I think that, in general terms, the Twilight fan(fic)dom can be divided into writers and readers who have long been involved in other fandoms and those who had never even heard of fanfic until the Twilight Saga was published. I fall firmly into the latter category and arrived later than most.
Like many others, my introduction to fanfiction (via ff.net and from there to Twilighted and so on) began with my dissatisfaction with Breaking Dawn – not just the fades to black but also the no sacrifices / too neatly tied up / happily ever afters for everyone resolution. I can’t say that the endings of other series of books haven’t left me wanting more but I cannot particularly remember ever having been left wanting something completely different the way that I felt in the wake of Breaking Dawn. It was around this time, quite soon after publication when the internet backlash was in full swing and people were talking about returning books, that I started looking around for an alternative and found, via a board on amazon.com, a recommendation for an alternative Breaking Dawn.
That fic was Waiting for Dawn by Alice laughed and I am ashamed to admit that I most likely didn’t review a single chapter. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy it but I think it was long since completed at that time and I thought What’s the point? She won’t care what I think when she is already finished. I’m actually still unsure on the etiquette of that situation, so if anyone wants to let me know I am all ears.
Following on from this I exclusively kept to the AU side of the fence for a long while (a lot of New Moon/Edward never came back scenarios), occasionally reviewing but mostly just keeping a low profile, reading completed works and really, while it may have been a guilty pleasure for me it wasn’t anywhere close to an obsession until I discovered Twilighted. I should add that at this point I was still leading the life of a technophobe – no computer at home, no internet connection, no Blackberry – any reading I did was after work at a dodgy internet café around the corner from my flat and they closed at 9pm so there was no opportunity for all night fic marathons.
It was around this time that I discovered AH fics, I can’t remember what drew me there but I quickly realised that two hours online per day was just not going to cut it for me so I treated myself to a laptop, got my broadband hooked up and essentially let my penchant for fanfiction descend into a full blown addiction. Aside from much freer access to my drug of choice, not much changed. I kept quiet, I lurked on the forums and my reviews were at best spotty and usually not all that much more than a “That was great, update soon please” (well, at least I said ‘please’!), occasionally resulting in a “Thanks for reviewing” response. I was enjoying myself but I still wasn’t satisfied because I had no-one to share my excitement with. I can’t talk about other people’s experiences but it’s been a long time since I had a hobby that I was enthusiastic about which I could share with others – most of the things that interest me are fairly solitary activities and I am about as far from sporty as you can get. Fanfic, by its very nature, is something people tend to hide away, it’s regarded as a guilty pleasure by a lot of readers who swear they would never want their ‘real life’ friends to know what they spend their free time doing; so when you get an update that you’ve been dying for or have been reduced to tears by an angsty cliff-hanger, who can you turn to?
It was when the need to share this experience finally outweighed my discomfort at outing myself, even under the guise of a pseudonym, that two important things happened. I realised I had to bite the bullet and de-lurk on the forums and I needed to start giving back and the way to do this was to start taking the time to write reviews with a little more substance. So the next fic I started, I made myself a promise - I would review every chapter, even though it was already 8 or so chapters along and I would try to let the author know which passages resonated with me, what I thought or hoped might happen and thank them for updating – and shock, horror – for the first time ever I actually received a personal response. The fic was the wonderful What You Thought You Knew by hmonster4 and that little bit of assurance that what I had written had made a difference to her meant the world to me and gave me the confidence to start interacting with people in the fandom, mostly via the Twilighted Forums.
I am such a stereotypical bean counter – I am giggling as I write this thinking that the precedents of all the peaks and limited troughs of my fanfic history could be charted very well – HMonster4 led me to Lucky Charm by profmom72 (her beta and now co-author) and then on to their collaboration Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a competition one-shot that was later developed into a multi-chapter story of the same name which became, perhaps, my favourite AH fic. This presented me with an opportunity to be part of a forum thread from the very beginning which meant that I actually got to be part of a lot of fun ranging from good natured teasing of fellow BATgirls to posting pictures of JFK Jnr to participating in a crackfic epilogue competition (my first and only foray into writing). It also introduced me to other readers who liked and were interested in a range of fics similar to those I enjoyed and, most importantly, weren’t going to judge me for reading fanfic because it was exactly why they were there too!
A more recent experience which I was fortunate to be involved in was the Indie Twific Awards, a groundbreaking effort to promote excellent but underappreciated fics and writers, conceived and executed by HMonster4 and Gustariana. I was privileged to be asked to be a validating judge for the competition and it really opened my eyes to what you miss out on if the only thing you look at when searching for new fics is the number of reviews or what is high profile at the time. Being part of the validation process and reading for the judges round of the awards also helped me develop a better critical appreciation of good character development, pacing and originality which in turn has helped me become a better reviewer, although I still need to improve my strike rate.
It sounds like a cliché to say it but discovering Twi-fic has really changed my life in many ways, favourably for the most part. I came for the fanfic but I stayed for the sense of community I found and the friends I have made and I really do believe that most of that wouldn’t have happened had I not received a review reply which made me feel that even as ‘just’ a reader my opinion was valued.
Author's Blurb by HMonster4
I published my very first fan fic on 12/29/2008.
I received my first review from Lucy on 1/12/2009. She found me via a mutual friend, Gemmabobella, who rec’d my story on her Lost and Found thread on Twilighted.
That day was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. And the cause of stains on many a shirt thanks to early morning coffee snarfs…but I digress.
Lucy quickly evolved from a tentative reader to a major advocate. When ProfMom and I entered Manyafandom’s Valentine’s Day Contest, Lucy declared herself a major fan of our one shot, and encouraged, cajoled and did everything short of plead to convince us to expand it into a multi-chapter story.
The minute we hit publish on the multi chapter version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Lucy had a thread live on Twilighted, and was out beating the bushes for readers. She left us epic reviews (if you totaled the word count on her review for every chapter, it would probably be 15k words – no joke), encouraged us, cheered us on, speculated, even threatened to hunt down a character in the story and do him bodily harm.
While she might have been BAT girl #1, her loyalty and support has gone well beyond BAT. Whenever either I or ProfMom start a new story, she is first on the scene to create forum threads, spread the word, and be the best cheerleader anyone could ask for. She’s done that for others too, passionately supporting stories, and most recently becoming a beta for Finding Home by Jennde. It’s a great fit for her.
If I had to say one thing about Lucy beyond her support, her enthusiasm, and her reviews, it’s that she gets it. She looks beyond the word to find the meaning. She picks up on nuances, references, and thoughts that many people would gloss over. I tried to pick out my favorite Lucy review…and I looked through all of her reviews (Luce – for the record, you’ve left me 102 of them) trying to pick out my favorite one. And you know what? I can’t. They all make me smile, make me laugh, and bring back great memories.
She may have started out as a reader, but she’s become a friend. She’s been there through all the Ward incarnations, Benedict Redneck, The Met, treks through ruins, and she always surprises and inspires me. When I hit publish, there are a handful of people I always hold my breath for feedback from, and she’s one of them. I don’t consider a chapter or a story complete unless it has her input, constructive criticism, or in one case, an image of smoldering ashes.
Thanks for being you, Lucy. And thanks for making this so much fun.