thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
Keep Hoping Machine Running ([personal profile] thefourthvine) wrote2013-11-12 10:40 am

[Rant] In Defense of Bad Writing

A long time ago, I had a lot to say in rants about how people were DOING IT WRONG and should NOT WRITE THIS WAY but rather THIS OTHER WAY. (And, if I'm gonna be honest, those rants are all still there, just waiting for me to type them. Let me tell you about the Should You Use the Pluperfect? flowchart I made the other day. Or not, because honestly, TFV, nobody wants to hear that.) I was all, "People! Write better!"

Sorry, past me -- you were wrong. What I should have been saying was, "People! Write more! (Even if it's really bad!)"

Because, yes, I still think the word sensitized needs to be left to lie fallow for a decade. Where it can maybe cavort with its friend, lave. I still sometimes want to ban thesauruses. I still feel like maybe those weeping cocks should see a doctor, or perhaps a therapist.

But these days, I also think we're lucky to have those stories. I probably won't be reading them, but I'm happy they exist, for three reasons.

Writing is good. People are writing! For fun! Good news! Seriously, if I had spent more time writing down the hideously painful Mary Sue fan fiction I dreamed up when I was a wee teen, I might have spent less time on, you know, drugs and sucking the cocks of random strangers without protection. I'm always happy to see someone making better choices than I made.

Maybe you're now saying, "Okay, fine, but do they have to post those Mary Sue stories where I can see them?" If so, you're being a dick. Cut it out. The Archive of Our Own is not the Archive of Just What You Want to Read. It's the Archive of Fanworks. Is it a fanwork? Then it belongs there! And if you're incapable of scrolling past something, it's not that the Mary Sue writers are in the wrong place, it's that you are. (Also, I'm sorry, but I don't know where would be the right place for you. Everywhere is going to have stuff you don't like, because tastes are individual and all that. Maybe the internet just isn't for you.)

Crap is important. Sturgeon's law is right, but it misses the point. Ninety percent of everything has to be shit. That's how you get the 10% that's good.

Your favorite writers, fan fiction, published fiction, published fan fiction, whatever -- they didn't start out writing that way. There was a time when they wrote unspeakably awful crap. Writing unspeakably awful crap is how you learn to write only moderately awful crap, and then eventually maybe decent stuff, and then, if you're lucky, actually good things. There are not two classes of people, those who are good writers and those who are bad writers, so that all you have to do to have only great stuff is scare away all the bad writers. There are people who used to write bad stuff, and there are people who are currently writing bad stuff, and there's a lot of crossover between the two. Some of the second category will one day be the first category. (Also, tomorrow some of the first category will move back to the second. No one hits it out of ballpark every time.) If you want to read new good stuff tomorrow, encourage the people writing bad stuff today. (And also maybe help them get betas. Betas are great.)

And, no, those people don't have to hide their work away until it gets better. They can share it with anyone who wants to read it. If they want to post it, they should. Wanting to is reason enough. (Although if you want another reason -- posting is how community happens. Which is how things like betas happen. People who share their work get better faster.)

Crap is a sign of life. New bad stories are a sign that this genre -- fan fiction, the genre I adore the most - is alive and well. Bad stories mean new people are trying to write in it, and people are trying to do new things with it, and maybe new people are joining the audience, too. When only the best and most popular are writing in a genre, it's on its deathbed. (See: Westerns and Louis L'Amour.) I want this genre to be here forever, because I want to read it forever. So I'm happy that teenagers are posting Mary Sue stories to the Archive of Our Own.

Does that mean you have to be happy? Nope. I can't make you do anything. (I can think you're wrong, but hey, being wrong on the internet is a time-honored tradition among our people.) But when you start making fun of a writer and bullying her in the comments of her story, simply because she's writing something you think is bad and embarrassing, well, that's when I say: shut the fuck up or get the fuck out. Because she's not a problem. She's just doing what we're all doing -- having fun, playing with words, throwing something out there on the internet to see if other people like it.

But you. You're trying to stop someone from having fun. You're trying to shame people into not writing anymore. And that, folks -- that is the definition of shitty behavior. (Mary Sue fantasies, on the other hand, are just the definition of human behavior.) It's bad for people, it's bad for the future, and it's bad for the genre. So you're a problem.

Please go away, problems, and let all of us write out our ids out in peace.

(And, yes, this was triggered by one specific story and some of the responses it's getting on the AO3. But it applies to all of them, all the fan fiction we don't like out there. Okay, I'm done.)
toft: graphic design for the moon europa (Default)

[personal profile] toft 2013-11-12 06:51 pm (UTC)(link)
*cheers you*
rhi: a woman dancing, legs stomping out the beat and skirt flaring (dancing)

[personal profile] rhi 2013-11-12 06:57 pm (UTC)(link)
Preach it. Absolutely all of this!
samjohnsson: It's just another mask (Default)

[personal profile] samjohnsson 2013-11-12 06:57 pm (UTC)(link)

Yup, perfect.

::wanders off in search of a pluperfect rant::

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abbylee: (Default)

[personal profile] abbylee 2013-11-12 06:59 pm (UTC)(link)
I accidentally ended up at an open mic night at a local coffee shop and I remember my reaction was: urgh, this is not at all my thing and I want to leave, but look at how awesome all these people are together.

I don't want to read writing that doesn't grab me, but I sure as fuck want to encourage it :) Just like I hated the idea that my childhood activities should only be worthwhile if I was going to be a professional. And just like my favourite part of my family wedding this weekend was dancing with all my generations of family with various levels of competencies.

Plus, everything in life, we get better from practice. Start at different points, work at different paces, but you need practice and community to excel. It's how I've learned to supervise and train: praise someone and praise someone, and as they gain confidence in both you and themselves, then you can start adding in the occasional recommendation.
cathexys: dark sphinx (default icon) (Default)

[personal profile] cathexys 2013-11-12 07:01 pm (UTC)(link)
Wonderful rant!!! I wholly agree with you. Plus, your kink is not my kink, and that goes for writing too!

However, the one thing that does annoy me and frankly could disappear is tiny regular updates. Please finish a chapter and have it be a chapter (or, even better a story!) Same goes for podfic. Every day there's a new update on this one story, and every day I'm excited and then realize it's that story again... Or maybe that's YMMV too?
cathexys: dark sphinx (default icon) (Default)

[personal profile] cathexys 2013-11-12 07:10 pm (UTC)(link)
So, now that I looked at the comments. Really nasty and just not OK. Otoh, the one thing that did kinda annoy me was what I just said in my previous comment. This story seems to be farther written on Wattpad (yes I looked there a couple days ago to see if it was finished there :), and at that point the daily chapter updates are annoying. No justification for bullying (because that's frankly BS--there's shitloads of stuff I'll never read on AO3 and I'm happy for all of it!), but there's the thing of creating fic and then there's the thing of how you share it.

(Sorry to bring my pet peeve into this discussion...of course I am a firm defender of any and all fic. All the power to self inserts, ffnet epics, and Wattpad first writing attempts!!! And I read more of them than I should just so I have a sense of what all gets written...)

AO3 feeds

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unfinished wips

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archive v journal

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malnpudl: (Default)

[personal profile] malnpudl 2013-11-12 07:01 pm (UTC)(link)
I love this post the most. *showers it and you with shiny, shiny hearts*
celtprincess13: (Default)

[personal profile] celtprincess13 2013-11-12 07:05 pm (UTC)(link)
*pompoms* Preach it.

Because here's the thing too--if you can read, there's probably a summary. And from said summary, you can usually figure out if a story is for you. And if not, dude, back button. But don't make some poor writer (or artist, while we're at it) feel bad about something she's writing. Because ok, this one might be not to your taste. Who's to say the next one won't be?

Also, no writer starts out perfect. And I don't think there's a one of us who didn't do cringe-worthy Mary Sue. Hell, I'm still tempted to do it sometimes, although I mostly keep it in my head. Briere and Giroux do NOT want to have a threesome with me, no matter how much I wish it were so, and god knows none of us want to be reading it.

And you know what else (sorry, where did this soapbox come from)? It's a STORY. It doesn't have to be exactly perfect or exactly the way YOU'D write it. Again, if it's not to your taste, move on. Recently there was quite a bit of criticism of a Kane/Toews story where Jonny was a teacher and Pat was a stepdad coming in the school. People were UP IN ARMS because "that would never happen now!!!!" Which is true, but neither are the Hunger Games happening. It doesn't mean someone can't write about it. Suspension of disbelief is a thing, people, I swear.

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libitina: snake across an open book (Default)

[personal profile] libitina 2013-11-12 07:14 pm (UTC)(link)
Sing it!

There are so many contexts where I keep having the conversation about how the way to get more people to do the thing you want to have keep going and have enough momentum to sustain itself is NOT to create more barriers to people joining in and having fun with it.
petra: Harley Quinn hugging Poison Ivy blissfully (Harley & Ivy - Femslash yay!)

[personal profile] petra 2013-11-12 07:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this.

When people write things that are clearly what they want to read, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling, even if I have no desire to read those things. Fandom is for making the stories each person wants most, and the farther afield from Generally Accepted Fiction someone's desire lands, the more I want to cheer them on for pleasing themselves.
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[personal profile] renay 2013-11-12 07:21 pm (UTC)(link)
This was lovely. Thank you!
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[personal profile] law_nerd 2013-11-12 07:31 pm (UTC)(link)
Random drive-by comment ... just to say, entirely agreed.

And, as an occasional teacher of writing, I'd love to see your pluperfect flow-chart.
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[personal profile] sasha_feather 2013-11-12 07:37 pm (UTC)(link)
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[personal profile] paceus 2013-11-12 07:44 pm (UTC)(link)
Hear, hear!

And I would also love to read your pluperfect rant. Seriously, I'm interested in what you'd have to say. Please post. :)
ahestele: (Default)

[personal profile] ahestele 2013-11-12 07:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Gracias for this in the name of new writers of a fandom that are scared to post.

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analise010: (ABBIE MILLS)

[personal profile] analise010 2013-11-12 07:54 pm (UTC)(link)
I LOVED THIS! Honestly, I *like* bad fic. In a guilty pleasure kind of way? Yes. But sometimes it's just nice to take a break from all of the really emotionally draining great fic and sit down with something completely different.

And even if I didn't like it? SO WHAT! That story means/meant a lot to the author and we should respect that.

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gabbysilang: (fractals on the surface of the sun)

[personal profile] gabbysilang 2013-11-12 08:08 pm (UTC)(link)
Signed into dw for the first time in a very long time simply to thank you for this. Right on.
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[personal profile] jiele 2013-11-12 08:14 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes. That.

Also +1 to the "Pluperfect flowchart? Yes, please." group.
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[personal profile] laisserais 2013-11-12 11:26 pm (UTC)(link)
May I also vote for the pluperfect flowchart? That would be awesome!
solarcat: (Bandom (MikeC) -- =D)

[personal profile] solarcat 2013-11-12 08:16 pm (UTC)(link)
*cosigns this*
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[personal profile] kinetikatrue 2013-11-12 08:20 pm (UTC)(link)
What she said!

Also: glad to be on your team, babe!

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[personal profile] ceares 2013-11-12 08:18 pm (UTC)(link)
lovely. thank you.

I remember being fairly new to fandom, as in a couple of years in when Prospect-L popped up in the Sentinel fandom and really being appalled that some place that felt safe and welcoming and awesome had that aspect. I was in my 30s and basically too mediocre a writer to even make a blip, not so bad or good that anybody bothered but I'd been writing since I was eleven and most of it was as bad as expected. I can't imagine being young and eager and basically being bullied out of something I love doing, and I know there were people that stopped writing or at least stopped posting because of that group.

TBH one of the reasons I adore KB is because even when I back away going nope,nope,nope, I know someone out there is making grabby hands for it and that makes me smile.

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recessional: a small grass plant pushes up between cracks of parched ground (Default)

[personal profile] recessional 2013-11-12 08:20 pm (UTC)(link)
I swear to god, half the time people are just looking for an excuse to be assholes. So they start acting like art they think is bad - or even genuinely is bad - is some kind of moral crime, because that excuses their bad behaviour.

Which is to say, this.

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treewishes: Blue and green summer tree (Default)

[personal profile] treewishes 2013-11-12 08:56 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes, yes, YES. I think I wrote something like this about 10 years ago, not as well stated, but YES. Really, quit telling people not to write. You don't have to read it!
randomling: Scorpius (Farscape) (scorpius)

[personal profile] randomling 2013-11-12 09:06 pm (UTC)(link)
I am currently drafting a terrible novel so this is actually massively reassuring. Thank you for writing it. ♥
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[personal profile] anatsuno 2013-11-12 09:10 pm (UTC)(link)
YES! (and the crowd cheers!)

kephiso: Victor from Yuri!!! on Ice in front of the sinking sun on a field close to my home (Default)

[personal profile] kephiso 2013-11-12 09:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow, this was pretty amazing!

And I find myself agreeing a stunning lot. Looking back on what I was writing when I started (I was 11 and in Twilight fandom), I cringe in embarrassment. I'm still closer to 16 than I am to 17, but I feel like I've matured a lot and so has my writing. And without the positive feedback I got in the German Harry Potter fandom, I don't think I'd be here today. And that'd be a shame, because I really enjoy writing and publishing it.

Thanks for posting this and making me see how hypocritical my dislike of Mary Sues is (and Gary Stus, for that matter). Because we all started that way, and we weren't discouraged. So, yeah, awesome read!

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

[personal profile] cadenzamuse 2013-11-12 09:33 pm (UTC)(link)
I am with you! I am even going to link to [personal profile] staranise's bad art manifesto/meta:

Because the artist DOES NOT OWE ME ANYTHING.

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