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15 October 2012 @ 11:14 am
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, [dreamwidth.org 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 [dreamwidth.org 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.
sheldrakesheldrake on October 15th, 2012 07:27 pm (UTC)
Ah yes. I too have experienced the dawning 'Oh yeah, people in fandom like porn...' realisation. This is especially good when the characters requested are underage/not human. Yes.

Hmm, and I now have a strange desire to write All Creatures Great and Small fic.

Oh! I've just remembered I wrote an ACG&S/LOTR crossover crackfic once. Ok. As you were.

tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 12:51 pm (UTC)
I - I bow before your crossovery might. ACG&S x LotR is - pretty amazing. I am amazed. Yes. WOW.

And I think most of us have the "Oh, I forgot other people might want PORN" moment at one point or another. Although I have a friend who is great at writing porn, yearns to write porn, and every year signs up hoping to get porn. And she gets gen. A lot. Repeatedly. YULETIDE IS A CHALLENGE FOR EVERYBODY, and I mean that in all senses of the phrase.
AQ aka Syredronning: chris_pine_laughingsyredronning on October 15th, 2012 07:48 pm (UTC)
I never signed up for Yuletide and probably never will, as I can only write Startrek. But I read all those yearly postings and whinings on my flist about it, and you made me giggle quite a lot through yours. Thank you!
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 12:52 pm (UTC)
Writing Star Trek is a 100% valid lifestyle choice. I APPROVE OF THIS.

I do sometimes wonder what Yuletide season looks like if you don't do Yuletide. Is it just insanely boring paging through endless Yuletided-related posts?
Imaginary Researcher: Sayid  - icontagioushannahrorlove on October 15th, 2012 07:51 pm (UTC)
I'm too busy with a committed project right now to even consider Yuletide. I've never signed up for it, either - though you with your long history of it could perhaps tell me how non-fandoms like commercials got added to the roster when it was originally implemented with tiny fandoms in mind. It's something that's puzzled me for ages.
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 12:57 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I hear this from time to time, but to me there's not really a distinction between "small fandoms" and "non-fandoms." Like, if someone wants fan fiction about it, or writes fan fiction about it, to me that's a fandom.

But it is true that Yuletide has expanded to include lots of atypical media types and so on, and I think the reason for that is - well. First, fandom has expanded a lot. It isn't just text, it isn't even mostly just text, and so people are going a bit beyond what they would have ten years ago. Second, and I suspect most importantly, Yuletide has changed the way we view stuff. Like, you know how there's the transformational mindset you get into, where you're watching something and thinking about how you would write it (or vid for it or draw for it or whatever), how you would transform it? I think Yuletide made people do that for EVERYTHING, not just TV shows and books or whatever. People look at commercials now and instead of thinking, "Wow, that was interesting. I'd love to see more," they think, "Wow, that was interesting. YULETIDE FANDOM!" I know that's increasingly true of me.
aweszomerth: scrubs - every morning at eight amsinsense on October 15th, 2012 08:26 pm (UTC)
Also, only write doublecock porn if your recipient specifically requests doublecock porn.

Painful snorting. Why would you do that to me?
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 01:00 pm (UTC)
THIS IS WISDOM OF THE AGES. HARD WON. THE DISTILLED ESSENCE OF MY FANNISH EXPERIENCE. The doublecock issue is a thorny one, challenging fanwriters all over the world!
the pirate queen of norway: blodeuwedd ginnyashkitty on October 15th, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC)
I know you basically said this, but it bears repeating. Only offer to write stuff you will ACTUALLY ENJOY WRITING. Not just anything that sounds kind of cool. When the person didn't really like their assignment, it shows.
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 01:01 pm (UTC)
Yes. Definitely, definitely key.
my mom made this unitard.: mistletoe. [haven]cjmarlowe on October 15th, 2012 09:05 pm (UTC)
I am, in fact, That Person who offered "any" for Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure--thinking of course of Bill and Ted requests--back in the days when "any" meant any and not just any nominated characters, and was a little stunned when I was assigned Billy the Kid/Socrates. So yes. XD Legendary Yuletide Panic.

(Though, that said, writing that story ended up being one my all-time greatest Yuletide joys.)
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 01:03 pm (UTC)
Oh my god, I had no idea I was describing someone's actual Yuletide experience! HELLO PANIC STATIONS.

But, yeah, sometimes the stuff that pushes my boundaries a bit is the stuff that works out best. I've had a lot of stories that have tested my mettle and my adrenal glands, and writing them has always been a great experience.
(no subject) - moonlight69 on October 17th, 2012 06:48 am (UTC) (Expand)
Cienna: Yuletide Santacienna on October 15th, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
I am one of those people who offered four characters. I shipped characters AxB and CxD. And then of course I got assigned the AxC pairing. I wept, but managed to somehow make it work in the end. Somehow I just hadn't imagined that any other pairing combination was possible. I definitely will not be making that mistake again!
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 01:04 pm (UTC)
Isn't it amazing how the Yuletide Sorter manages to call your bluff like that? IT KNOWS. But, hey, you triumphed. GO YOU.
lacking in glittertawg on October 15th, 2012 09:56 pm (UTC)
My advice is not for sign ups but for the actual writing part - hunt down your recipient's Yuletide letter and read it. READ IT GOOD. For my first Yuletide I did not do this until three days before posting, because I had a fandom I was comfortable writing in and it all seemed good. But then I read the letter and oh wow my fic had a theme that my recipient REALLY did not want, and I had a crazy weekend rewriting and then getting people to read over the fic and see if the Thing That Should Not Be was still present in the fic and... And I bet it was. I bet there was too much of it left and it was a shitty thing for my recipient to deal with.
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 01:06 pm (UTC)
AIEEEE. Horrifying! (I know someone else who read the letter and then forgot about the "please don't have any rape" part until after she'd written a story featuring, yup, rape. She went back and read the letter after submitting the finished story and had less than a day to revise it basically from the ground up.)

Yes. Definitely read the letter. Read the hell out of it.
The Moonlight Sonatamoonlight69 on October 16th, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
Sort of semi-related, did you ever track down a spreadsheet of all nominated fandoms? Because I could really use one for my narrowing down process!
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 01:07 pm (UTC)
Nope. In the end, I just went to the complete list of nominated fandoms, the one sorted alphabetically instead of by category, and cut and pasted that into a Word document. It worked!
(no subject) - starfishchick on October 16th, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
lizzy_someone on October 16th, 2012 01:41 am (UTC)
My advice would be, only offer to write a character if you want to write a story that centers on that character. I always used to forget that when people request a certain character, they usually want that character to feature prominently. So I'd be like, "Yeah, sure, I don't mind writing an A/B story that includes C," so I'd offer A, B, and C, and then the recipient would turn out to want B/C, or C-centric fic, and I had not at all anticipated that eventuality.
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 01:18 pm (UTC)
Yeesh. Yeah, I love that we've moved to AO3, but I do kind of miss the old confirmation emails, which spelled out every single permutation you'd volunteered to write. (Inevitably, I'd look at it and go, "...Oh wait shit I'm not prepared to write X gen, or A/Z," and then I'd have to go redo the entire signup form. Oh, the bliss of being able to EDIT the form these days!
rockeandrollhalfeatenmoon on October 16th, 2012 05:54 am (UTC)
My first Yuletide was in 2010 and ran remarkably smoothly considering I had no idea what I was doing. I was terrified when writing my first Dear Author letter. And yet it was pretty much the perfect Yuletide - I got to write my favourite small fandom and my recipient loved it, I got just the fic I wanted and it was pretty awesome all around. Last year was trickier - I think I was feeling less enthusiastic because I only offered four fandoms and the last one was really just making up the numbers. Of course that was the fandom I got matched on. And I was writing for a friend, which just made the pressure seem WORSE. Of course, that meant I knew what my friend liked better than I would with a stranger and the fic turned out to be pretty great, but it was still a bit unusual.

It's funny how most of the year I feel almost invisible as a non-porn-writing gen-lover, yet at Yuletide there seems to be a lot of consideration towards writers whose preferred topics and styles fall outside the fandom majority. I was very, very reluctant to participate in Yuletide at first, because fandom was so full of porn and all about porn and experience had taught me that fandom mostly didn't care about my fic because it wasn't porn. People mostly wanted porn. So naturally I was afraid that I'd end up writing for someone who only wanted porn. But most Yuletide people seem to be so considerate of the fact that whoever's writing for them might not be up for porn, and I'm well past worrying about it.

That said, if I got someone who requested just porn and that was the only fandom we matched on, I'd probably just default. Major respect to you for writing that 'hot het porn' assignment!
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 16th, 2012 01:20 pm (UTC)
Some Yuletides are just blessed by the Yulegods. I'm so glad your first one was one of those.

And, yeah, Yuletide is one time when everyone is very aware that gen is a thing people write. I think that's partly because this is a very gennish challenge - lots of people want stuff that is just like the canon, after all - and partly because we're all so aware that we could be matched with ANYONE AT ALL. I think there are Yuletide participants on SATURN.

And, hey, writing the hot het porn was a total turning point for me! I'm still terrible at porn, but I manage it in almost every story I write. THANK YOU, RECIPIENT OF OLD, FOR PUSHING MY BOUNDARIES.
Diana Williams: yuletide1dkwilliams on October 16th, 2012 03:54 pm (UTC)
Love reading about your Yuletide experiences - it's very enlightening to see how other people view it. While sometimes I wonder about the Yuletide being overwhelmed by non-fandoms, it's also cool to realize that people are inspired by a commercial or a song, and that this is really the only place where they can write that story.

Personally, I always panic about this time when I come up with 2 fandoms to write and then have to scour the list to get a third or fourth. I go through the spreadsheet and put back in fandoms that maybe I can write, then have to go back and say "are you nuts? you know that they're gonna ask for B/C pairing!" or "Right - how many years ago did you read that book/see that movie? And you weren't crazy about it then?" And then the night before signups close I panic again and go back through my list, worrying that I will get the one thing I can't write - although so far I have been very lucky to get fabulous matches.

My tip this year is to check the Dear Yuletide Writer spreadsheet by fandom and look at the letters for any fandom you are thinking about offering. I did that and realized that 1) the only person requesting the fandom I really wanted to write HATES the pairing that I love as a couple - they like them as friends, so we probably would have matched and then I would have pulled out my hair. And 2) someone requested a fandom that I hadn't even thought about until I read their letter (and now plot bunnies are eating my brain) - even if I don't match, I will probably end up writing a Stocking Stuffer for that.
Auburnauburnnothenna on October 16th, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
So, yeah, I read this after signing up. Though I've spent entirely too long debating what to offer (because, yes, so many fandoms I'm familiar with, sure, but the criteria came down to: do I want to write anything in that? At all?)

I actually did Yuletide once, then skipped last year because of reasons, but I miss feeling part of fandom, so I'm back, and I already started whining to eretria before I ever hit the submit button.

So, yes, one important Yuletide accessory: someone who isn't doing Yuletide, because while someone who is will understand your pain, they'll expect you to sympathize with theirs too. And who has time for that? Because if someone out there wants To the Hilt porn (oh, gods and mice, don't even with the pun), I'm gonna write it for them, but I'm going to cry about it all over eretria.

Now I'm going to find someone's Yuletide Dear Author letter and crib their layout for mine.
katherine_tag: SGAkatherine_tag on October 20th, 2012 01:09 am (UTC)
Ah ha ha ha, I promise that if I request To The Hilt, I will give you a 'get out of porn free' card!
(no subject) - auburnnothenna on October 20th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - katherine_tag on October 21st, 2012 12:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
joycejoyce on October 16th, 2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
This was kind of hilarious. :) But smart, too; thanks for sharing with us.

I finally requested an AO3 account, after lurking ad infinitem. Looks like it will be after Yuletide this year before I get one, but there is always next year...
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletide Woot!thefourthvine on October 17th, 2012 01:01 am (UTC)
Email elyn at yuletide@yuletidetreasure.org; she can hook you up with an AO3 account to participate in Yuletide. (The Archive gives challenge mods lots of invitations specifically for this purpose.)

(no subject) - joyce on October 17th, 2012 01:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - joyce on October 17th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
lectissima femina: buffyangel-gilesroseartyartie on October 17th, 2012 05:28 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh, if my place wasn't such a colossal mess I would find it and take a picture of it, but I *still have* the story you wrote me, which I printed out to show to friends who didn't read fanfiction, because it was just that awesome and still is. And so reading about the story behind the scenes was really surprising, because it was so brilliant and spot on and delightfully fluffy and yet not saccharine at all, which is a really hard balance to achieve. So it makes me happy I helped make your first Yuletide a good one, because you are such a fantastic writer, and I bet you have made a lot of recipients very happy on Christmas morning!

And so that's my bit of advice: leave feedback and copious thanks! You never know what your author went through to craft your story and your comment may just be that bit of confidence in themselves they might truly need. And make your comments and thanks detailed in some way, to let your author know you really did read this thing they made *just* for you.

And if the story is just that awesome, come back and let them know a year later. ;)