What I Learned Moving From Derivative to Original Fiction

In the summer of 2009, I was introduced to a series of Young Adult novels by my daughter which catapulted me into a world of derivative fiction that I never knew existed. When I discovered this magical place, I thought, “Here I can practice writing without having to pay big bucks for a writing workshop.” I will forever be grateful for the people I’ve met, and the inspiration so many writers and readers in this venue have been to me.

Navigating social networks as an aspiring writer has been a very interesting journey for me. As a generously middle-aged woman, with children that are now leaving the nest, I took an early stance of endeavoring to remain above the fray. You know, the chaos that inevitably develops resulting from a large group of people, who have different beliefs, personalities, and opinions coexisting on a platform where words can be taken out of context and be blown out of proportion within seconds—and in realtime!

dreamstimefree_179689However, being a part of a derivative group that ranges in ages from late teens to late sixties (and possibly beyond), with the only common denominator being a love for reading and writing rekindled by a series of books that spawned a phenomenon—cliques and factions and divisiveness were bound to rear their ugly heads.

There are the purists—those writers who consider themselves the closest thing to professional writers among us, who are very selective in their choice of other writers they elect to associate themselves with.

There are the divas—those writers who remind us lesser writers time and again that they rule the roost and it is always “all about me.”

There are the hobbyists—those writers who do this purely as a mechanism for fun and as a social outlet.

There are the rest-of-us—those writers who are working hard to improve their craft, who may not yet consider themselves a J K Rowling or a Suzanne Collins, yet—but who hope to get there someday. (It is Stephenie Meyers’ characters most of us have embraced and write about, but her body of work hasn’t solidified her firmly as a great writer yet, IMHO).

And finally there are the readers who separate themselves, often times, based on those who like the actors who’ve gone on to play the beloved characters in the books, both separately, and romantically as a unit—which has spawned a spate of infighting that I will never understand.

As I have become increasingly disenchanted with the drama that often goes with establishing a presence on Twitter, Facebook and the Internet in general, I am still searching for that elusive place where I will only be judged by my writing alone, and not which group I belong to, or my ability to titillate by incorporating subject matter in what is supposed to be a Young Adult novel and turning it into something else altogether.

While I don’t believe in censorship, I do believe that because we essentially borrowed these characters from other writers, there should be some respect shown for how we choose to write about them. What does that look like? My answer is simply, “whatever allows you personally to sleep at night.”

Early last year, in the midst of a family crises, I went back to join an original fiction writers’ group that I had been a part of years ago. During what I call my “second honeymoon phase” I was embraced by a group of writers on a forum within that forum which I believed, judged me by my writing alone. However, the longer I remained a part of this new group, the more I began to see similar lines of demarcation that I saw among the writers in my derivative fiction group.

Though subtle, the same hierarchy that existed in my derivative fiction group, exists in this new group of writers. I began to see that while certain writers in this group dove right in and critiqued my work just as thoughtfully and seriously as I did theirs, there were others who avoided me like the plague. I also saw that while this new group might contain a larger proportion of writers who are classically educated (with MFAs from prestigious institutions of higher learning), there were a few who thumbed their noses at writers like myself who either  1) didn’t hold that distinction or 2) wasn’t published enough to be considered “serious.”

So what I’ve learned is simple: There is no perfect place, no vacuum in which one who has a sincere desire to practice the craft of writing can exist without drama. Therefore, my objective will be to surround myself with writers and readers who are about the business of writing, reading good writing, and fostering good relationships as we move toward a common goal.