thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
Keep Hoping Machine Running ([personal profile] thefourthvine) wrote2012-10-15 11:14 am

Yuletide: My Sordid Signup History

It's Yuletide time! And thus time to bring out the Yuletide advice posts.

Every year I try to persuade someone new to Yuletide to sign up for it. I don't always succeed, but I always try. And part of what I offer to support them in the Yuletide hurly-burly is advice on signing up and selecting fandoms. And then I thought: what if there are other people, people who are signing up for the first time even though they are not being harassed by me, who might also want to know this stuff? Anything is possible!

So I am sharing. Selecting fandoms for Yuletide, TFV style.

The central thesis here - my single key piece of advice - is basically DON'T DO WHAT I HAVE DONE. And while I've made mistakes every single year, my first few years I made doozies. Let's discuss my errors, so that you can either learn from them or, you know, just laugh at me. Either one is a totally valid choice.

2004 was my first year, and I signed up in a total panic. I couldn't believe I was doing it, actually signing up for Yuletide. Because - this amazing challenge that actually got me into fandom! And me, who had never actually written any fan fiction! Surely a bad combination. Also I had a high fever. And that's why, instead of actually looking at all the fandoms, I went through the fandom list from the top - this was waaaaay back when, and the fandom list was this drop-down box with a billion options, ordered alphabetically. I just picked the first three fandoms I knew, fandoms that all began with A, and went back to bed.

This was an error. I missed several key steps in the offering process, including:
  • Considering what people might want in that fandom.
  • Considering how it would be to write in that fandom.
  • Imagining what a story in that fandom might actually look like, coming from me.
  • Involving my brain at any point in the process.
This is why I ended up getting assigned All Creatures Great and Small. Which, okay, back then the format for Yuletide fandoms wasn't written in stone the way it is now, and I didn't even know that there was a British TV miniseries based on the books. So I was offering the books. My recipient was requesting the miniseries. Problem! Also the books are these totally heartwarming stories told in a distinctive first person voice. I - do not do heartwarming. Another problem! One I really should have considered before I got my assignment. As I did not, by all rights my first Yuletide should have been a disaster. A fandom mismatch! A fandom I couldn't actually write! Oh god whyyyyyy? CUE PANIC.

I have three people to thank for getting me through that Yuletide: Best Beloved, who read and edited and soothed and supported, [personal profile] laurashapiro, who beta-read the story after BB was through with it, and Cassie, our beloved and much-missed Labrador Retriever, whose lifestyle choices (chew all the things, basically) gave me something to write about. I also have to thank [livejournal.com profile] artyartie, who saved my life by providing a very useful prompt, and who was the best recipient a first-time Yuletider could hope for. (Dear recipients everywhere: if you really want to make your writer's day, come back a year later and say how much you still love your story. [livejournal.com profile] artyartie did that for me, and my confidence as a Yuletider totally soared. Which I needed.)

My take-home lessons from my first Yuletide: Read the whole list of fandoms. Also, get a loved one to review your signup for sanity.

The next year, 2005, I was determined! I would do Yuletide again! I would make fewer mistakes this time! It was a good thing my goal did not involve making no mistakes, let's just say. I downloaded a spreadsheet with all the nominated fandoms on it and eliminated everything I didn't know, followed by everything I couldn't write. Then I considered what was left. This was a much better process. Unfortunately, I missed two key steps, which were:
  • Considering what people might want in the fandom.
  • Remembering that I might be assigned either gen or pairing.
The previous year, I'd been assigned gen. (For which I am eternally grateful to the Great Yuletide Sorter, because I don't think I could have stood it otherwise. I am bad at porn anyway, and given everything else I did wrong that first year, oh god no no no.) I forgot that lots of people, me included, sometimes want fan fiction that has sex in it. I had not, at this point in my fannish career, written any explicit porn. (There are many people who do Yuletide who are only really interested in writing gen or very non-explicit romance. At least some of them game their signups considerably to avoid fandoms where straight up smut is a likely request. I did not do this. This was an error.) And that was how I ended up getting assigned Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with the prompt of "hot het porn." I had never written het. I had never written explicit porn. I had never written anything hot. CUE PANIC.

I survived this Yuletide thanks to Best Beloved, my amazing betas, and my Emergency Yuletide Whining Filter. Best Beloved in particular went above and beyond the call of duty by saying such things as "get her hands on his cock right now" and "I really think you ought to get her skin-tight pants off before they have penis-in-vagina sex" and also reminding me that while I cannot write porn, I can write teasing indefinitely. And [personal profile] queue wins points forever for being the person to point out, gently and kindly, that I had given John two cocks, and this was not canonical.

My take-home lessons from Yuletide 2005: Sometimes people want pairings, and even porn. Also, only write doublecock porn if your recipient specifically requests doublecock porn.

In future years, I learned advanced lessons about considering what kind of time you have, what kind of Yuletide experience you want to have, what access to the source you have. But the basics are pretty simple:
  1. Get to a short list somehow. I go through the entire list of fandoms and delete everything I don't know and then everything I couldn't write, but you can do it however you want.

  2. When you have that short list, look at each one of them. Imagine how you would feel if you got it assigned to you. Imagine opening up your assignment letter and discovering that this is your fandom, that you have only a few weeks to write at least a thousand words in it. Imagine what story you'd write.

  3. Think about what stories a recipient might request. Common requests include:
    • A pairing of any two of the nominated characters. M/m, m/f, and f/f are all options, here. Threesomes are also a possibility, although I think less likely (based entirely on how I've never received a request for one; yes, this is SCIENCE).
    • Background. The history of a character, the history of some institution, how everything got to wherever it is in the canon.
    • Futurefic. How things turn out after the story ends.
    • Something just like canon - another episode, say.
    • Worldbuilding. This is obviously especially likely in any canon that takes place in a world obviously and significantly different than ours.
    Imagine writing each one of these types.

  4. If, after all that, you feel good about it, leave that fandom in. And if you can't imagine writing a story for it, throw it out.
Take whatever is left and divide it into two lists: fandoms for which you must specify characters (always an excellent choice if you're, say, happy to write Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but aren't really sure you could hack Bill/Ted's mom) and fandoms for which you can honestly offer any and all characters (because you are happy to write Bill/Ted's mom, or Bill/Billy the Kid, or Socrates/Joan of Arc!). Pick your top five specific-characters fandoms and offer those (or, if you have fewer than five, offer them all). Make the rest your bucket list.

And then PROFIT. Or, okay, don't profit, because this is fan fiction. My point is: click that submit button and go on your merry way. (Until you get your assignment letter a week or two later and inaugurate the great tradition of Yuletide Panic, at least if you're me.)

Anyone else have any tips to share?
montanaharper: pink icon with a red bow and text saying yuletide (yuletide)

[personal profile] montanaharper 2012-10-15 07:19 pm (UTC)(link)
This is an amazingly useful post, full of things I've never really thought of when it comes to Yuletide. (Possibly because I tend to be very seat-of-the-pants-and-then-panic. *koff*) I...might actually even sign up again this year, because with your tips in mind it could be a not-terrifying experience, for a change.

Thank you!

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melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)

[personal profile] melannen 2012-10-15 08:30 pm (UTC)(link)
I am someone who always offers a giant bucket list (often in the three digits) because being assigned a semi-random fandom to immerse myself in for December is the best part of the season for me, but if you're going to do it that way, you need different guidelines for pairing it down. Your step one is good, but after that, I do:

2. Do you have access to, or will you be able to easily get access to, the entire relevant canon in time to review it before writing? Will having to review (or view for the first time - I often offer things on my to-read list) canon feel like a chore, or like an extra yuletide treat? (This means for me, for example, most TV series longer than one or two seasons are cut, and also any book series more than 1200 combined pages, and nearly all RPF.) Or are you already familiar enough that this doesn't matter?

3. Could you *really* write *any* character on the list for this fandom? (Sometimes this means checking to make sure the characters you can't write aren't on the nominated list.) You can't offer limited characters in too many fandoms, so save those for special ones (these usually end up being huge RPF umbrellas, for me,) and delete most fandoms where you can't honestly offer "any".

3. Do you believe in your heart that optional details are optional? If you get a request that consists of just "A/B, het porn", and you can't write an A/B het porn story, will you be capable of saying "they knew that optional details are optional, so they're getting gen about A and B having coffee together, and if that ruins their Christmas it's on them for misreading the guidelines, not on me"? Not everybody can do this - if you're the sort of person who obsesses at length over writing the perfect exact story, you should probably not do a huge bucket offer!

On the other hand, there are some requests that really aren't optional - if the recipient says "not this," you have to be able to write "not that". In particular, most people request things for yuletide because they like them, and most people will be happy with your story if you write the things they like sympathetically, even if you have to ignore most of their optionals. If there's one thing about the fandom that you just hate and could never write sympathetically, your recipient will, nine times out of ten, request that because they love it. So only offer a fandom if you're pretty sure you could convince yourself to love anything about it if you had to (or, at minimum, write a story that avoids it entirely).

4. Go down the list and click all the boxes.
Edited 2012-10-15 20:33 (UTC)

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ambyr: pebbles arranged in a spiral on sand (nature sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy) (Pebbles)

[personal profile] ambyr 2012-10-16 09:03 pm (UTC)(link)
(This means for me, for example, most TV series longer than one or two seasons are cut, and also any book series more than 1200 combined pages, and nearly all RPF.)

As someone who once had to frantically review a 7600 page book canon in less than a month--god, yes, THIS.

Self, it doesn't matter how much you love something. You can only read SO FAST.
giglet: (Default)

[personal profile] giglet 2012-10-15 09:11 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you!

Goes back to eying the signup post warily.
princessofgeeks: (Black Widow by musesfool)

[personal profile] princessofgeeks 2012-10-15 09:14 pm (UTC)(link)
this is really funny; thank you.
elynross: (Default)

[personal profile] elynross 2012-10-15 10:11 pm (UTC)(link)
<3

If you wanted, you might even consider posting this/linking to this in [community profile] yuletide....
petra: Barbara Gordon smiling knowingly (Default)

[personal profile] petra 2012-10-15 10:25 pm (UTC)(link)
I keep an ongoing canonical list of all the things I have written and/or really wish I had the gumption to write, and then prune from there with the odd addition as the mood strikes me. Otherwise I end up signing up for things I really don't feel *that kind* of fannish about, and I have trouble caring about the stories.
myalexandria: (Default)

[personal profile] myalexandria 2012-10-15 10:44 pm (UTC)(link)
I have nothing to say, except that I laughed and laughed (in recognition as well as pleasure.) A++++++ post, would read again.

[personal profile] annaalamode 2012-10-15 10:47 pm (UTC)(link)
I make a big old list (on actual paper) and then I cross out and add and then cross out again fandoms until I figure out both what I want to request and what I want to write! It involves lots of scribbling. Also, I figure chosing the stories I want to request is like sneaking into the closet and shaking all the presents before Christmas. Which one sounds the awesomest?

So, yes, big list and shake your presents is my advice.
randomling: Rose Tyler (Doctor Who) (rose)

[personal profile] randomling 2012-10-15 10:52 pm (UTC)(link)
Ooh, this is really useful.

I am going back to considering whether I want in or not...

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laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)

[personal profile] laurashapiro 2012-10-15 11:50 pm (UTC)(link)
I (still) don't remember betaing your first Yuletide story. I really need to go look that up...

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toft: graphic design for the moon europa (Default)

[personal profile] toft 2012-10-16 12:28 am (UTC)(link)
I love your posts about Yuletide! Still useful. Yay!
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)

[personal profile] tevere 2012-10-16 12:45 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, I loved the James Herriot books as a kid (had no idea there was a mini!); I'll download your story for my plane ride tomorrow.

Your fandom selection suggestions are wise indeed! With some overlap with you, I have learnt three main things from my three Yuletides:

(1) As much as you may be familiar with the canon, the fandoms you want to request are not necessarily those you could ever write yourself. I enjoy watching Bollywood. I have watched a fair amount of it. I have practically memorized certain films, despite them being in Hindi. What I cannot do is write Bollywood fic. OUCH.

(2) Do not offer a source you hate or have significant frustrations with. This may sound like a given! But I actually love writing fix-it fic, and feel most inspired by sources I have big issues with. Yuletide is neither the time nor place for offers made from frustration, since the recipient probably loves the very elements you hate most. (I'm sorry, recipient-from-years-ago! I'm ashamed.)

(3) If you feel you need absolute control over a story in a particular fandom, avoid that fandom without regret. One year I offered Hotel Rwanda and Last King of Scotland without really looking at what characters had been nominated-- I guess I just assumed the nominators had grim political gen in mind like I did. NOT SO, MY FRIEND. Fortunately I had time to backpedal, but whew: I think I was pretty close to being mandated to write romantic white-person porn against a background of mass murder, yo.
afrikate: JT wants you to join the Peace Corps, he's staring at you (Justin wants you to join the Peace Corps)

[personal profile] afrikate 2012-10-16 01:11 am (UTC)(link)
Re: #3, I can't even. Seriously? I would not even have considered that to be a possibility.

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everbright: Eclipse of Saturn (Default)

[personal profile] everbright 2012-10-16 05:06 am (UTC)(link)
I find myself more conditioned by the tumblr monster than I was aware of, because if this has a re-blog button, I'd be hitting that SO HARD. Anyways, do you mind if I throw a link to this up on my DW?

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cadenzamuse: Cross-legged girl literally drawing the world around her into being (Default)

[personal profile] cadenzamuse 2012-10-16 05:24 am (UTC)(link)
Fuck fuck fuck fuck TFV, I am currently copying the list of fandoms into MS Word so that I can eliminate things.

I haven't written fanfiction in 8 years. There's no way I can sign up for Yuletide. But my body seems to think I'm signing up for Yuletide (because I'm going through the fandoms "for fun" to find things I can write, and I suspect it's going to betray me and sign up for Yuletide "for fun" and then I'm going to wake up around Thanksgiving and go FUCK I HAVE TO WRITE SOMETHING FUCK OH FUCK ME WITH A RUSTY SPORK OW NO WAIT DON'T). Shit.

Help.

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lorax: It's All About Baltar (BSG - Baltar "All About Me")

[personal profile] lorax 2012-10-16 08:01 am (UTC)(link)
This is both hilarious and useful!

I find that since the switch to Ao3, and the more stringent character nom limits, offering "any" is a lot less terrifying on a lot of fandoms because you don't end up with the possibility of someone asking for an epic backstory for that one character who showed up for one episode/one page/one chapter/one comic/etc. So you don't have to emphasis the "ANY MEANS ANY" aspect as hard. Less scary!
vass: cover of album "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas" (Yuletide Hippopotamus)

[personal profile] vass 2012-10-16 07:11 pm (UTC)(link)
My technique:

1. Do not sign up first thing. Wait a few days - not so long that it's last minute and the archive's going down like The Younger Anthropologist on The Taller Cop, but long enough that a few hundred people were there first.

2. Look at the signup summary. In particular, look at the reds and yellows. Read all the red fandoms, and keep going through the yellow if you haven't already seen lots of things you liked.

3. Offer the first four red or yellow fandoms that make you actively delighted with the idea of writing a story: if someone told you that you had to write 1000 words in that fandom right now, you would be okay with that.
3a. First check what characters were nominated to see if that changes your mind. If the fandom is Stargate: Atlantis and evidently only one person nominated it, since the only characters listed are Lorne and Parrish, and you're a really big Ronon and Teyla fan, pass that one by.

4. Offer more fandoms only if you're feeling really energetic. Bear in mind that offering a zillion fandoms won't actually make the matching process run smoother (if I understand how it works correctly.)

This won't work if everyone does it (because of step 1) and it won't work if you're set on getting lots and lots of comments (because you'll be offering a less popular fandom) but it makes things a bit more manageable if your friends have already held an intervention about the spreadsheet thing and you called upon a power greater than yourself to restore you to sanity.

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waywren: (Default)

[personal profile] waywren 2012-10-18 02:16 am (UTC)(link)
What if you're absolutely fine with the list of things you'd like to OFFER, you just have no idea what you want as a PRESENT? XD

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out_there: B-Day Present '05 (Default)

[personal profile] out_there 2012-10-18 11:13 am (UTC)(link)
And queue wins points forever for being the person to point out, gently and kindly, that I had given John two cocks, and this was not canonical.

*giggles forever*

And while Yuletide it awesome, it hits just as summer does and the garden in the new place is still half-done and actual writing on current OTPs has stalled so I suspect Yuletide would just end in my shaming from fandom. Other than that, I'd totally sign up and enjoy the panic fun.

blueteak: (Default)

[personal profile] blueteak 2012-10-26 10:53 pm (UTC)(link)
This is fantastic! It made me consider whether or not I could match the type of humor used in canon. I decided I probably could, but not accidentally turning another canon into a comedy was something I was less certain about, so I axed it.