Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Confession time: I'm an author... and a geek.

Well... I did it! I've completed my first novella and posted it online!

It's been a great learning experience for me because I haven't written fiction since I was assigned to do it for school. I did this purely for fun and believe me, it was.

In the process I also fulfilled another requirement toward earning my geek credentials (I won't get the badge unless I wear a Star Trek uniform to a sci-fi convention and - let's face it - I'm just not geeky enough to do THAT). You see, my story is a fan fiction, or fanfic. If you're not familiar with fanfic, it's where you write a story set in a world and based on characters that have already been created by a professional writer. In a nutshell, it's writing with training wheels. Probably the most popular kinds of fanfic right now are based on "Harry Potter," "Twilight" and "Star Wars."

In some ways, it's easier to write a fanfic than your own original work because you don't have the burden of creating all the characters from scratch, and you don't have to establish all the rules of the universe - for example, you don't have to stop and explain how Harry Potter's wand works or why Edward Cullen is a "vegetarian." That's because anyone reading your story is already a fan of the original book or movie and is familiar with that universe.

In other ways it can be more difficult, because you have to mimic the voice and behavior of the original characters well enough that it doesn't jar your readers with reactions like, "But Dumbledore would never do that!"

One benefit of writing fanfic is that your readers are already fans, so it's easy to get a lot of people enthusiastic about reading each update of your story and they will leave reviews and comments for you. When you go to the website and find a pile of comments waiting for you, it's like Christmas morning! The website also tracks the number of people who click on your story and their country of origin, so it's a lot of fun to see that people from as far away as Tanzania and Malaysia are enjoying your story.

How it started

Early this year, I was reading some fanfiction and I started to think," why don't I do this?" After all, I have always loved writing and I got my degree in journalism, but I hadn't written much in the last several years because I've been working as an editor rather than a writer. My high school English teacher once asked me, several years after I graduated from high school, if I was still writing and I had to tell her no. I realized that if I didn't keep writing, I would start to get rusty. So I wrote a short humorous story set in the "Star Wars" universe and got brave enough to post it online.

I got a lot of positive response to my story and... I was hooked! I wrote another short story and then I got the idea that ultimately turned into my novella. A novella is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. Mine is about 26,000 words long, divided into 13 chapters. I wrote most of it at night after the girls were in bed. It is really difficult to concentrate well enough to write with all the noise and chaos two young children can create!

While I was working on the novella, Roy found an announcement on Orson Scott Card's website that he was teaching a two-day writer's workshop in Orem, Utah, in June. OSC is a prolific author who is probably best known for the novel "Ender's Game." He writes mostly science fiction and fantasy, and has also written Christian/LDS fiction, including a series on the lives of women in the Bible. I'm a big fan of his books, so Roy encouraged me to sign up and take the class, which I did. OSC worked us from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for two days, not only giving lectures but also giving us assignments to come up with story ideas and bring them to class to be shared and critiqued.

Me with Orson Scott Card!

It was a lot of work, but I learned a lot and it was well worth the time and effort. Roy really deserves the credit for entertaining the girls in an unfamiliar city for two days, and for convincing me to sign up in the first place. I am so blessed to have such a supportive husband.

For the last month or so, I've been polishing the novella based on what I learned from OSC's workshop and helpful comments I got from my readers online. Ironically, OSC doesn't really approve of fanfic - he told us to go out and write our own stuff already. I have every intention of doing that when the time is right, but I feel like fanfic is a good starting place for me. Part of the reason he says that, I think, is because you can't make money writing fanfic. Since the universe and characters are owned by professional writers, you could never sell a fanfic to a publisher. But he's a full time fiction writer, whereas I have no plans to quit my day job, so I am free to treat my writing like a hobby rather than a job.

Now that my novella is finished, I plan to complete one last fanfic I have started and then tackle writing my own original stories. Wish me luck!

If you're interested in reading the three stories I've posted online, here are the synopses and links. They are probably best enjoyed if you have at least a passing familiarity with the "Star Wars" movies:

My novella: "The Shaman of the Whills," a 13-chapter adventure/drama story about a teenage Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, searching for the Ancient Order of the Whills, keepers of the secret to immortality. Most of the story takes place before Episode 1, "The Phantom Menace," but the final chapters deal with the end of "Revenge of the Sith."

My first short story: "Celebrity is as celebrity does," a 6-chapter humor/romance story about an adult Obi-Wan Kenobi dealing with the pressures of being a celebrity during the Clone Wars. It takes place between Episode 2, "Attack of the Clones," and Episode 3, "Revenge of the Sith," and also features Siri Tachi, a character from Jude Watson's "Jedi Apprentice" books, as well as appearances by Yoda and Mace Windu. How can it be a romance story when Jedi are forbidden to love, you ask? You'll have to read to find out. Roy says this is my funniest story.

My second short story: "Breath of Heaven," a 5-chapter humor/lighthearted story about an adult Obi-Wan Kenobi inadvertently aggravating his friend Siri Tachi when he tries to do something nice for her during the Clone Wars - and a clone gets blamed for it. It also takes place between "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith."

If you have trouble with the links, just go to and click "Search," "Find author" and type in "ForceforGood." All three stories will pop up. You're welcome to leave constructive comments about the stories here or on

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some more geek credential requirements to qualify for. Does anyone have a Star Trek uniform I can borrow?