(NOTE: I'd recommend grabbing some popcorn and a soda because you're in for a long read. A long read.)
As of yesterday, I posted the epilogue to my final Bionicle epic, In the End. Y'all know that already, of course (or at least my regular readers do, anyway).
And I did it all before reaching my eighth year anniversary as a BZP member, which will be in October, which is next month. Coincidentally, I started writing Bionicle fanfics eight years ago, too.
Eight years ... dang, that's long. During that time, I wrote over 50 epics, comedies, and short stories combined. Some were good, some weren't, but all taught me something about writing that I would never have learned otherwise. Through writing fanfiction, I have learned what my strengths and weaknesses as a writer are, thanks in no small part to the comments and critiques I received from my readers and fellow writers. And I am of course still growing and learning because the learning never ends in writing no matter how long you keep at it.
I sometimes like to think of myself as the most prolific fanfic writer on BZP, though I honestly have no idea if that's true. I don't know of any other writers on here who have written and posted over 50 fanfics on this site, so until someone proves me wrong, I feel pretty comfortable holding that title*.
At the same time, I've never been a very well-known writer. In spite of my longevity and prolific career, I still feel more or less unknown to the general BZP community. None of my works have really been breakout hits. I've never had even one short story featured on the front page (granted, most BZP writers haven't, seeing as they've only started featuring fan projects there fairly recently, but I still haven't had anything featured and probably won't, now that I'm done with fanfiction). I do have some regular readers, true, and I am thankful for every one of them, but it sure seems like most BZPers have no idea who I am. Which isn't a problem, really, as I write for the love of it and not for fame, but my apparent lack of fame does cross my mind from time to time. *Shrug* Whatever. It's just fanfiction. No big deal.
I've been fairly active within the BZP fanfiction community, not just posting stories, but entering contests (though I never won any), judging in contests (granted, that was only once, but I still count it), being a member of the ECC (that was fun in spite of the drama), entering that comedies awards content expo thing we did a while back, and participating in several discussions about the Library. I've made a lot of friends through fanfiction, which I always thought is one of the best things about it (the other best thing being that you can mangle correct canon as much as you like and get away with it).
Early on in my fanfic career, I followed the same writing/posting method that most fanfic writers did (and that most still do today): Write a chapter as fast as I could, look it over once or twice for basic spelling and grammatical errors and minor continuity errors, and then post it. Then I would start work on the next chapter and repeat the whole process again until I reached the end of the story, whether that took 100 chapters or ten.
Nothing wrong with writing fast; nothing wrong, even, with performing only a light copy edit. The problem was that I could go on a writing spree in which I wrote tons and tons of work, and then go weeks without writing even one word of the next chapter. Posting schedule was always erratic and unpredictable; depending on the length and difficulty of the chapter and my level of inspiration, weeks could go by without me posting a new chapter, which annoyed some of my readers back then.
Although that kind of writing and posting schedule is extremely common within most fanfic communities, I never did like it. Though every finished and posted chapter felt like a victory, anxiety would always follow because I would then have to come up with ideas for the next chapter and I often had no ideas right away unless I was on a roll. And since I never outline my fics, I could never be certain just how long the finished product would be, which meant that I could never be certain how long it would take me to finish the story.
Also, even back then, I had dreams of becoming a professional, full-time fiction writer someday. I knew that the pros didn't publish books one chapter at a time, sometimes weeks apart, without any guarantee that they will not just get bored of it at some point and abandon the whole project. If I ever had any hope of going pro, I knew I would have to change my methods at some point.
Another motive that spurred me to abandon the "write chapter, do light copy edit, post, repeat" method was my own personal dislike of writers who did that. I hated--and still do hate it--when I would discover an awesome new fanfic by a fantastic writer, read everything posted so far, and then learn that the last chapter was posted six months ago and the author left a note four months ago saying that the next chapter was "coming right along" and would be posted "any day now."
(SHORT RANT TIME: If there is one thing I, as a reader, absolutely despise about the fanfiction community, it has to be this. Worse than bad spelling and grammar, worse than implausible shipping fics, worse even than Mary Sues, is the feeling of never knowing for sure when or if your favorite fanfic will ever get updated again.
"Next chapter will be done any day now!" the writer's last post, dated two years ago, says. "Just be patient!"
No, I will not be patient, Mr. New Favorite (but soon to be Mr. Newly Forgotten) Fanfic Writer. Even if you're the best writer in the world, if you aren't going to post your story on a consistent, regular schedule, then I'll go read the writers who DO post on a regular schedule, thank you very much, because I have no interest in investing my time and attention in a story and characters that won't go anywhere.[/endrant])
In spite of understanding the importance of writing the whole story and posting it a chapter at a time on a regular basis, I didn't actually put that method into practice until a BZP hacking (not the Dataclysm, but one before it that deleted a lot less content) resulted in the deletion of the original version of Tapestry of Evil, which I had not saved or backed up (which is another mistake I've never repeated). Since I hated how the original Tapestry of Evil had been turning out, I transformed a tragedy into an opportunity and redrafted the whole thing, not posting even one word of it until the whole thing was finished.
Ever since then, I've always made sure to write the entire story out before posting it. Whenever I started posting it, I would make sure to keep a regular schedule, always a chapter a week, and whenever any outside forces delayed a chapter I would always make sure that my readers knew. I don't know if any of my readers appreciated it or not, but I think this method helped me as a writer more than almost anything else I've done in my fanfic career. It gave me a better understanding of how long it takes me to finish a novel-length story, which is crucial knowledge for any aspiring novelist, and probably made my readers less anxious about whether I'd ever post the next chapter or not.
Having said all of that, I must now look ahead to the future, uncertain though it may be. Because while my fanfiction career may be over (it still feels strange to type those words), I haven't stopped writing at all. I've merely moved into the realm of professional fiction writing; more specifically, I've started indie publishing my work through my own publishing company and distributing it through Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and all of the other major ebook sites. Currently I've only published three books, but I have a couple more in the pipeline, as well a few short stories that I need to find covers for.
Actually, I've been writing original fiction in tandem with my fanfiction for years now. Even finished several novels, but none of them were ever quite as good as my fanfiction, so I never showed them to anyone. It's only been within the last year that I feel that my original work has become as good as my fanfiction, which is why I am moving onto original fiction (that, and you can't make any money off fanfiction unless you get permission from the copyright owners of the work you've based your fics on, though I can't see LEGO ever paying me to write Bionicle stories, even though that would be beyond freaking awesome if they did).
Unfortunately, I am not going to link to my original work on here, nor will I tell you what it is. That's because I publish under my full name, which I haven't revealed here on BZP and which I don't really want to (though I think several members here already know my full name, but I've never publicly posted it anywhere on the forums or this blog to my knowledge). If you want to buy my original works, however, just send me a PM telling me what ebookstore you prefer to buy from (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Smashwords, etc.) and I'll be happy to send you a link to it.
I'm going to miss writing fanfiction, mostly because it really is a ton of fun. If I ever build up a large enough audience for my original work that people start to write fanfiction off it, I will feel totally honored. I know that some writers don't like fanfiction, but to me, as long as you are not claiming you own the original story or trying to make money off it, I don't have any problem with it. Granted, I probably won't be able to read any of it (don't want to be accused of stealing someone's ideas), but I would allow it.
As I've always said, my ultimate goal is to become a professional, full-time fiction writer. That is a very difficult goal, even with the advent of easy self-publishing that offers writers far better royalty rates than what most of the big publishers are offering (which means more money for the writer y'all). And there is no guarantee that I will ever actually achieve that goal of mine. Plenty of writers try and fail to make a living at their writing, more than those who succeed sadly enough. While I have confidence in my work, I admit that failure is always a possibility.
But no one ever said that making it in a multibillion dollar international business was going to be easy. While luck plays a part, hard work can help even the odds, so I've been working hard every day to get closer and closer to that dream. I'm not making tons of money just yet, nor do I expect to for a while. I just know that if I keep writing, publishing, and improving, eventually I'll make it, no matter how long it takes.
Now this doesn't mean I'm leaving BZP entirely. I'm still gonna stick around, though I'm going to be a lot less active probably. With a possible return of Bionicle next year, I still have a reason to hang around, at least as a lurker if nothing else.
Way I see it, if I'm going to make it as a writer, I must put more time and effort into my writing, at least the same amount of time I would put into any other small business (which is what writing is, at least when you're attempting to make a living off of it). That means cutting things that take away too much time with too little return, and BZP, sadly enough, fits that description to a T, at least for me. It's a great site, but hanging out here won't get me any closer to my dream, so I have to start focusing on the things that will help me (like writing a lot, for instance).
Overall, I am pretty pleased with how my fanfic career turned out. I wrote a lot of fics, received a lot of helpful and positive comments from a lot of good people, made some good friends, and had a lot of fun to boot. What's not to like about that?
*If someone in the comments proves me wrong, I will edit this section to reflect that correction.