Nerved Up… and up… and up…

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…

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18 comments on “Nerved Up… and up… and up…

  1. This probably isn’t going to help, but he actually tweeted in a reply to someone that he personally read over 100 entries. And it’s currently 9:30 Bioware time (they’re Mountain Time Zone) and they still haven’t posted them and I’m going insane.

    • Ack. I’ve been checking my gmail and trying to google the bioware blog and look at the updates within the last 24 hours (since I can’t see the blog or twitter or anything from work)… it’s driving me crazy, and my kids are rooting for me and… oh right, breathe 🙂 This is so nervewracking!

  2. No go. I won’t go into how I really feel because I don’t really want sympathy or encouragement, I just want to wallow for a bit. Thanks for all the well wishes though.

    • Okay, let’s try this again…

      * * *

      I know exactly how you feel. I didn’t think I’d care, not placing, but it turns out I do.

      I’m questioning my own understanding of what “good” fiction is. I did read some of the top entries, and some of them didn’t appeal to me at all. I will say that there was at least one in the top five wherein I only read the first few lines and stopped reading. I was bored.

      What does this mean? I’m terrified. Do I or do I not understand what good fiction is? Am I writing it? Does it matter that my own entry has only warranted four reviews thus far?

      But what does it mean when another fanfiction I wrote has 300+ reviews?

      And my original fiction, one I’m (for the first time in my adult life) turning into a novel, has 66 reviews on fiction press and 100+ elsewhere, on a slash site called aarinfantasy.com?

      Are these readers just poor judges of fiction? Did they only enjoy my fanfiction because they liked the characters I was writing, or did they really enjoy the story? Was the story GOOD?

      And for the original fiction: do people enjoy it simply because it’s slash, and slash fans are by nature less choosy?

      Like I said, I’m terrified. So I know how you’re feeling right now. I don’t have an MFA, but I did get into an MFA program. At the last minute, I declined the offer and decided to stay home and try to get into the MFA program in my hometown. After reading several of my stories, the person running that program rejected me. He said ultimately that what I wrote was more genre than literary fiction, and so the other writers wouldn’t know what to do with me. That took me approximately ten years to get over.

      Now I’m back to writing, and I enter a fantasy creative writing competition. Fantasy. Genre. That’s what I’m good at, right?

      Right?

  3. I know exactly how you feel. I didn’t think I’d care, not placing, but it turns out I do.

    I’m questioning my own understanding of what “good” fiction is. I did read some of the top entries, and some of them didn’t appeal to me at all. I will say that there was at least one in the top five wherein I only read the first few lines and stopped reading. I was bored.

    What does this mean? I’m terrified. Do I or do I not understand what good fiction is? Am I writing it? Does it matter that my own entry has only warranted four reviews thus far?

    But what does it mean when another fanfiction I wrote has 300+ reviews?

    And my original fiction, one I’m (for the first time in my adult life) turning into a novel, has 66 reviews on fiction press and 100+ elsewhere, on a slash site called aarinfantasy.com?

    Are these readers just poor judges of fiction? Did they only enjoy my fanfiction because they liked the characters I was writing, or did they really enjoy the story? Was the story GOOD?

    And for the original fiction: do people enjoy it simply because it’s slash, and slash fans are by nature less choosy?

    Like I said, I’m terrified. So I know how you’re feeling right now. I don’t have an MFA, but I did get into an MFA program. At the last minute, I declined the offer and decided to stay home and try to get into the MFA program in my hometown. After reading several of my stories, the person running that program rejected me. He said ultimately that what I wrote was more genre than literary fiction, and so the other writers wouldn’t know what to do with me. That took me approximately ten years to get over.

    Now I’m back to writing, and I enter a fantasy creative writing competition. Fantasy. Genre. That’s what I’m good at, right?

    Right?

  4. I’ll split the reply in half and see if that helps:

    * * *

    I know exactly how you feel. I didn’t think I’d care, not placing, but it turns out I do.

    I’m questioning my own understanding of what “good” fiction is. I did read some of the top entries, and some of them didn’t appeal to me at all. I will say that there was at least one in the top five wherein I only read the first few lines and stopped reading. I was bored.

    What does this mean? I’m terrified. Do I or do I not understand what good fiction is? Am I writing it? Does it matter that my own entry has only warranted four reviews thus far?

    But what does it mean when another fanfiction I wrote has 300+ reviews?

    And my original fiction, one I’m (for the first time in my adult life) turning into a novel, has 66 reviews on fiction press and 100+ elsewhere, on a slash site called aarinfantasy.com?

    Are these readers just poor judges of fiction? Did they only enjoy my fanfiction because they liked the characters I was writing, or did they really enjoy the story? Was the story GOOD?

  5. Okay … so I actually signed up for a frigging account with word press 😐 Let’s see if maybe THIS TIME it will post my comment:

    I know exactly how you feel. I didn’t think I’d care, not placing, but it turns out I do.

    I’m questioning my own understanding of what “good” fiction is. I did read some of the top entries, and some of them didn’t appeal to me at all. I will say that there was at least one in the top five wherein I only read the first few lines and stopped reading. I was bored.

    What does this mean? I’m terrified. Do I or do I not understand what good fiction is? Am I writing it? Does it matter that my own entry has only warranted four reviews thus far?

    But what does it mean when another fanfiction I wrote has 300+ reviews?

    And my original fiction, one I’m (for the first time in my adult life) turning into a novel, has 66 reviews on fiction press and 100+ elsewhere, on a slash site called aarinfantasy.com?

    Are these readers just poor judges of fiction? Did they only enjoy my fanfiction because they liked the characters I was writing, or did they really enjoy the story? Was the story GOOD?

    And for the original fiction: do people enjoy it simply because it’s slash, and slash fans are by nature less choosy?

    Like I said, I’m terrified. So I know how you’re feeling right now. I don’t have an MFA, but I did get into an MFA program. At the last minute, I declined the offer and decided to stay home and try to get into the MFA program in my hometown. After reading several of my stories, the person running that program rejected me. He said ultimately that what I wrote was more genre than literary fiction, and so the other writers wouldn’t know what to do with me. That took me approximately ten years to get over.

    Now I’m back to writing, and I enter a fantasy creative writing competition. Fantasy. Genre. That’s what I’m good at, right?

    Right?

  6. I know exactly how you feel. I didn’t think I’d care, not placing, but it turns out I do.

    I’m questioning my own understanding of what “good” fiction is. I did read some of the top entries, and some of them didn’t appeal to me at all. I will say that there was at least one in the top five wherein I only read the first few lines and stopped reading. I was bored.

    What does this mean? I’m terrified. Do I or do I not understand what good fiction is? Am I writing it? Does it matter that my own entry has only warranted four reviews thus far?

    But what does it mean when another fanfiction I wrote has 300+ reviews?

    • And my original fiction, one I’m (for the first time in my adult life) turning into a novel, has 66 reviews on fiction press and 100+ elsewhere, on a slash site called aarinfantasy.com?

      Are these readers just poor judges of fiction? Did they only enjoy my fanfiction because they liked the characters I was writing, or did they really enjoy the story? Was the story GOOD?

      And for the original fiction: do people enjoy it simply because it’s slash, and slash fans are by nature less choosy?

    • Hm, the original did show up; as did your others, odd. I’m still getting used to this blogging/commenting thing, so I’m not sure, hehe.

      I tried to be objective and think I would be okay; after all I’ve had work, original at that, rejected before. But I didn’t realize just how much I valued my DA work, and not even placing really stings. Getting through my last two classes and the faculty meeting was hard; I kept it together and then fell apart the whole drive home. Luckily it’s just a 10 minute drive.

      I’m not sure I want to put up my story, because now I feel like it’s unworthy; forget all the work I put into it and the effort I expended polishing it up to literary shininess. For some reason I feel ashamed of it, even though I know it’s not “bad” writing. And I wonder if that means I can’t distinguish between the good and the bad either. It’s hard when literature is so subjective, and with a topic that was SO broad. I try to remind myself that I’m used to writing my Warden, and especially Cailan. Mage/templar angst is interesting, but not usually my thing. And yet that feels like a bandaid on a bullet wound.

      • Nope, that’s actually only about one third of my original reply lol It was full of self-doubt and fear and self-hatred lol The way the comment you replied to ended makes me sound like an egomaniac … “I have a fic that got 300+ reviews, SO HA!” LOL

        Anyway, glad you are feeling better about the contest 🙂 I am, too, surprisingly!

      • Nah, you sounded fine. It’s a really interesting way to look at things because on the one hand, you have 300+ reviews on your writing; on the other you don’t get a single shred of feedback and you’re left to wallow in emptiness. So where’s the balance, and where do we decide to accept ourselves and our writing? Granted writing is always a process, and writers are never done developing. But in a case like this we need to be able to look at the positive in order to balance the negative. And I’m glad you’re starting to feel better as well 🙂 Time helps, and I buckled down and finished editing a chapter and posted it on ff.net, and that made me feel a lot better too.

  7. Okay, I give it. Tried to paste in my comment piece by piece but now it’s telling me my comments are duplicates. Please excuse the comment before this one; it’s only the very first part of my comment and thus makes no sense. Sorry this isn’t working out. And sorry about the contest; basically, I feel the same. Oh well.

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