Friday, February 25, 2011

Why? Part 3

Did you miss part 1? You can scroll down or click here.
Did you miss part 2? Click here.

So I started Redemption with several goals in mind: 1) Clarify that the single zap of energy wasn’t just a plain electrical discharge. I named the zap-ray Genome Wave Energy and gave it some potent properties so that one zap was a lot more lethal than it looked, and therefore Tim wasn’t as big of a wimp as he appeared. 2) Show Tim feeling remorse and guilt over the event. Even if he couldn’t help breaking under torture, he would have felt badly after the fact. 3) Have some counseling (psychological and spiritual) so that getting over it wasn’t so far-fetched. And as I was working on these goals, I came up with another: 4) Tim needed to redeem himself, both with Bridger for quitting on him like that, and for himself. About 7 chapters in, I knew I had to write a story that Tim could be the hero of.

Once I realized this wasn’t going to be short, and I also realized that even though I was doing this “just for fun” that it was shaping up to be an excellent little story, I started wondering if there was anyone out there who remembered the old show and might be interested in reading it. I had purchased the domain when I started “Neptune’s Gambit” just so that nobody else could get it. So I put the story up on that domain and I added some webrings that seemed pertinent. If I have gotten a single hit that way, I never heard about it.

Then I found This was like hitting pay dirt. Here is a huge forum of shared stories from all kinds of movies, plays, and TV shows, both new and old. And even though SeaQuest has been off the air for over a decade, there are writers there, just like me, who are actively writing AND READING stories in the seaQuest universe, RIGHT NOW!!

So I posted the first seven chapters all at once, just to see if anyone was going to read them. By golly, people did! And they said they wanted to see more. Well, since I was having so much fun and the words were once again FLOWING like I hadn’t felt in several YEARS, of course, I obliged them. And the story just got better and better. And the readers got more and more appreciative. I’m telling you, it’s like a drug. And I admit to being addicted.

In case you care to read Redemption, I won’t put any spoilers here, but Tim does get to be a hero.

As I neared the end of the story, I noticed something about the readers. While I had a lot more readers than I ever expected when I started the story, I noticed that there were a good number of seaQuest readers that were not interested in MY story, but they were reading stories by other authors posting at the same time. To this day I am pretty sure it has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. It was subject matter. You see, while Tim is my personal favorite, he’s not everyone’s. In fact, the Tim fans are in the decided minority. If I wanted to get more attention, I needed to write a story about Lucas Wolenczak, the teenage heart-throb. He is more widely beloved.

I found this very difficult. While I like Lucas well enough, he’s not even second after Tim, he’s more like third after Bridger, and beyond that, he was written as a child prodigy genius of the future which means he is, by definition, much smarter than I am. Okay, so Tim is much smarter than me too, but I could fake it with languages by just saying he said such-and-such in Cantonese. No point in trying to translate it when no one would be able to read it anyway, right? And with Tim I could always fall back on his awkwardness and insecurity, where I did feel very confident. I relate to that.

Still, I really WANTED those Lucas fans to give me a chance, so I started thinking hard about my next story before I was even done with Redemption. I finished Redemption on Christmas night, 2009.

After I posted the last chapter, I went through full-blown post-partum depression. I did do some light edits before I formatted it for paperback and printed up copies for myself and a few others who asked for them. This didn’t take more than a week. Honestly, even if I was going to try to sell it as authorized, I don’t think I’d change very much from what I gave away for free. I’m really proud of this novel and the way it turned out in the end, even if it’s just fanfiction, and even if I didn’t do massive rewrites.

Anyway, I had shadows of ideas for the new story with Lucas more at center stage, but I wasn’t really feeling very good about it. However, I really missed the reviews and I missed writing. How in the world had I gone years without the rush? I was addicted to the creating and the rewards I got from posting. I had to have another fix!

I had even less of an idea where I was going when I started Hard Time, but I jumped in anyway, with the idea that even if the story wasn’t as great as the last one, maybe I’d pick up a few of the Lucas fans. Because my new plot involved kidnapping a huge portion of the crew, I had to have some idea how I was going to eventually resolve it, so I think I had five or six chapters written before I just couldn’t wait any more and started posting. That was Feb. 6th, 2010. (Note: my dry period only lasted from Dec 25-Feb 6 and I was writing then, just not posting)

After I got through those first chapters, I have been writing and posting immediately, no longer holding back. Hard Time achieved my goal of attracting new fans and it took twists and turns I never conceived when I started. By the end of this story, I was posting a chapter every 2-5 days. And the reviews. Oh. My. Gosh. People were so wonderful. They gushed. They swooned. They constantly said marvelous things that just made my day. I would get so stoked. I shared snippets on Twitter and Facebook, they were so great.

For a very long time, I was miffed that people liked Hard Time (which I didn’t like that much) so much more than Redemption. I’m still not sure whether I finally made Hard Time good enough in my own eyes that I liked it better too, or whether the intoxicating adoration of the fans sucked me in, but eventually I started to see it as my best work. It sure did bring me a lot of hits and reviews as that screeenshot of my stats attests (12/31/10). And the thing is, no matter what stats I post today, tomorrow they’d be better. New people keep finding my stories and reading and reviewing. Two months later, with absolutely nothing else added or changed and Hard Time got another 1728 more hits and four new reviews. I should also mention, this isn't even counting hits on my own domain, just the hits and readers on

I also formatted Hard Time for paperback. I think six or seven people outside of me bought a copy, just to have on the shelf. That sales status alone would be another dismal failure if that was all I had. I didn’t make a penny on the sales either. Just offered them at the cost of binding and shipping for those who took the time to email me and ask for them. I do NOT advertise paperbacks in any way, since I don’t own the copyrights to the characters.

I started the sequel much sooner afterwards this time. I had tons of ideas for where I wanted to go, because the way I wrote Hard Time had opened up all kinds of avenues. I am now in the camp of AU, which, in fan fiction jargon, is “Alternate Universe”, not within the canon structure of the original show. I had been afraid to tread here because I thought it turned off the fans. Boy was I wrong, at least in this particular fandom. You see, the orignal show changed too much over its very short lifespan and alienated its own fans to the point that it lost them and then was cancelled. The die-hards who are out there reading fanfiction are the ones who miss how it was in the beginning and who are very happy to shove aside the canon that killed them in order to accept an Alternate--as long as it is well done.

I don’t think I am bragging to say I am one of the ones who has pulled this off. The stats speak for themselves. No, Steven Spielberg is not calling me up and looking to do a TV movie (although maybe he should. LOL) to revive his show. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I think the show could have done so much better if certain things had been done differently, but some of those things have nothing to do with writing. I don’t really want to deal with production costs, special effects budgets, actor contracts, etc. It’s a lot more fun to write without those practical constraints. On the other hand, there’s a (very) small part of me that doesn’t mind the fact that the show was considered a “flop”. It means that big-name people out there who DO own this concept have discarded it like so much garbage and they don’t really mind that I’ve gone dumpster diving, pulled out a wadded-up reject, smoothed it out and breathed a little life in it. If anything, I might help them sell a few more DVDs.

I will say right now though, that if they ever felt I was a threat, I’d be more than happy to become their employee and let them make all the money. Like I said from the beginning, it is NOT about money for me. Steven, Rockne, I will work for nothing. That’s right. You let me play with your characters in your setting and you can HAVE anything I produce. Give me a byline in tiny letters or roll my name by quickly on the credits. I don’t care. I’d JUMP at the chance.

So now I’m writing the sequel, Not on My Watch. It’s more episodic now, like a soap opera instead of a TV movie. But my fans still love it and it won’t stay that way forever. I’ve got a lot more character depth this way, depth we couldn’t have when the cast kept changing and someone thought every episode had to have a large percentage of time devoted to chases or sea monsters or girls in bikinis.

I am consistently writing, editing, and posting 8000 words a week (average). Writing is fun again. I’d lost that fun in the drudgery of all the self-promotion stuff deemed essential these days when you try to sell books. I guess maybe I’d be less negative about all that marketing junk if I could just see some fruit come of it. But it’s like the black hole that sucks out energy and creativity and gives nothing back. It isn’t that I’m unwilling to work for success, it’s that I’m unwilling to work for no rewards at all. Fan fiction doesn’t give me monetary rewards or fame, but it gives me great satisfaction and it gives me readers who lavish praise on me and make me feel like it’s appreciated and worth it.

Links to all my fan fiction stories (free to read):


1 comment:

  1. Five hundred reviews. Most published novels don't have that many people willing to leave comments. Good job, Caprice. I know this is a somewhat obscure market in the big picture, but obviously you've hit it square :).