I hate writing.
That’s how I was feeling for a while this afternoon. Even as I was feeling it, I knew it wasn’t true, but still there’s a lingering frustration in me that I need to vent about. Because writing is my outlet, and even though I hate it today, overall I know I love it and cannot live without it.
I’ve grown in confidence this year. I’m proud of the writing I’ve done and the overwhelming support I’ve received in the things I have written. I know I have not been posting prompts here to the blog since the quarantine started, but I have still been writing. I mentioned in my last post about rekindling an old flame for writing fanfiction and how it’s really helped to keep me grounded during this uncertain time, how the best piece of fiction I’ve written in years came in the form of an emotional fanfic, about a broken-hearted volleyball player working through a breakup while his best friend helped pick up the pieces.
I am insanely proud of that piece. I so rarely love my writing so wholeheartedly as to want to share it as widely as I want to share that one. I usually finish things and cringe and never want to look at them again, but that one I poured my soul into. I felt like with that one, I molded a beautiful work of art, crafted and sculpted meticulously over almost two weeks to be the very best it could be. For 10 days, I wrote and edited and wrote some more and brought this story to life.
And people loved it! I received so many kind words for it, so many kudos (ao3’s version of a “like” button) and bookmarks, I felt validated. I had succeeded!
I had other ideas. Other stories I wanted to tell in that world, characters I wanted to explore, scenes I wanted to revisit from different points of view. I started writing short thread fics, stories told in tweet-sized chunks. It’s an entirely different challenge, especially from a formatting standpoint, because you are constrained by the 280 character limit per tweet.
But it’s fun! It forces me to think even more carefully about my word choices and the way I’m structuring my sentences. Most of these stories are short, not much longer than the prompts I typically write here on the blog, 700-1500 words typically. I average 45-50 words in a tweet so these threads are anywhere from 14 to (let’s call it) 30 tweets long at the upper end. I follow a couple threadfic writers who will post novel-sized, 100+ tweet threads, so mine aren’t even super lengthy for the medium, but typically if I know a story is gonna surpass 2k, I’ll just write it as a normal fic.
Unfortunately, I have discovered I do not know how to estimate my stories’ lengths. I am frequently underestimating by half, sometimes more. I was working through one of my ideas, retelling a short arc from the manga but from the other guy’s POV, and I had been working on it for a couple days. I decided to start posting it, with the hopes that it would motivate me to finish it faster.
This was a mistake. I underestimated the length of the story I wanted to tell. I thought, “this’ll be 2k, tops.” By the time I passed 3k and realized I was barely halfway through, I began to have regrets. The story was a blast to write, don’t get me wrong. I loved it, and so did the people reading it, waiting as I updated it once or twice a day until it was done. 6.5k words and ~150 tweets later.
Twitter threads start to get broken once you hit the triple digits. So I cleaned up the Word doc the full story lived in, and posted it to ao3 for a more seamless reading experience. Plus, not everyone who reads fics on ao3 has Twitter, so it was reaching a wider audience this way. And just like with Be Alright, it was well-received! I got lots of positive feedback, even more kudos and comments and bookmarks!
Did I think it was as good as my first one? Not really, but I wasn’t thinking about the quality of this one as much because it was supposed to be dumb and silly. I didn’t pour my heart into this one, I poured my stupidity into it. And it was still a decent quality of story. I’m coming to accept that I don’t miss, even on my supposed crack fics.
I had plans to start sequels to each of those fics, but then I saw a post about a ship theme week. Fandom does these a lot, where a popular ship gets a dedicated week, with different prompts for each day, and content creators can make art for the ship and the prompt, or write fics, or poetry, or cosplay, or whatever they want to do to express the given prompt. It wasn’t even a ship I cared a lot about (I have a lot of faves in that fandom and while they’re on my list, they’re lower down), but the first few prompts immediately sparked ideas in me so I decided to join in with my friends who were doing it.
The first few days I just stuck to short thread fics. I was not gonna go off again like I did with those other stories. I would post my story before bed and then wake up to dozens of notifications of people commenting and sharing it. (Day 1’s prompt had people crying in my mentions and yelling at me for making them cry, haha.)
Listen, nothing fuels me more (and I suspect this is true for all writers of any genre) than people commenting on my writing and telling me how I made them feel. Even if it’s over something as dumb as a boy supporting his best friend through having to put down his childhood cat. (Day 1 was “comfort” and I needed to create a situation for one boy to comfort the other and I am a cruel god so I killed a fictional cat.)
I ended up with a migraine on Wednesday, and muddled my way through Day 3’s prompt. I probably shouldn’t have forced it, but it wasn’t bad. Except that I had a residual headache on Thursday and decided it was better for me to take the night off from writing. I’d had plans to combine Day 4’s prompt (University AU) with Day 5’s prompt (didn’t know they were dating) anyway, so instead of two connected thread fics, I decided to write one medium-ish fic and just post directly to ao3.
Once again, I underestimated how long it would be. I thought maybe 2-2.5k would suffice. I had a rough sketch of the plot progression so I sat down and joined some sprints (it’s NaNoWriMo Camp month so they’re running sprints again) and set myself to task. I spent the next 5 hours furiously crapping out 4.5k words. I finished at 2am. I gave it a once-over for typos and extraneous words I’d meant to cut and I posted it. (It was still the 17th in PST! I could still get it in “on” Day 5.)
In twelve hours, that fever-dream of a word vomit had half as many kudos as my beautiful poster child and this is why I was hating writing today. That little gremlin of a fic that I pulled out of my ass in 5 drunken hours and scrubbed the mud off his cheeks was going to eclipse my golden boy, who I had meticulously honed and polished for two weeks? Are you kidding me?
Obviously, there are a lot of possible contributing factors here. Could be I posted it at just the right time to maximize traffic/exposure. Given that it is the theme week, more people are likely searching that ship’s tag and found it that way. Maybe the right person shared it to their larger following. Maybe I’m gaining more of a following with each new fic I post and they’re just flocking to my most recent fic. Maybe there are just more people who like this ship over the other one. Maybe they just really love fluffy goofy stories. Not everyone likes angst. There are any number of reasons that this one is doing numbers at a much higher rate than my others.
The thing that had me frustrated today was the feeling like it doesn’t matter how much effort I put into my writing. That people are just as likely to adore the stories that I put 0 effort into and think nothing of as they are to shrug off the stories I spend days and weeks and months of effort on. Mostly I’m just mad that I’m mad about this. It’s not like they know how much time I spent on it unless I come out and say it.
The biggest take-away here for me is that familiar refrain: I am a decent writer and people do enjoy my stories. (I don’t miss.) I’m grateful for all the love I’m getting. There are plenty of underrated fic writers out there who deserve just as much love (and probably more). One day I’ll stop being an insecure mess, but it is not this day. Probably not this decade either, let’s be honest.
Writing is dumb. I hate it.
But I also love it, and I will never stop writing.
Until next time!
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