I’m an MFA who writes fanfiction; that sounds like the opening to a support-group/twelve-step introduction, but it’s who I am. It’s something I’ve come to identify with and accept. Mostly I write my fanfiction for fun; the reviews are nice, but my big thing is writing the best story I can about an existing world I love. My current fanfiction obsession? BioWare’s Dragon Age.
Dragon Age got me back into fanfiction after a four-year hiatus, two years of which were my creative writing grad program. In March it’ll be a year since discovering and playing it, and in that time I’ve done a lot of writing about Dragon Age. I’ve played all the games multiple times, and I’ve read the novels. I’ve read the wiki. I research and write articles for GreyWardens.com. And at the beginning of January, I entered a Dragon Age fanfiction writing contest, sponsored by BioWare.
The premise is simple: write a short story of no more than 2500 words from the perspective of a mage or templar. The deadline was January 10th; I submitted January 2nd to get it out of the way, and have been on relative pins and needles since then. It’s strange because I submitted some query letters and samples of my MFA thesis to some agents and publishers this time last year, and yet I wasn’t nearly as nerved up waiting to hear back. And when I did get the polite rejection that my novel “wasn’t what they were looking for at this time”, I shrugged and went back to whatever I was doing. I feel like I should have been more disappointed; after all, I spent two years of my life sweating over that manuscript. It’s my original work; it’s my metaphorical baby. And when it didn’t go anywhere I wasn’t bothered.
However, waiting on this contest has me really nervous. The winners were chosen Sunday night (as per a Tweet from the lead writer of the DA series). He forwarded the names to his community people Monday. I spent Monday checking my email until I got home and saw another Tweet that they wouldn’t be formally announced until Wednesday on the BioWare Blog. And here I am on Wednesday morning: it’s 3AM BioWare’s time, and yet I checked. And was summarily disappointed when nothing was posted, even though to expect it is a little unrealistic.
So why could I shrug off my nerves with my original novel, and not even feel much disappointment when it was rejected, and yet with this I’m almost sick to my stomach?
I do value my original work. I put a lot of effort into it, people who’ve read it generally like it, and I think it could go somewhere. But I think I also value my fanfiction as well, and I value my love of Dragon Age pretty highly. Also, the top 20 entries were read by David Gaider, the lead writer of Dragon Age. Maybe because I enjoy the game so much, and know he read the entries, it makes me even more nervous. Maybe because I value my role as a Dragon Age fanfiction writer, I feel like this would give me more credibility in the fandom (and then I wonder why such things matter so much to me). Perhaps I just want to have the waiting over with and know for sure.
I’m not sure; I know I shouldn’t base my self-worth and worth as an author or fan on this one thing, but I can’t help it. Will I be disappointed if things don’t turn out well? You’d better believe it. Will I move on? You’d better believe that, too. But that doesn’t stop me from hoping, and I think it’s the hoping that keeps me nerved up… and up… and up…