Building a Universe From Scratch

The lack of light is taking its toll on us. I’ve been feeling a little antsy of late, and frustrated, like I’m spinning my wheels. And there’s very little reason for this. The Trenchcoat Farewell Project is continuing slowly but surely, with Cameron Dixon putting the finishing touches to Shepherd Moons and Pat Degan working away on two stories in Ninth Aspect 2. The energy isn’t there, and I’m forced to blame SAD.

I need a time out. Erin and I need an evening to ourselves, to pay attention to ourselves and also to clean the house and do some laundry. And now you know more about me than you probably wanted to know…

I have had the honour of receiving a link from the blog of Joe Clifford Faust of the Word Foundary. Joe is a published author and his website is full of fascinating articles, including being a Christian and a science-fiction writer to boot.

In introducing his link, Joe says “James appears to have started as a working writer first, and dabbles in fanfic as a side dish or a dessert. He’s very plugged in to what it takes to be a working writer, and his plans as a writer take him far outside the fanfic world.” This is not wholly accurate. Actually, I wrote fan fiction for fifteen years before I decided to push back my boundaries and try my hand at original fiction.

I’ve already talked about how fan fiction has a bad rap, unfairly so. It is one good way of honing your art, depending on how you approach it.

There are two reasons one writes fan fiction: for the thrill of writing in the universe the fan fiction story takes place in, and for the thrill of writing, itself. Many fan fiction authors are in their hobby because of the first reason, but a handful are there for the second.

I wrote Doctor Who fan fiction because I was so in love with the show and its universe, I wanted to add my own stories to the genre. But I also saw Doctor Who as a handy crutch. Here I was, at seventeen years of age, knowing that I enjoyed writing, but also knowing that I wasn’t much good at it. I had some plot ideas that I could work with, and I had some hopes for my narrative, but who were these people that were going to stumble into my story? How was I going to create a believable motivation for the villain?

Doctor Who gave me a large universe in which to work with, with a plethora of villains to pick from, should I need one. At the same time, the fact that the show had seen several different companions travel with the Doctor throughout its history, and the fact that the lead actor had been changed seven times meant that I could create my own hero and assistant.

So, Trenchcoat was started specifically so I could have fun practising my writing, and creating my own hero and supporting characters, while not having to worry about creating the universe around them. Trenchcoat was my training wheels, which enabled me to write a lot better at 30 than I could at 17.

The other thing that fan fiction gives you is an audience. If you want to write, you’ve got to love it, because chances are you won’t make a living at it. You certainly won’t make a living writing fan fiction, but you will have an audience, and for a writer that’s gold. When I distributed my fan fiction stories among the fans, I got feedback, and constructive criticism, and that encouraged me to keep writing, and keep pushing my boundaries. A person who writes original fiction from scratch has to show a lot more dedication because, until publishing occurs, the audience is small. Because of fan fiction, I had more encouragement to make up for whatever dedication I lacked.

At some point two years ago, I decided that I was ready to try my hand at original fiction. I was comfortable enough with my narrative and my characterization that I could try building a universe from scratch. However, I could not have gotten this far without the help of the Doctor Who universe, and the willingness of its fans to allow me to add to it in my own small way through fan fiction.

Robert Novak said this?!!?

Gee, it looks like I owe the man an apology for my strong words before. In the transcript quoted on Tom Tomorrow, he sounds downright sensible.

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