The three little letters that cause so much pain...
I'm not actually sure if this is more of a rant on WIP's in general or just the ones that never get finished.
At some point, I suppose, most fanfic stories (and long original ones, too) are "Works In Progress." I can embrace the general idea. When I like a storyline and characters, I want to read more of them, not have the story end in a chapter or two. I can easily and happily follow a plot for months, and having a chapter or chapter part or whatever the author posts up each day or week or month or however often she updates is a joy.
There are some stories that never end- and I don't mean that they're so tiresome that they seem endless. I'm talking about the story that was last updated a year ago and still says "WIP." Or the one where the author pops in every week or so to post long notes about the progress of her story, yet never seems to post the next damned chapter. Or the notes in FF.net bios from months and months ago saying, "For everyone who asked, I'm working on the next chapter as fast as I can, and it should be up in a week!"
I mean, what is this?
Possibly there are some fandoms that don't have this problem. Possibly HP and LOTR are plagued by WIP's, especially long ones, whose authors mostly have short attention spans or writer's block or a lack of interest in carrying the story through to completion. But in almost every fandom I've looked at, there's been at least one long, legendary story that was abandoned after several thousand words, or even several hundred thousand words, with only the lonely "I'll update soon!" notes to frustrate readers' hopes.
I think a lot of these problems could be avoided. In fact, a lot of them are avoided by authors who just do simple little things:
-If they lose interest in the story, they tell their readers. A simple posted little note saying something like, "I've lost interest in this, not going to write any more, but I'll leave it up for anyone who wants to read it" warns people right away that there probably isn't going to be an end to the storylines. I've seen warnings like that myself and avoided the story or started to read it depending on the mood I was in and how interesting the summary sounded. I have only myself to blame if I get frustrated by a cliffhanger. At least this lets people know that the WIP is, effectively, as finished as it's ever going to get.
-If they have real-life problems preventing them from writing, they try to give some estimate as to when they can return. The time ranges from days to weeks to months, but at least someone who is impatiently waiting for a conclusion knows how long she has to wait.
-If they have writer's block, they say that. This may frustrate readers, too, but again, it's a reason.
-They may pull the stories down. This might actually be the most sensible course if they know they're never going to work on it again, and it reduces the clutter of unfinished WIP's lying around the fandom.
-They pass the story on to someone else. If they were working with a co-author, sometimes the co-author takes over the story, or it's continued by someone who's expressed interest in continuing it. Probably an option that's limited by author patience and the number of interested friends, but another good one.
I think any or all of those would be more sensible than having a story that's still 1/? or 40/? after a year, and yet calling it a "WIP." That thing is probably dead, not "in progress."
In fact, I'm almost sure this entire thing was inspired by one HP fic I like that hasn't been updated since January and is probably never going to continue.