edges, kicked to the curb, and ignored.

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