In fanfiction there is a difference between being a good writer and a popular writer.
because you can write a well-structured story with dynamic and consistent writing and characters doesn’t mean you will be popular. And sometimes
stories that have disorganized plots, mediocre writing, and/or OOC characters will be held up as
the greatest things to ever exist.
Just because your writing isn’t
popular doesn’t mean you are a bad writer. Don’t ever compromise who
you are, who your characters are, your plot, your writing style,
anything for the sake of readership.
There are popular writers everywhere.
But there are only so many good writers.
*ponders* I find myself disagreeing with this a little? Or complicating and expanding on it, depending (which is kind of the point – there’s some ambiguity in the wording.)
You should do what makes you happy, and rewards you, when it comes to whatever you write. If that does actually mean figuring out what’s hot right now and how to write it to get fifty-thousand comments, then more power to you. Because, well, “good” vs “not good” in all things is a function of desired ends and a lucid character study with breathtakingly crafted prose is not any use to someone whose desired end was “something that makes me feel warm and fuzzy about these characters I already feel warm and fuzzy about”, but a curtain-fic full of Tropes with workmanlike prose may well be. “Good” vs “not good” is hard to wrangle, when it comes to art (and writing is a form of art).
Popularity really comes down to what a large number of people want or need at any one time. Sometimes what people want and need is amazing chiaroscuro and craft; sometimes what people want and need is the writing equivalent of a Snickers bar. A Snickers bar won’t be satisfied in a time and place of wanting chiaroscuro and craft, and vice versa. And which it is, and which you want to write at that given time, is so very, very much a matter of luck, so often.
So honestly I think it’s fair if you want to change what you write in order to get more attention.
The tricky bit comes in that if you’re going to try that, you should make sure it actually is going to make you happy? Like that you will be content with the story as you’ve sent it out into the world, and the resultant positive responses will please you. That other people thinking this thing is awesome will make you feel better than you do right now.
Because the tricky thing is that often? It won’t.
Trust me. If you write something you hate, or don’t respect, or think is bad (I mean GENUINELY think is bad, not “I’m not allowed to be happy with my own work” thinking is bad, but like if someone else wrote this you’d go “ugh what the fuck who does that”), and it gets all kinds of attention, what you’re probably going to feel is angry, resentful, and maybe even betrayed.
I have both lived this and seen it play out in a couple rather spectacular fashions. (shoutout to sandriat who knows who she is) Positive response to a work of art you’ve produced that you can’t be satisfied with and can’t respect yourself is positive response you also can’t respect! You’ll end up with contempt for the very people who are now reading your output. And that tends to end badly.
Rather than making you feel better, it’ll mean you end up that bitter, bitter person on ~fandomsecrets bitching about how everyone in fandom is stupid and just here for the [whatever] and you have proof because you did this thing and wrote crap and people lapped it up so clearly – etc.
“Compromise” is a tricky word: if you can change what you write to suit current tastes and still be satisfied with what you’ve written, and that’s what you want, rock on and go for it. That’s allowed. (You’re allowed to write for attention. You’re allowed to write for any reason that motivates you to write.)
What isn’t a good idea is writing something you’re genuinely, actually dissatisfied with, that you don’t think is good in that genuine “if this were written by someone ELSE and getting attention I’d be pissed off” kind of way, something that makes you unhappy to put out there, in order to get more attention. And you shouldn’t do this because it won’t work, and will just make you miserable and resentful of that same readership and it just never ends anywhere good.
(It’s also worth noting: it’s easy to think that getting a crapload of positive responses and being popular and whatever is going to fix how anxious or inadequate you feel about your writing? My experience is: it won’t. Neither will consoling yourself that popularity often goes to the mediocre – it never helped me, tho for a while when I was younger it made me an insufferable cow with a superiority complex. I’m not saying enthusiastic response isn’t nice, because that would also be a total lie, but it shocked me how little it did for my jerk-brain’s conviction that everything I wrote was shit and I should be ashamed and go hide in a hole and die, and astonished at how many new ways my jerk-brain came up with to prove it.)(Including “well if you ARE popular that must mean YOU’RE mediocre!” which I suppose goes to show that if you spit in the air it lands on your face.) (My jerk-brain is really good at catch-22s – if I wasn’t popular, then I clearly sucked and deserved it. But if I was, that meant I sucked and was mediocre trash. The only way to win here is not to play.)
All of which is, I realize, probably a lot less immediately comforting than the OP. But my experience at this point comes down to this:
Other people being happy with your work will only make you happy if you could also be happy with it.
I won’t say “are”, because I know so many of us have the “I’m not allowed to be pleased with anything I do because that means I’m bad” shit going down and I get that. But if somehow someone who actually had the authority to somehow come and say “this is good writing I like it” and your entire self would believe it, that falls under “could be happy with it.”
And other people being happy with your work will only make you happy if you could also be happy with it. Being madly popular only really feels good if you’re madly popular for something you can feel good about in and of itself. So what you don’t want to change is what makes you happy with your work, what makes you want to write.
Don’t sacrifice your respect for your own work, real or potential, for the sake of readership, because it won’t make you happy.