Sunday, 14 April 2013

On Writing Fluff

Wow, it’s been a while. I know, I’ve really dropped the ball on the regular updates to this blog so far – in fact, on having updates at all – and my own tendency to constantly switch my focus between different projects has thrown a spanner into the works, as I knew it would before too long. But I also have another theory as to why I’ve been reluctant to update this blog: I’ve been setting the bar for myself too high. Lately, at least, I’ve been trying to make each post absolutely meaningful and worthwhile on all levels – either saying something insightful about writing; containing a lot of info about, or a new instalment of, the story; or doing a kind of review-slash-informational-piece about someone else’s work for Recommendation Tuesday. And I figured it was better to update the blog less frequently with more meaningful posts than to scrape the bottom of the barrel for interesting content.

Well, that’s not a bad assumption, except that I was kind of bored with the posts that I’d imposed upon myself to write. For example, for several weeks now I’ve been stuck halfway through a blog post about Flattr, an Internet microdonations site that is the brainchild of one of the founders of The Pirate Bay. It’s a brilliant idea, I really like it and I really want to promote it and let people know it’s out there. It also leads on quite nicely from the last Recommendation Tuesday post I did, which was about a Pirate Bay documentary. Yet for some reason I just lost interest while writing it and never quite managed to pick it up again, but at the same time I wasn’t letting myself post anything else to the blog until I’d finished it. Firstly because with a load of other posts in between, it would be harder to make that link between the two Recommendation Tuesday posts that I was kind of counting on, because neither of them are really relevant to the story that this blog is supposedly based around, so I needed something else to give them legitimacy. Secondly because I didn’t want to let a half-written blog post go to waste. And thirdly because I know I need some discipline with my writing and I can’t keep letting myself just walk away from something I’m in the middle of (whether it be a story, a blog post or any other of my many, many ongoing projects) and start yet another new thing.
But knowing to stop forcing it when something really isn’t working is an important skill as well. And there is a lesson in this which I really need to learn for my writing as well as for this blog: it’s okay to write fluff.

What do I mean by fluff? Well, it’s mostly a term used in fanfiction to denote sugary, light romance. I love to both read and write fluff (and yes, you can bank on seeing a decent amount of it in The Neverland – where it fits, of course). ‘Fluff’ often comes paired with ‘WAFF’, which stands for Warm And Fuzzy Feeling. There was a time when I just used to trawl through my favourite categories on looking for those terms. I don’t see them so much these days actually, but that might just be because I’ve grown up a bit in terms of what fanfic I read. (A little, itty bitty bit). Anyway, here I’ve commandeered the word ‘fluff’ for my own purpose to denote writing that doesn’t necessarily have much substance to it. Writing purely for pleasure without some weighty end goal in mind. Usually in my own writing that does tend to equal romantic fluff, because my favourite thing to write is just interaction between two romantic leads. Often snarky, often antagonistic, sometimes angst-ridden but ultimately sweet, undiluted character interaction. When I got stuck writing this story for NaNo, I used to write a Wendy/Peter scene to try and get myself going again. It sort of worked, but I could never ignore the fact that there were large swathes of the story not geared around these two interacting which I still needed to write. So I would try and force myself back to those, and get stuck again, and get fed up, but not let myself go back to the fluff because this was supposed to be a multi-chapter epic with plot and substance, not a fluffy romantic one-shot.

How did a cyberpunk Peter Pan alternate-universe fanfic manage to become so damn serious? I ask you. Unfortunately, this is my problem with every project I take on: I can’t seem to stop myself from envisioning a lofty end goal for it, imagining myself gaining hundreds of readers and getting great feedback and going beyond what you might expect for a Peter Pan fanfiction/romance Visual Novel/parody webcomic/insert short summary of project here. And there’s nothing wrong with having ambitions or wanting to challenge myself, except when it starts to get in the way of what I originally set out to create. I stopped thinking of this blog as something to give updates and bonus information around The Neverland while people were waiting for the actual story to get written (also, writing the actual story is a really essential goal that I kind of let myself lose sight of) and tried to turn it into a more serious journalistic endeavour. I would really like to be a journalist, but that doesn’t mean that I have to do that now, with this blog. Just because there’s potential for the blog to be more than just a ‘fanfiction updates blog’ doesn’t mean that I should let it become all about that and forget what I started the blog for in the first place. Nor should I assume that my readers would rather trade in regular updates about the story, even short little pointless ones, for something that took me ages and ages to write but might not even be that relevant.

So. These are all very important realisations, but what does it mean for the blog? Well, I’m not going to make any grand promises this time and say “you WILL see absolutely regular, consistently on-time, 100% relevant updates from now on!” I do still have a lot of other stuff going on that I want and need to spend time on (like my final-year dissertation… urk), but you can at least expect to see more happening on this blog, even if it is ‘pointless fluff’. Hell, I might just write a bunch of Peter/Wendy fluff and post it to the blog because better than nothing, amirite? Also, I have a couple of epilogue pieces that I’ve been dying to write. “You haven’t even finished the main story and you’re writing epilogues?” Ssshhh! Better than nothing.
As well as this, I intend to lighten up on what I let myself write not just for this blog but in general. I do know that I have a ton of existing projects that have the potential to be great if I would just give them the time they deserve already, instead of constantly getting distracted by other, shinier things; but I also think it’s about time I eased up on myself and just allowed myself to write for fun. I think there’s a lot of cool stuff that could come out of that too. Besides which, writing isn’t my job yet. Though I plan for it to be, I’m still a full-time student and writing is something that’s meant to give me a break from my work, not be more work on top of it. I want to spend my free time writing things that entertain me, not drag me down; scenes that I can daydream about in class and gain an escape from the drudgery of real life, not ones that just increase my headache.

I recently came up with the idea of using my extremely dusty, long-neglected FictionPress account for this purpose (because though I do write for fun, I still like having some sort of audience to spur me on). Don’t look now, there’s still only the one incredibly juvenile story that I wrote when I was about 12, but check back in a few weeks and I might have some stuff up. There are a few characters I originally created for roleplays whose stories I’ve been dying to write more of, and I might also put up some spin-off stories about characters from longer projects, or stuff I wrote for previous NaNoWriMos… whatever. I’m really liking the idea of a no-holds-barred writing account free of any expectations where I can showcase all my ridiculous fluff.

I’ll try not to let it take all my time away from The Neverland, because I don’t want this story relegated to my already extremely overcrowded backburner any more than you likely do. Hopefully, having this blog will prevent that, which again is what I originally set out to do with it. But letting the blog itself become an obstacle to working on the story… that’s what I absolutely don’t want to happen.

1 comment:

  1. I think from what I was saying earlier, you know I can relate. When something wasn't working for me, I wouldn't want to let myself move onto something else without finishing either. It's hard finding a balance. We need some incentive to keep going when we're feeling lazy, but then there's times we're just getting ourselves down.

    I rarely wrote for the fun of it. I'd start off writing because I had an idea I liked, but then I'd feel as if I shouldn't write for no reason. If I wanted to be a writer some day, then I'd need actual finished, publishable pieces of work. So I was always focusing on that as my aim, rather than enjoying it. I'd think of all the amazing books I've read and would want to produce something like that. It's natural to want to write the best book ever and be praised for it, yet sometimes that can stand in the way. It can suck the fun out of writing. I'd come up with vague ideas that I could have made one-shots or short stories, but I'd try to force those ideas into whole novels and want to write some deep, complex story, and it didn't work.

    To be honest, I'd be happy seeing short updates and fluff, rather than having ages without anything at all. Even stuff that isn't relevant doesn't bother me though, it's still interesting.

    I think it's good too that you aren't setting a really rigid goal for yourself or making set in stone promises, because with all your commitments the likelihood is you wouldn't stick to it and then you'd just feel guilty about it.

    Also, I think there's nothing wrong with writing scenes from any point in the story. If it keeps you engaged, then do it. There's no rules that say a story has to be in order. I guess it feels like we ought to write in order, especially if you want to post up chapters before you've completely finished, but it's better to do what suits you than worry about other people.