tried to eat the safe banana (thefourthvine) wrote,
tried to eat the safe banana

Yuletide: My Sordid Signup History

It's Yuletide time! And thus time to bring out the Yuletide advice posts.

Every year I try to persuade someone new to Yuletide to sign up for it. I don't always succeed, but I always try. And part of what I offer to support them in the Yuletide hurly-burly is advice on signing up and selecting fandoms. And then I thought: what if there are other people, people who are signing up for the first time even though they are not being harassed by me, who might also want to know this stuff? Anything is possible!

So I am sharing. Selecting fandoms for Yuletide, TFV style.

The central thesis here - my single key piece of advice - is basically DON'T DO WHAT I HAVE DONE. And while I've made mistakes every single year, my first few years I made doozies. Let's discuss my errors, so that you can either learn from them or, you know, just laugh at me. Either one is a totally valid choice.

2004 was my first year, and I signed up in a total panic. I couldn't believe I was doing it, actually signing up for Yuletide. Because - this amazing challenge that actually got me into fandom! And me, who had never actually written any fan fiction! Surely a bad combination. Also I had a high fever. And that's why, instead of actually looking at all the fandoms, I went through the fandom list from the top - this was waaaaay back when, and the fandom list was this drop-down box with a billion options, ordered alphabetically. I just picked the first three fandoms I knew, fandoms that all began with A, and went back to bed.

This was an error. I missed several key steps in the offering process, including:
  • Considering what people might want in that fandom.
  • Considering how it would be to write in that fandom.
  • Imagining what a story in that fandom might actually look like, coming from me.
  • Involving my brain at any point in the process.
This is why I ended up getting assigned All Creatures Great and Small. Which, okay, back then the format for Yuletide fandoms wasn't written in stone the way it is now, and I didn't even know that there was a British TV miniseries based on the books. So I was offering the books. My recipient was requesting the miniseries. Problem! Also the books are these totally heartwarming stories told in a distinctive first person voice. I - do not do heartwarming. Another problem! One I really should have considered before I got my assignment. As I did not, by all rights my first Yuletide should have been a disaster. A fandom mismatch! A fandom I couldn't actually write! Oh god whyyyyyy? CUE PANIC.

I have three people to thank for getting me through that Yuletide: Best Beloved, who read and edited and soothed and supported, [ profile] laurashapiro, who beta-read the story after BB was through with it, and Cassie, our beloved and much-missed Labrador Retriever, whose lifestyle choices (chew all the things, basically) gave me something to write about. I also have to thank artyartie, who saved my life by providing a very useful prompt, and who was the best recipient a first-time Yuletider could hope for. (Dear recipients everywhere: if you really want to make your writer's day, come back a year later and say how much you still love your story. artyartie did that for me, and my confidence as a Yuletider totally soared. Which I needed.)

My take-home lessons from my first Yuletide: Read the whole list of fandoms. Also, get a loved one to review your signup for sanity.

The next year, 2005, I was determined! I would do Yuletide again! I would make fewer mistakes this time! It was a good thing my goal did not involve making no mistakes, let's just say. I downloaded a spreadsheet with all the nominated fandoms on it and eliminated everything I didn't know, followed by everything I couldn't write. Then I considered what was left. This was a much better process. Unfortunately, I missed two key steps, which were:
  • Considering what people might want in the fandom.
  • Remembering that I might be assigned either gen or pairing.
The previous year, I'd been assigned gen. (For which I am eternally grateful to the Great Yuletide Sorter, because I don't think I could have stood it otherwise. I am bad at porn anyway, and given everything else I did wrong that first year, oh god no no no.) I forgot that lots of people, me included, sometimes want fan fiction that has sex in it. I had not, at this point in my fannish career, written any explicit porn. (There are many people who do Yuletide who are only really interested in writing gen or very non-explicit romance. At least some of them game their signups considerably to avoid fandoms where straight up smut is a likely request. I did not do this. This was an error.) And that was how I ended up getting assigned Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with the prompt of "hot het porn." I had never written het. I had never written explicit porn. I had never written anything hot. CUE PANIC.

I survived this Yuletide thanks to Best Beloved, my amazing betas, and my Emergency Yuletide Whining Filter. Best Beloved in particular went above and beyond the call of duty by saying such things as "get her hands on his cock right now" and "I really think you ought to get her skin-tight pants off before they have penis-in-vagina sex" and also reminding me that while I cannot write porn, I can write teasing indefinitely. And [ profile] queue wins points forever for being the person to point out, gently and kindly, that I had given John two cocks, and this was not canonical.

My take-home lessons from Yuletide 2005: Sometimes people want pairings, and even porn. Also, only write doublecock porn if your recipient specifically requests doublecock porn.

In future years, I learned advanced lessons about considering what kind of time you have, what kind of Yuletide experience you want to have, what access to the source you have. But the basics are pretty simple:
  1. Get to a short list somehow. I go through the entire list of fandoms and delete everything I don't know and then everything I couldn't write, but you can do it however you want.

  2. When you have that short list, look at each one of them. Imagine how you would feel if you got it assigned to you. Imagine opening up your assignment letter and discovering that this is your fandom, that you have only a few weeks to write at least a thousand words in it. Imagine what story you'd write.

  3. Think about what stories a recipient might request. Common requests include:
    • A pairing of any two of the nominated characters. M/m, m/f, and f/f are all options, here. Threesomes are also a possibility, although I think less likely (based entirely on how I've never received a request for one; yes, this is SCIENCE).
    • Background. The history of a character, the history of some institution, how everything got to wherever it is in the canon.
    • Futurefic. How things turn out after the story ends.
    • Something just like canon - another episode, say.
    • Worldbuilding. This is obviously especially likely in any canon that takes place in a world obviously and significantly different than ours.
    Imagine writing each one of these types.

  4. If, after all that, you feel good about it, leave that fandom in. And if you can't imagine writing a story for it, throw it out.
Take whatever is left and divide it into two lists: fandoms for which you must specify characters (always an excellent choice if you're, say, happy to write Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but aren't really sure you could hack Bill/Ted's mom) and fandoms for which you can honestly offer any and all characters (because you are happy to write Bill/Ted's mom, or Bill/Billy the Kid, or Socrates/Joan of Arc!). Pick your top five specific-characters fandoms and offer those (or, if you have fewer than five, offer them all). Make the rest your bucket list.

And then PROFIT. Or, okay, don't profit, because this is fan fiction. My point is: click that submit button and go on your merry way. (Until you get your assignment letter a week or two later and inaugurate the great tradition of Yuletide Panic, at least if you're me.)

Anyone else have any tips to share?

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
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