Posted by Doranna Durgin
Once upon a time, I was a pre-teen who spent a lot of time scribbling in a notebook. Although I started with my own characters and my own book (about a seeing-eye dog), I quickly started writing in what was the very first television universe to fascinate me: Star Trek. (Don't even ask if this was the original series. Yes, thank you very much, at that point it was the ONLY Trek series. Even if it was in reruns.) I soon branched out to other shows, and although my own novels were scattered between those fan fiction novelettes, as I grew older--and more interested in television dramas other than, say, Lassie--I had plenty of media universes to keep me busy. Emergency, Rookies, Mod Squad, and more...they were all mine for the taking, and for exploring as much as the fertile if naive mind of a young teen and her favorite pencils (#2, sharpened with a jackknife) and notebooks (college rule, spiral bound, 25 lines per page, double-sided, 400 sheets per notebook) allowed. With brief exceptions, I wrote alone, although I had one or two faithful readers for the first several years, and then wrote mostly for myself.
Not that I was encouraged in this activity. You know. Waste of time. Antisocial. Not good for anything in the long run.
By then I was into high school and writing even more of my own stuff, including a trunk novel I'm still determined to revive somehow one of these days. And then I went off to college and got caught up entirely in writing my own characters, universes, and original premises, mostly fantasy by now. There wasn't anyone to read my little notes in the margins any longer, which was just as well...soon enough I was taking advantage of the very earliest word processor programs, and when it came to margins I spent my time ripping off the printer paper edges, not scribbling random observations and smart-ass remarks. I started submitting; I found an agent. I attended conventions and learned business-speak.
And then...I learned...
I hadn't been the only one.
And there were still people out there doing it. Fan Fic.
So I started playing again, this time getting published in media fanzines across the country--making some good friends, too, ahem!--and illustrating along the way. And by then I was taping reruns of my favorite shows.
Not that I was encouraged in this activity. You know. Waste of time. Antisocial. Not good for anything in the long run. "What," Someone wanted to know as I carefully labeled another Star Trek: TNG cassette, "are you ever going to do with all those tapes?"
Fast forward five or six years, with a handful of fantasy books on the shelves, my fanzine days lost in the bustle of professional life, the art table only wistful memory. The happy answer? "I'm going to use them for research as I develop and write my Trek book."
Ooh, sometimes life is sweet.
Since then, I've written to any number of franchises; I've even written to a game universe. I'm a member of IAMTW (International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, which also just happens to amusingly suit I AM a Tie-in Writer) and hope to do many more such projects along with my original universes/characters. It's a chance to play in worlds I know and like (although researching the books goes far beyond the scope of simple viewing, and boy I still like that college rule paper, even when I'm using it for continuity notes and synopses details). And one thing I've learned along the way...
Not everyone can do it. Never mind whether you're a good writer or a bad one...there's a knack to it, and it's quite apart from other aspects of the craft. You can be a beloved writer of SF/F and write an Trek book with unrecognizable characters, simply because you've never had the experience of subsuming another universe into your muse, mixing it up with your own ideas, and coming up with words those characters would actually say, or situations those people would find themselves in. Things that are obvious to an experienced fan writer don't even occur to someone who hasn't put his or her head in that place before.
So that lonely, oddball, introverted pre-teen writer started something way back when, with those treasured notebooks and pencils and clandestine moments of writing stolen during math and history and English class.