i did it and i felt a thousand times lighter
i have so much shitty old narnia fic and i feel bad deleting since most of my stuff is small fandom fic but oh god…
I’ve been watching this debate scroll by (I’m bad at tumblr etiquette so I hope that doesn’t come across as creepy; I’m reblogging rather than commenting because I have nothing to really offer the OP, I’m more reacting with my own thoughts) and at first I was like oh my gosh no no never delete fic it’s so bad to do that wahh— thinking as a reader that if I liked something, even if it was objectively not-well-crafted, I still love coming back for a comfort read and it’s so sad when things get deleted— but then I thought again as a writer and realized, no, there’s all kinds of things of mine I would be mortified to see out in the world now. It’s just that I’m old and just coming back to posting from a long hiatus during which I was writing privately, and these things were either never online because that didn’t exist yet, or were posted in communities that have since vanished. (Or are about to. Sniff.)
If my 1991-vintage Dragonriders of Pern angst were anywhere but in smudged pencil in a spiral notebook… I mean, I had no idea how sex worked but wrote it anyway… I would probably not leave it online, no. Not at all saying that whatever fic the OP is dealing with is anything like on that level! But the idea, of creations from earlier in your learning process being put up next to your current work as likewise-finished products—
Well. I’m rambling, but this is probably all a weird tl;dr generation-gap thing. I know, intellectually, that it is different now, and there are a lot of people now whose entire lives have been lived in a world with Internet. This is not deep. I’m just only now finishing my first cup of coffee of the day, and am quietly having my mind very personally blown by considering it.
I wish I had digital files of that really early stuff, because those pencil-smudged notebooks are illegible or missing and I only vaguely recollect what was in them. But on the other hand, what I remember is enough to know that they were utterly mortifying.
What would it have been like to post those very early works, though, and get feedback on them? That would have changed a lot of things about my life.
I need to shut up now and go finish my coffee.
To put my own .02 in, my very first fiction is still up. Everything I’ve ever written is up, my utterly crap first stories are still up, and I intend to leave them up. I just had my 10 year anniversary as a writer, and the reasons I’m leaving them up are, a) I don’t believe in taking things down once they’ve been up. For one thing, it’s impossible. The stories are out there already, in people’s minds and on their hard drives. Links to my stories are out there; I have no control over those. So all I’d be doing is contributing to the general sense of the ephemeral nature of the Internet (versus hardcopy books and libraries), which I don’t want to do. Fan fiction is a real genre. It deserves to have a lasting history. I myself hate that feeling of looking for a beloved story and discovering it’s gone, never to return. So what if my earlier stories are cringe-worthy? So was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s first novel, apparently.
This speaks to my second point, b) If I have improved as a writer, then perhaps beginning writers or even readers who think they can write but aren’t sure they should even try, can see the proof right there in the historical record. I wrote crap but now, perhaps, not so much. Learning to write is a process. No one bursts from the egg clutching a kbd.
tl;dr: Once I put my words out there, they belong to whomever reads them. The stories live in people’s minds, and trying to cut them out again seems wrong. And does a disservice to fandom.
It’s more than just a disservice to fandom, to the readers who love those stories, although that’s horrible enough on its own.
Deleting stories you think aren’t good enough to be out there diminishes that fandom, takes part of it away, reduces it by one voice, one thought process, one worldview. Every writer who takes their work down chips away at that fandom and at fandom in general.
We write not only as our fandoms begin to unfold but as they blossom and as they age and fade. Stories written early tell as much about the fandom as stories written after canon has closed.
Stories written early in our writing careers (and yes, this is a career) tell as much about who we were then as the stories we write today tell who we are now.
Our histories are irrevocably intertwined with each story we write and the fandoms we write for. Deleting any part of that history makes all of it—fandom, writing, us—less.
Leave it up. This is us.
As someone who is still very early in the learning process, I’m trying my best to not delete my older stuff on the Internet.
I remember writing some rubbish poems when I still only ever wrote in French, and I know they are somewhere on fanfiction.net (or the other one that sprouted for ffnet? the one for original work?).
The only story I deleted was my very first Snarry (well, actually it was a Snape/Draco/Harry). My very first attempt at a story written in English. Back then, I wasn’t lucky enough to have the wonderful Mischief to edit my stories for me. The first moment I wanted to deleted it was when I got an absolutely scathing review on it, the second (and last) moment was when I re-read it years later and realised that yes, the English was that bad, the sex didn’t make any sense at all and it was complete rubbish from A to Z. I was so ashamed that I did delete it after all.
I suspect that’s why so many people delete their old work. It’s not so much about how it looks to the others, and a lot about how it looks to the author.
The way I see it these days is different, though. Maybe it’s because I got older, maybe it’s because I finally learned that it’s a learning process, or maybe it’s because of the AO3 and the realisation that someone out there might still enjoy something I did, even though I don’t think it’s fantastic.
The one thing I changed is that I almost never go back to read my own stories. I just can’t enjoy them all that much once they are out, and I think it’s better this way, for me at least.