Quality vs. Quantity or How I learned to stop editing and love the bomb
|Title:||Quality vs. Quantity or How I learned to stop editing and love the bomb|
|Date(s):||January 28, 2002|
|External Links:||the site: The Less Than Legendary Journeys: Guide to Writing in the HtLJ Universe, Archived version, link to the post: The Less Than Legendary Journeys: Quality vs. Quantity by Helena Handbasket, Archived version|
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Quality vs. Quantity or How I learned to stop editing and love the bomb is an essay by Helena Handbasket.
Its focus is fanfiction and whether the standards for writing it should be the same as mainstream/professional writing.
Posted on January 28, 2002, it includes "Fan fiction is increasingly becoming a product of mass-consumption. Most current fandoms (and even many defunct ones) are associated with mailing lists that receive literally dozens of stories per day."
The phrase "fic goddess" is bandied about frequently in almost every reasonably populated fandom. However, I have found it a general trend that most authors who are elevated to this title are most notable not for the quality of their prose but rather for their prolificness. Mind you, I'm not saying that these are *bad* writers. On the contrary, their stories are typically well characterized and occasionally well plotted. (I restrict this praise to occasionally because a significant fraction - more than half in my estimation - of these esteemed "goddesses" specialize in the PWP, in which an author's ability to formulate a plot is utterly irrelevant). Yet despite the ability of these writers to produce interesting, readable stories that come across as reasonably true to the characters it is only with great rarity that one encounters a story by a fic goddess that would be awarded anything higher than a C for technical merit in, say, a freshman level fiction writing class. The stories are not bad by any means but they almost universally strike me as suffering from shoddy, careless construction.
And hence we arrive at the heart of the matter: is it fair or reasonable to apply the dictates of conventional standards to fan fiction? To be honest, I'm not sure. Personally, I believe very strongly in maintaining a high quality of writing in the traditional sense. I believe that each author should establish her personal style and that there should be a balance of dialogue and prose - after all, we are writing stories, not screenplays. But perhaps I am being too dogmatic in this approach. Perhaps I am taking on the role of loathed militant missionary, attempting to force my antiquated sensibilities on a new generation of writers in an art form still in its infancy for which my conceptions of right and wrong are simply not applicable. Fan fiction is increasingly becoming a product of mass-consumption. Most current fandoms (and even many defunct ones) are associated with mailing lists that receive literally dozens of stories per day. This fact alone has two very notable ramifications: first, since most readers take in multiple stories in a given day there is, in the interest of time, a general preference for stories that are a "fast read." This lends a natural popular skew to the skeletal stories that get straight to the heart of the matter without all that superfluous detail and description so maniacally valued by hacks like Dickens and Dostoyevsky. Secondly, there is the fact that for every good writer in a fandom there are at least twenty mediocre ones and another fifty for whom "wretched" would be a generous description. The discerning reader doesn't want to waste her time with the drivel that comprises ninety percent of the traffic that comes across the list. As a result, there is a natural inclination to gravitate towards writers that are reliable, i.e. you know in advance that their story is not going to make your intestines leap out of your body and attempt to throttle you (in some cases, to your immense gratification). This is another phenomenon that clearly favors the competent but lazily prolific writers.