The latest stoush on the R&R board seems to be over before it really started, which is good to see. I like it when we're surprisingly mature and polite. However, it did get me thinking. It seems to me that I've had a surprisingly smooth ride in the year and a half or so since I first started posting. I've won an award, written for the CBFFAs, become a content editor for the IBAs, been archived on numerous websites, and received quite a lot of feedback. I've made some good friends and no enemies that I know of. So what did I do right?
I doubt that this will reach it's target audience here - the only newbie that I know reads my journal seems to have worked all of this out all by himself :) - and the tiny minority who need it most would probably just call me a mean dino for daring to advise them at all. but I felt the need to get it off my chest. Anyway. These are just my opinions, some of them rather close to rants, but this strategy seems to have worked for me. Come to think of it, there are some dinos who could try this too ;).
1. Subreality does not owe you a living.
Or much beyond basic politeness, actually. Now, I know that a lot of newbies feel that dinos don't treat them with respect, but that's a two-way street. You have to earn respect. The pillars of fanfic were once newbies like you, but since then they've written stories and feedback, built web pages, and generally done a bunch of stuff to create the community you want to join. That doesn't mean they're allowed to treat you like a doormat, but it's something to keep in mind. Fanfic always needs newbies, but more specifically it needs creative, polite people with something to say. If you want the admiration accorded to an established writer or archivist, get off your backside and do the work.
2. Don't take things so personally.
Here is a newsflash: the world does not revolve around you. If it's your first post or your first day in chat, no-one knows who you are. Whatever they say is directed at your behaviour, not at you. If someone tells you off for breaking the rules or pushes one of your buttons, they probably didn't mean to upset you. Similarly: if you didn't get feedback, or people ignored you in chat, or someone didn't reply to your e-mail, it may have nothing to do with you at all.
Sooner or later, someone is going to say or do something to make you sad or angry, deliberately or unwittingly. You can posture, cry, act like a drama queen and threaten not to post any more, or you can suck it up and deal. If you do the former, you're the one who loses.
3. Try lurking for a bit.
You're reading the words of a woman who discovered fanfiction in 1997 and first posted in 2000 :). That's probably excessive, but I think that having a fair idea of what the structure and rules of the place were before I plunged in helped me make fewer silly mistakes. That goes for actual writing as well as the meta stuff - the first four stories I finished are still sitting on my hard drive, unposted. Get the lie of the land before plunging in.
4. Play by the rules
Ignorance of the law is no defence. Whatever mailing list, message board or chat room you find yourself involved with, it will have rules. Find out what they are. Pay close attention to the way others behave, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
5. Try writing some fanfiction.
You'd think this would be obvious, but apparently it's not :). I've got nothing against people who want to hang out with the fanfic community as readers/artists/RRers/chatters/etc, but I also think it's wise to recall that stories are where the whole thing started. Generally, it's easier and quicker to establish yourself as an author than it is to get to know people without fic to back you up. Besides you might get feedback. And feedback is the nectar of the gods.
6. Try writing some good fanfiction.
I'm not going to sit here and type out a definition of good fanfiction - there are plenty of writing tips out there if you need a hand. Try getting a betareader. And for heaven's sake, use the bloody spellchecker.
7. Try writing some fanfiction that people might read.
This is where Andraste gets controversial, and you should probably treat this as a suggestion rather than a rule. Like it or not, some characters, ideas and genres are more popular than others. I'm all for artistic freedom, but you owe it to yourself to give yourself a fair chance, with characters people have actually like. I'm speaking here from personal experience - although Charles Xavier is my favourite x-person, his name doesn't appear in the header of my first story. He doesn't even have a speaking part. This was a calculated move, taken because I didn't want to shoot myself in the foot first time by putting an unpopular character in the spotlight. By labeling "Distant Voices" X-Men instead of Xavier, I got a better idea of my own ability as a writer.
Also, if you're an inexperienced author you might want to leave the fifty-chapter epics for later - make sure you can crawl before you try to run. Oh, and while I'm at it, readers are more likely to welcome your "new character joins the X-Men" story if you've established yourself as a good writer first and they trust you not to inflict Mary Sue on them.
Bear in mind that I'm not saying you *shouldn't* do any of the above things, just that it might take longer to get known if you do. Think about it, and pick and choose your story ideas with care 'til people get to know you better.
8. Leave the revolution for your second year.
Often, people see fanfic, see something they don't like or an unfilled niche and immediately declare that *they* will be the one to change the world for the better. Often, they fail. Someone who's just walked into fandom probably doesn't have the stamina or support to create their own large general archive, hubsite, shared universe, etc. Give yourself some time to adjust to reality before you try to remake it.
9. Get involved.
Every second mutant is a mindreader, but the other writers aren't. If you want to be involved in any particular aspect of the fanfic community, it's your job to take the first step. Write stories, send feedback, help out with archiving, do some RRs, go into a chat room. Talk to people. Contrary to popular belief, most dinos are quite friendly - they wouldn't be involved in the community if they didn't want to meet other writers - but they don't know you from a bar of soap. And remember, a little politeness goes a long way.