Thursday, August 26, 2010

Most Thoughtful Present Ever! And a little personal writing history...

Today, I received one of the most thoughtful gifts I ever received.  Completely unprompted.  Totally unsolicited.  100% original.  And so very meaningful and appreciated.  My best friend, Lea (a soon-to-break-out YA paranormal author), downloaded my fan fiction story, The List, and had it published for my personal use and collection in hardcover on (all 489 pages!).  This story represented nine months of writing, 190,000 words, and the immersion into a community of women with whom I have become friends, writing companions, and partners in crime. 

Some of you might've heard this on one of the various interviews I've given about it.  But here's the story of how The List came to be:

Before July 2008, I had never heard of fan fiction.  I had no idea that people wrote stories about, well, stories.  Huh?  But a couple of things happened that July that brought fan fiction into my consciousness and, ultimately, into my life.  First, on July 4th, I hit my head seriously enough that I suffered migraines for several months.  Second, on July 22, I had rotator cuff surgery.  Third, for something to do while I recuperated from both, my husband brought home three books for me to read--you guessed it!  Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse.  Er, I had never heard of these books before then.  Yes, that's right, my husband knew about Twilight before me.  I devoured them, of course, but then there was a problem:  it would be a whole week before the last book was out.  And, what?  I was expected to wait to find out who she would choose (duh, Edward, puh-lease), whether she would become a vampire, whether there would finally be some &!#$! sex!  But I waited.  And waited.  And it was hard.  (*gigglesnort*, she said hard!)  And I went to the midnight release party with Lea and went immediately home to start the book and finished it in less than twenty-four hours.  And I had several reactions:  1) it's over?  it can't be over?  I don't want to be done with these characters yet and you can't make me! 2) motherfarking fades to black! and 3) how the heck am I supposed to wait another four months for the movie?!?

By the middle of August, my migraines were starting to subside.  But there was something new going on in ye olde cranium--I had a brand-spankin'-new drive to write.  I wrote fiction as a teenager, and even won a few awards for it, but while I wrote regularly as part of my professional life, it was all non-fiction.  But I had a drive.  So I started writing.  In an earlier post I talked about some of the weird ghosty/cursy/angely stuff that happened in my family when I was growing up, and I had a story idea based on a lot of that.  I wrote twenty pages, and then, SLAM!  A new story idea parked itself in my frontal lobe and demanded attention.  Less than three months later, I completed the first draft of Forever Freed.

Despite how fast I drafted it, I engaged in copious amounts of procrastination.  I also find surfing the internet often mindless enough that I can relax and let new ideas flow in.  And so, after I started writing Forever Freed, and while I was all sitting on pins and needles for the Twilight movie, I would occasionally search for Twilight-related info on the web, hoping to find something to feed my desire to stay connected to the story.  And that's how I found the Twilight fan fiction site Twilighted.  All of a sudden I had an absolutely brilliant form of procrastination.  More Edward.  Plus sexy times!  Plus, huh, Edward's human?  Okay, why not?  Also, one day while I was really struggling to be productive, I thought, I'm taking my own stab at getting rid of those blasted fades to black, so I wrote my first fan fiction, a "one shot" about their wedding night.  Take that, Stephenie Meyer!

I finished drafting Forever Freed the last week of October and already had another original story idea in mind that I began the first week of November.  I was on fire, people (read: head injury had made things not quite right...)  I was even ambitious enough that I found (through my internet procrastination) NaNoWriMo and entered it with the new story in mind (a dark paranormal called The Night-Mare).  I wrote maybe 10,000 words before I got bogged down with work and the holidays and just got tired.

And then, at the end of December, I got sick.  I didn't think much of it at the time.  But between being so busy and being so tired and being sick, I couldn't focus on my original story.  So I started reading a lot, and the fan fiction was handy (and, wow, surprisingly good--and I don't mean smutty good, although some was, I mean, well-written, well-conceived, original premise, why-the-hell-isn't-this-person-writing-this-original-and-trying-to-publish-it good).  And then an idea popped in idea that turned into my first multi-chapter fan fiction story, The List.  I really did it at first mostly to keep the writing juices flowing until I got well.  I wanted to continue to practice the art of storytelling--remember, Forever Freed was my first novel--and it turned out to be so much fun--the story, the reviews people would submit, the appreciative emails I would receive.  It was great.  While I was writing The List (one of two multi-chapter fan fiction novels I took on, at the same time), I started working through the revision stages on FF, but I was still sick.  So sick I ended up taking a medical leave of absence from teaching and was home on the couch for the better part of four months.

I finished The List almost a year ago, in September of 2009 (9 months for 175,000 words--not bad (a later epilogue was added for a charity event...)).  By then, it had achieved some popularity and following within the fandom.  The stats on the story simply amaze me.  On Twilighted, as of August 26, 2010, the story has had 1.74 million hits on 28 chapters and 13,030 reviews.  On, where I posted it much, much later, the story has had another 708,000 hits, 2,500 reviews, and 3,500 favorites.  "What I learned from writing fan fiction" is a blog entry for another day--because while I've been entirely focused on my original fiction for the past year, the debt owed is great, and one I'm not at all ashamed to acknowledge.

So, having nine months of work and fun and friendships and community wrapped up for me in pretty paper with a bow just means the absolute world.  Sometimes, a friend just gets you.  I'm real lucky that Lea's that for me.  And that's the real present.

Thanks for reading,

Sistahs!  me and Lea


PurdueLiz said...

That is seriously cool! I want a copy for my shelf, I loved your story!! What a wonderful friend you have. :)

Ninapolitan said...

Oh Laura this is a wonderful present!!! So generous and sweet of her!

naelany said...

That's so cool! Very awesome gift! And I'm with PurdueLiz, loved The List.

Lisa said...

How awesome! What a great friend!

genalovesjasper said...

That's an awesome gift. The List is the very first fanfic I read and I just loved it. I tell people about it all the time, it's great to hear a little history of it. You're a fantastic writer and I hope you have a dazzling birthday! xoxo

Laura Kaye said...

Thanks everybody! I'm still so excited! :-)