I feel like we’ve all gotten into an abandoned fanfic, whether you’re its reader or writer.
Most of the time, you’re right where things start to get really interesting when suddenly you realize that it’s incomplete and hasn’t been updated in years. Cue the endless agonizing abyss of sheer and utter denial that opens up in the pit of our collective stomachs, or that Vader sound clip from the Star Wars prequels that shall not be named.
An abandoned fic was what prompted me not to start writing fanfiction, but to start posting my own. In retrospect, it was rather vain of me, but I saw it as a personal challenge after secretly writing for nobody but myself for about 7–8 years. I was a stressed-out double major in undergraduate college who was procrastinating on more than one 15 page paper for her English Lit and Dramaturgy classes. And my primary fandom was LXG (“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” based on the terrible movie that started off so well and ended up a beautiful plot-holed trainwreck).
Confession time: I was and still am an angst-vampire. I can’t help but be drawn to stories in which characters have to deal with impossible and unimaginable circumstances. And I was such a sucker for father/son stories, so this particular fic had me completely enthralled. And (you know where this is going) it ended on a cliffhanger before the penultimate moment of the arrival of the cavalry. Even worse, by the time I got to it, it had been cold for about 2.5 years.
I reviewed. I waited. I reasoned with myself that 2.5 years wasn’t such a long time. I reread it several times. And nothing changed, except my own determination to prove the pitfalls of writing long form wrong.
Cut to ten years later and, while I’m not out with who I am behind my pen name, here is where I out myself when it comes to my own abandoned fics. On FanFiction.net I have 31 stories published for 13 different fandoms—22 out of 31 are complete. The nine that lie incomplete, I haven’t really grown the balls to actually label as abandoned...yet. Because I hate leaving things unfinished.
In real life, I’m a playwright still trying to get my feet off the ground after a few semi-professional productions of my own work, who also somehow finished a master’s degree in theatre and is considering another master’s in literature, have worked as an overhire and staff member for several small theatre companies, have also changed careers and been unemployed more than a couple times, and this year alone have attended three funerals and am in the final stages of planning my wedding.
Sometimes, reading fanfiction provides the much-needed escape on a particularly bad day when I need some serious self-care. But sometimes writing fanfiction is the last thing that can make me feel productive or good about myself, given the whole professional writing thing (which is a whole other topic in itself).
Here’s what I’ve learned: If the muses go silent for a while, don’t panic.
One of my dearest writing mentors gave us the productive advice to always write where it’s hot. For me, that inevitably means jumping around from fandom to fandom, and inadvertently orphaning some poor fics in the face of growing as a writer. But combining this writing method of jumping around with my inability to leave things unfinished does mean I come back to it eventually. Last week, I started rewriting an old “Assassin’s Creed” fic (that’s never seen the light of day) for the first time in five years, and magically, I have 15 new pages in 3 days.
Creativity is a river that twists and turns and flows and dams and floods differently for everyone. For me, the latter two extremes are the norm and something I’ve learned to live with. If you’re like me, the trick is forgiving yourself and going with the current.