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Procrastinating and thinky thoughts and "West of the Moon"...

Posted on 2013.01.14 at 15:40
Current Mood: good
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I'm writing this because I ought to be working, but I don't feel like it at the moment. 

I woke up this morning to find that "West of the Moon" has garnered a couple of nominations over at the Absence of Light Awards. I'm thrilled, if a little surprised, since I don't really think of the story as being that dark or angsty overall, and it's been a few years since I finished it, but it's still awesome to be nominated. 

I'm on Tumblr now, under my real name -- though I think somewhere I had made a fandom Tumblr and then promptly never used it. Whoops. I keep waffling over whether to reveal it or not, partially because I've worked very hard over the last decade or so to keep my fandom life and my real life from crossing over too much. However, in the last few months I've discovered that you can't prevent that from happening, no matter how hard you try (although, admittedly, I've been trying less hard as of late). My Tumblr has become the place where I don't worry about looking professional, and I don't post a ton of work stuff anyway -- especially not now that my job has changed, somewhat. I reblog a lot of fandom stuff there, and I read a lot of fandom blogs so it seems silly NOT to let it cross over. 

Part of what has led me to consider it is that, last month, while randomly scrolling through my feed, I came across someone I follow who was talking about "West of the Moon." She was just reading it for the first time, and her thoughts on it were ... interesting. Honest. Really honest, because she obviously had no way of knowing that I follow her blog or that I'd be reading her thoughts

I've gotten a LOT of reviews on that story. It's very nearly embarrassing sometimes to think about how many. Nine years ago I was posting my first (mocking) Pirates of the Caribbean fanfic over at FF.net never dreaming that someday I'd have the second highest reviewed Buffy fic on the site (fourth highest favorited Buffy fic on the site, as well) out of an incredible (at the time I'm writing this) 45,352 stories. It's overwhelming and incredibly humbling.  

And the vast majority of those reviews have been positive. Glowing. Wonderful. Oh, there were a handful here and there that nitpicked on little things, and one that I remember with incredible clarity that slammed me for my portrayal of Nikki Wood (although I really think they misread or misunderstood my intentions there). There were a handful of people who took their hatred of Buffy's character out in the reviews, which always annoys me to the point of wanting to yell at people -- but overall the reviews tended to be really positive.

So it was kind of ... refreshing? to read a review where the reader didn't like what I was doing at all. She didn't like the pace or the POV, didn't like the amount of canon I kept. She admitted to skimming most of Part 1 and not reading it. 

On the one hand, it was frustrating. As the writer, I can tell you that I put a LOT of time and effort and thought into Part 1 of "West of the Moon." I debated heavily about just what canon to include and what to skim over, what was necessary to the story and what wasn't. Could I have edited it more heavily? ... Honestly, I think I probably could have. BUT I used what I did include in order to conceal clues and hints and all KINDS of foreshadowing for what was actually going on in the rest of the story. So much of the canon included was necessary to Buffy's story arc, and when it wasn't, it was almost always foreshadowing something else that was going to happen or was currently happening where Buffy couldn't see it. 

When people tell me that they skim Part 1 I kind of want to shake them. I want to point them at different lines and paragraphs, descriptions and moments and say "DO YOU SEE THIS? IT'S IMPORTANT!" and then move to the next paragraph and repeat the process. For (a really obvious) example, in Chapter 21, "Thesis", there's this moment: 

"Look, I know you know more about this Ice Demon thing than you're letting on. I want to know what you know." We glare at each other. His jaw works and he keeps glancing around the walls of the crypt as if the answers are written there.
And if you've read the whole story, you'll know why that last sentence is there.

So, yes. Frustrating. 

On the other hand -- this person wasn't saying anything I hadn't said to myself when I was writing it. I agonized over all that canon for EXACTLY this reason. Because I knew there'd be people who wouldn't want to read a rehash of half of Season 5. I knew there were people who would not want to read canon in any shape or form. I KNEW there would be people who dismissed it after the first paragraph because it was written first person and in Buffy's POV, no less. In fact, I was pretty darn sure that would be why no one would bother reading this epically long thing in the first place. I figured most readers would give up around chapter 5 or 6 or 7 and even if they did, then they'd get to part 2 and think "Oh, god, AGAIN? REALLY?" and stop reading there. 

I thought, in short, that these things would be the reason why the story would tank.

It has been, to my everlasting surprise, incredible to me that it did not tank. That people did read it. That they liked it. That it has gotten so much attention and praise. 

It does make me wonder, however, how many people DID give up on it? How many people never got to all the AU stuff in Part 3. How many never even made it to Part 2? How many were turned off so severely by my use of canon that they couldn't bother reading past the first few chapters? How many were turned off by the first person POV that they didn't read past the PROLOGUE?

I respect the fact that this reader DID keep going. That she did read through to (almost) the end, even if she didn't like Part 1 and wasn't all that impressed with Part 2. I appreciate it, and I appreciate her unwitting honesty.

But what I come back to is this: I didn't really write it for her. Or for my other readers and reviewers. Or for you. I wrote it for me. Because I was laying in bed and the story came to me and it practically vomited itself out onto my computer keyboard. It was, in all honesty, nearly painfull imperative that I write that story. I wrote it to be the Buffy fic that I always wanted to read. I wrote it to be everything that I loved about the Buffy'verse. Everything I loved about fanfic. Everything I loved about the characters, and finishing it gave me this incredible feeling of catharsis, like nothing else I've ever done or experienced.

It was wonderful and terrifying. 

It's icing on the cake to get reviews. It's validation that the incredible amount of thought and time and effort I put into that story was worth it to other people and not just me. 

For the record, though, I will say that my favorite reviews aren't just the "I loved this" ones. The ones I really cherish are the ones from people who were going through rough times in their life. Who were depressed, or who had lost loved ones recently, who were sick or injured and in need of escape. It's nice to know that I provided that escape for them, and that in a sense, my catharsis was theirs as well. 

So, I guess what I'm saying is: I'm still around, even if I've been quiet lately. I'm still active in the fandom, even if you can't necessarily see it. I'm still following along. Still reading. If you leave me a review, it makes my day a little brighter. 

The last few months for me have been rough, and I always turn to fandom and writing when things get that way. I know I still have quite a bit of "DUST" left to finish, and it's coming--slowly. It has been harder to write than "West" was, but in some ways, I'm even prouder of it for that struggle. 

Thanks, to those of you who read my stuff. To those who review. To those who don't review and enjoy it anyway. To those who are honest enough to admit that it has faults, and those of you who love it enough to nominate it for awards. 

Just, thank you. Really. For everything. 

You guys? Fandom? You're my dark place


Comments:


diebirchen
diebirchen at 2013-01-14 20:45 (UTC) (Link)
Patently waiting for "Dust." *waving hopefully*
Elena
moscow_watcher at 2013-01-14 21:09 (UTC) (Link)
+1 :)
Knife Edge
knifeedgefic at 2013-01-16 20:50 (UTC) (Link)
I'm working on it. Slowly, but I am. Promise.
diebirchen
diebirchen at 2013-01-16 22:45 (UTC) (Link)
Then I'm waving gratefully,
singedbylife
singedbylife at 2013-01-14 21:48 (UTC) (Link)
The few times in my life that I have felt compelled to write a fanfic have been caused by the exact same need. The need to read a fic that I want to be part of the fandom. Basically writing should really always be that way. It is a very singular activity by default - and though I am not actually a writer such as yourself (Don't know if you write for a living but you ARE a true writer) I think that great writing is created when you write from inside of yourself. When you move yourself. Make yourself cry or laugh or ache. And as a reader, such true writing can be felt. And thusly have the capacity to move the readers. There is a reason why your fic "West" is as beloved as it is. It's brilliantly crafted and rings true all the way. One can tell that you did your research, knew what you intended and had the characters down to perfection. Such an effort merits praise. I am thrilled that you are still part of the fandom and that "DUST" is still a work in progress. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and this news with us. Take care.
Amie
wickedgillie at 2013-01-14 21:51 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad to know you're still here. You're easily one of the best writers I've ever read in this fandom, and I've read a LOT. Part of it is certainly being a good writer in general, but you also have a really good psychological grasp of the characters that goes well-beyond surface nods to canon.

When you're ready to share the rest of DUST, I will most certainly be here.
Rebcake
rebcake at 2013-01-14 22:41 (UTC) (Link)
Reviews can be funny. I've had friends who were spun by getting slam reviews that criticized some essential aspect of the story:

1. It's written in first person.
2. It's not written in first person. (I've received this complaint, myself.)
3. It's science fiction! (Gasp!)
4. It's too canon.
5. It's not canon enough.
6. It all human.
7. It's smutty.
8. It's not smutty enough.

And on and on. I may not be the biggest fan of all-human fic, but if I criticized one for being just what it says it is that would be pointless, ridiculous, and just prove that I'm an entitled jerk.

You've got the right idea, though — write to please yourself. I sort of hesitate to say that in public, even though I believe it in my heart of hearts, because I don't mean it to mean that "every single person should write whatever shallow dreck they feel moved to". I mean, yes, they should, but perhaps they should not expect everyone to love it like they do. ;-)

That so very many people love "West" every bit as much as you do is a good indicator that yours was a story that not only needed to be told, but one that worked as constructed. You made creative choices that worked for the story and resonated with readers. Even the best-crafted story will not appeal to everyone, because people have their own priorities and tastes. But your stories come close. ;-)

I'll also be here for more DUST. Happy New Year!

(I sort of like comments that question something I've done in a story. Because then I get to talk about why I made that choice, and for most decent writers there is a reason for everything.)
slaymesoftly
slaymesoftly at 2013-01-15 00:25 (UTC) (Link)
What Reb said!
norwie2010
norwie2010 at 2013-01-14 23:17 (UTC) (Link)
I loved this. *snickers*

:-)

Really.

And i hope you'll be around some more. (Yeah, i know: Not really insightful feedback. Still, i want to read/hear more from you.)
Kelsey
emynii at 2013-01-14 23:17 (UTC) (Link)
Long time lurker. I recently read West of the Moon and loved it. It's my favorite Buffy fic next to Dust. I love your portrayal of all the characters, because you write them so true to the way they are on the show. Honestly, sometimes I have a hard time separating your story from actual canon.

I'm really bad at reviewing, because I feel like such a sycophant gushing over every chapter, and when I was reading them the first time I was so caught up that i just plowed through them without a second thought. My only problem with West was that I tend not to enjoy overly sweet Spike towards the end. I like the conflict and bickering, frustration and fights. But it works, because those parts of Spike are there in canon (even if I don't pay too much attention to them myself)

I'm dying for more Dust, but I hate to sound naggy. I get what you say about writing for yourself. I'm no writer, and I have no delusions about that fact - but I understand what it's like to have a plot bug worming itself through your brain, desperate to have it in some tangible form simply for the release. I admire your ability to express it, and express it well.

Keep on keeping on. I love your stories.
slaymesoftly
slaymesoftly at 2013-01-15 00:21 (UTC) (Link)
Wow. You know how much I loved it, so no sense repeating myself. However, I did have something of an argument (more of a "we agree to disagree") with a friend who was turned off by all the canon. However, that's just her. She has occasionally beta'd for me or acted as a sounding board, and she just doesn't like to have canon events mentioned much at all - even if the author (me) has good reasons for the rehash. That's just a pov, and one can I relate to as I've certainly bailed on less skillfully done fics which basically just repeated the events and dialogue of an episode or season. If what's being evoked in the reader is just "I already know this", then it probably isn't working. But sometimes that isn't apparent until later on. Or it's being repeated for emphasis because it's important to the character, or some other perfectly good reason to repeat information already known by the average fan. Personally, I like the idea of seeing things from both sides, two pov of the same events - some people don't. You can't please everybody.

And I would love to see an update on DUST. Just sayin'.....
kerry_220 at 2013-01-15 05:44 (UTC) (Link)
Ha! I was just going to have a little rant about "What's wrong with canon? Isn't that the point?" Then I read your response and I realise that just a rehash is probably annoying for the most part. So thanks for that.

Still "West" is in no way a rehash, so my belief that such a reviewer is clearly off their trolley still stands - and I am a completely impartial reader with absolutely no preferences in my fanfic....truly..... :-)

And any DUST is good DUST.
ladypeyton
ladypeyton at 2013-01-15 05:31 (UTC) (Link)
I wanted you too know, West came out around the time my husband got laid off AND my daughter was diagnosed as on the Spectrum. He ended up being out of work for over 2 years and your story was one of the things I did focus on to take my mind off of all the every day problems that seemed to be springing up right and left. Those problems lasted right through your DUST postings.

I'm pretty sure I left comments at the time, but they were probably more along the lines of ZOMG I LOVE THIS STORY, much like I have left on DUST, but they were not comments that mentioned how much those chapters did get me through a lot of the rough times.

He's back to work and my daughter seems to be getting her focus in order and is hammering some social skills into place, but I will still cherish any future chapters of DUST that we will be lucky enough to experience.

Thank you.

Edited at 2013-01-15 05:33 am (UTC)
Subtilior
subtilior at 2013-01-15 06:29 (UTC) (Link)
I loved it for that reason above all - that we get the same thing twice, and (like "Instance of the Fingerpost") there's an *entire additional level to reality* revealed. Text becomes subtext, when read back onto text, and I just sent myself into a happy-puppy-dog tail-chasing spin of Reader Joy, remembering.

Thank you for writing it, ever so. xoxo.
caromiofic
caromiofic at 2013-01-15 11:33 (UTC) (Link)
There are people who don't read published fiction just because it's first person. Or vice-versa, those who don't like 3rd because it's not intimate enough. And those picky about tenses, too. People have weird preferences, so never take those kinds of comments personally about your writing.
sjp9920
sjp9920 at 2013-01-15 15:55 (UTC) (Link)

Seriously, I'm not stalking you-I wandered over when I saw this linked in the Sunnydale Herald

I'm going to leave the thinky thoughts about writing to others because it's so not my area. However, I did have to comment about this, "I've worked very hard over the last decade or so to keep my fandom life and my real life from crossing over too much. However, in the last few months I've discovered that you can't prevent that from happening, no matter how hard you try" Um, oops. I kind of broke your fourth wall. I have no idea if it bothered you when I jumped from fandom to real life, but if so, I apologize. I will not take offense if you delete me on FB or hide behind the produce if you see me in the store.

Susan
Knife Edge
knifeedgefic at 2013-01-16 18:16 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Seriously, I'm not stalking you-I wandered over when I saw this linked in the Sunnydale Herald

You're FINE. :)

I think I said that before when you first emailed me, and I'm repeating it now. Like I said before I've been kind of letting things start to slip over from fandom to real life (and vice versa). It was odd, grant you--the odds of that happening are so incredibly slim. But it didn't bother me at all.

So no, I'm not going to delete you on Facebook and you don't have to hide behind the produce in the store. :)
Sari
sarian71 at 2013-01-15 16:24 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, you can't please everyone. There's no point even trying. The writer's integrity is what is important. If readers like what they read, it's just the cherry on the top.

I just got thinking... Most fics? People read them through and then just promptly forget about them. But 'West'? It still frequently pops up in discussions. People still talk about it, whether good or bad. But mostly good. It gets recced all the time. It's one of those few special quality fics that's made a lasting impact on a lot of people. It's a story people remember.

Just how awesome an achievement is that?!!
myimortaldream
myimortaldream at 2013-01-16 14:05 (UTC) (Link)
I have too much to say.

First, I enjoy greatly reading things from characters POV's that I don't like; it gives me perspective from someone who enjoys them. For many a re-watch, this was Xander and Anya and half of the others. So even if I hated Buffy and/or Spike (I love/hate both to bits) your stories would still hold me because you have strong feelings for them.

Second, I read "West of the Moon" when my power was shut off and I had to go to the library to read each chapter. One hour at a time (or forty five minutes because of other internet things). This was my bright spot for about two months. By the time I got power back,I was nearing the end of part two and I had to finish. So, thank you.

Third, I have written mountains in order to purge my soul (so much poetry and [insert OC here] types even though I hate reading those type stories in fan-fiction); you are not alone in your need to get it all out.

Fourth, I love mythology. You gave me a new part to obsess over. Thank you, again.
jacquieburbank
jacquieburbank at 2013-01-19 19:11 (UTC) (Link)
Over and over, your fic is where I go when real life isn't working, when I can't make it work, or even just can't handle it. Your fic is the time out that lets me get back to trying to fix real world stuff. So thanks.

And sure, it would be great to see DUST finished, but honestly, I'm just so damn grateful for what's there. There are books and stories you can't imagine your life without, they've become so essential to you, and some very select fic has crossed over that line for me, DUST included.
nonikk63 at 2013-05-10 07:06 (UTC) (Link)
I'll take this opportunity to once again tell you that IMO "West of the Moon" is the ultimate Spuffy fic. One side of the awesomeness of "West of the Moon" is its three part structure and I personally think that every word you wrote was necessary for the story arc and the character development. The story was just as good the second time around when I read it in retrospect and the corresponding chapters in part 1 and 2 parallel. Finding all the little clues ... Mmm goody! The way you've inlcluded poetry in this story is also really beautiful, and I'm not one for poetry normally. What you've done is putting the poems in a contecxt that make them understandable for a reader who normally doesn't quite get it, which I hope you think is a good thing ;) Purely structurally already, this story is a masterpiece.

I also love it that you're able to provide happy endings without avoiding the darkness, you write darkness extremely well. You can go all the way and take the characters to really scary places without ever losing you footing, which is the thing that makes "Dust" so awesome. It's all I wanted Season 6 to be, without the sloppy ending.

And the way you write the characters is the best I've seen this far. They are spot on.
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