For years, I’ve enjoyed reading Yuletide stories. Yuletide, for those who are not aware of it, is an annual fanfic exchange. When you sign up, you request a story (you actually have to give multiple possible options) and you also offer to write one (ditto). You volunteer and request based on “fandoms,” which in the context of Yuletide can sometimes be as narrow as a single blog post or a TV commercial. Yuletide does require that the fandoms be small, or at least smallish — you can’t request or offer Harry Potter-based stories, Avengers, anything that has a huge amount of fanfic already.
Stories have to be turned in by late Christmas Eve, and everyone gets their story on Christmas Day. Authors remain secret until January 1st. All the stories are in an archive and can be sorted by fandom, so you can poke through and read all the stuff that appeals to you. (A Little Princess? Allstate’s “Mayhem” commercials? Georgette Heyer’s Venetia? They’re all in there.)
This year I decided I wanted to play. I was assigned to write for someone who wanted Code Name Verity fanfic, and wrote a story called Damask Roses (it’s also Rose Under Fire fanfic) and I wrote a Treat (an unassigned story I wrote because I looked at a bunch of prompts and felt inspired) about Disney Princesses at a college called Four Things That Weren’t Adequately Covered in Mulan’s RA Training.
The story I received was Addams Family (the movie) fanfic called College First. It’s perfect — filled with spot-on bits of deadpan dialog.
I’ve written derivative work before — in fact, I’ve sold it, as you can totally do if you’re deriving from something in the public domain. “In the Witch’s Garden” (published in Realms of Fantasy in October 2002, available now in Gift of the Winter King and Other Stories) is loosely based on “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. “The Golem” (published in Realms of Fantasy in October 2000, available now in Comrade Grandmother and Other Stories) draws on the Jewish legend of the golem created by Rabbi Loew.
I’ve also written straight-up fanfic, but not on AO3 and not in Yuletide, so that was really a new experience.
“Four Things” … was really popular. And here’s the thing about fanfic — no one’s writing it for money, obviously, so there’s this whole culture surrounding it where people are rewarded for their writing and encouraged to write more with compliments. You do get compliments with pro writing; I’ve gotten some really lovely e-mails over the year, and my most recent published story, Bits, has a comments section with eight comments. By contrast, “Four Things” has 353 kudos (basically like a Facebook “like,” only more specifically adulatory) and 40-some comments, all of them saying things like, “you are SO AWESOME.”
You just do not ever get that sort of feedback in pro writing normally. Unless you are so famous that you are also getting stalkers. It’s a funny thing.
And the weird flip side of this is that with pro writing I also always feel slightly embarrassed and awkward about compliments. (I avoid reviews, even good ones; they tend to paralyze me. The bad ones make me think, “oh my god, she’s totally right: I DO suck.” The good ones make me think, “oh my god, I’m totally going to let this person down.” This is totally neurotic, and yet I know a lot of other writers with this same problem — it’s not just me.) Whereas with the fanfic I read every comment and let everyone’s opinion of my brilliance buoy me up. It felt good.
Anyway. Yuletide was fun. Whether I do it next year will once again depend on whether I remember to sign up, though.