The Comfort of an Old Familiar Story

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I’ve been rereading some older stories I wrote so I can finish a series of them, and I have this nostalgic coming home feeling as I read through them again.  It’s been really nice, since I’ve been struggling to write a bit lately.  I decided to return to, and hopefully finish, a fan fiction series I spent a lot of time on right after graduate school.

I’m not going to get into the fandom part of this, but my series focuses on original characters and the cannon side characters rather than the main cast, so it leans heavily toward original even though it’s fan fiction.  I use fan fiction as a place to experiment and explore.  It’s a way to practice my craft, and share a good story, and I don’t ever want to profit from that, even accidentally, which is why I don’t usually talk about it here on the blog.

I wrote most of the series of fics between 2009 and 2011.  There are a few I continued working on for the five years after that, but much less frequently.  In the past couple years, I’ve started rereading them with an eye toward finishing the series.  I just wrote the last two chapters of one that had been incomplete for years, and now I’m reading the next partially finished one so I can work on wrapping that up too.  There’s something so comforting about reading a story I already know.  It’s been a while, so there are lines that surprise me, or startle a laugh out of me, but for the most part, I’m reading a story I already know.  It’s a little like going back and rereading my favorite book.  I know I love it, and I can look forward to that as I read it again.

One of the pieces of advice I often see for authors is to write for a very specific audience.  You have to keep that audience in your mind as you write.  Your work might appeal to more than that narrow definition, but the more concrete your audience, the easier it is to write something specifically for them.  I’ve always found that my ideal reader (my intended audience) turns out to be myself.  I write stories that I want to read.  There are a lot of things I want to read, so there’s broad appeal (hopefully) for a lot of my stories, but first and foremost I’m writing for me.

This is especially true of fan fiction.  I think most fan fiction authors are really writing it for themselves, but I extend that thought into my original works as well.  When I reread a draft, I enjoy it, because I’m writing precisely the kind of story I most love to read.  It doesn’t much matter if it’s a fan fiction or an original work.  If I don’t enjoy rereading it, odds are good I’m never going to finish it, revise it, or edit it for publication.

It’s been a really hard year and a half, and I expect it will be a fairly hard next six months with the various transitions ahead of me, so I’m trying to take comfort in the familiarity of a story I know and love, and with luck that will translate into writing an ending for it once I’m finished rereading.  Returning to my old fan fiction haunts feels a little like coming home after a long time away.  I’m reconnecting with friends and readers, and I’m reconnecting with the characters I created to share the world of the series I loved so much.

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