Work In Progress

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Synonyms: TBC
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Work In Progress, often abbreviated to WIP. Any kind of fanwork can be posted as a WIP, but it is more common for works that can be serialized in parts, like fanfic or fancomics, than for works which WIP posts are revisions of the same text, art, or vid progressing towards a final version with input from the audience. The former is more like serialized fiction, the latter more like a public beta-ing process, though sometimes in progress pieces may not be posted to get (critical) feedback on it, but because seeing the stages is of interest to the audience, for example to illustrate how an artist works, similar to how the progress stages may be posted along with the work after it is finished by others, e.g. screencast videos of digital drawings.

A WIP may end with TBC or "To Be Continued."

Reception of WIPs in Fandom

Opinions on the practice of posting WIPs vary among fans.[1] Not all forums allow WIPs; some archives, mailing lists and LJ communities accept only finished fanworks to be posted. Some rec communities, e.g. Crack Van, have rules against reccing WIPs as well.

Due to its common occurrence in fandom, the WIP label has gained several connotations.

Warning
From a recipient's perspective, it may take the flavour of a warning: as long as a work has not been not completed, it is in danger of being abandoned; not an uncommon fate for a WIP. Irregular or unreliable updates of WIPs may also try the nerves and patience of the recipients. Many recipients prefer to avoid these potential pitfalls by waiting for the completion of the work before they engage with it.
Publishing choice
On the other hand, serializing a WIP, that is, publishing portions of the work regularly and reliably, with a clearly projected end point, is usually appreciated by recipients and likely to keep their attention. Whether creators choose to serialize a work or publish it only in its entirety depends on many factors, including the time frame of the project, potential audience reception (see also feedback) or artistic vision.
Theory
On a more analytical level, fandom itself has been described as a work in progress,
"still in the process of being written but not yet complete. This notion intersects with the intertextuality of fannish discourse, with the ultimate erasure of the single author as it combines to create a shared space, fandom, that we might also refer to as community."[2]
This community dissolves the creator/recipient dichotomy:
"However, when the story is finally complete and published, [...] the work in progress among the creators shifts to the work in progress among the readers, and a whole new level of discourse begins that provides engagement and both positive and negative feedback (comments, critiques, and letters of comments.)" Both create a shared and always evolving fantext, "the entirety of stories and critical commentary written in a fandom"[2] -- the ultimate WIP (see also fanon).

Reasons Why Writers Publish WIPs

  • Need the pressure of an audience to keep writing
  • Preference for a serial format, such as that found in pulp fiction or radio serials[3]
  • Interest in audience input for the direction of the story (e.g. with polls or questions for what should happen next after a cliffhanger)
  • Potential for more feedback
  • Possibly the chance for an increase in name recognition (especially for newer writers) who'll have a continous regular presence when posting something long in parts over time, rather than posting an epic with a single announcement that may get noticed less
  • Readers can follow very long works in convenient chunks without committing the time for reading a novel
  • Sadism

Zine Fic Posted in Deliberate Installments or Parts

Zine fic was posted in parts for a number or reasons. Sometimes, it was a stylistic choice. Sometimes, the story was too long for the issue. Often, the story was deliberately written in parts to help sell the next issue of the zine.

In zine fandom, few fans liked to read fiction in deliberate series. Zines took a long time to be published and waiting a year or more for the next installment caused fans to lose interest, go through the work of keeping track and locating the previous zine to reread, and purchase zines simply for an awaited story regardless of their desire to read the other content. The long wait between installments also meant there was a higher risk of the author abandoning the series.

A fan in 2003 wrote that she wasn't going to comment on a story in a zine review as "I don’t read “to be continueds” until I have the whole story. Burned too many times in the past by stories that never got finished. Now, I save myself that aggravation." [4]

Notable (i.e., Heartbreaking) Unfinished WIPs

Other notable works posted as WIPs

Meta/Further Reading

Notes

  1. Sandra McDonald. Why I Hate 1/??. Posted 23 November 1999. (Accessed 22 November 2008)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse "Introduction: Work In Progress." In: K. Hellekson, K. Busse (eds.) Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. New Essays McFarland, 2006. p 6-7.
  3. Spy vs Spy: Where Did This Story Come From? (author's notes)
  4. from The K/S Press #84
  5. TV Tropes Dead Fic