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Fanfiction has gotten a bad rap over the years, and some might say rightfully so. As fanfiction writers are often young writers with little writing experience, the result can be poor. In fact, in many cases, spelling correctly seems to be optional. Thus, the hatred of fanfiction is arguably fair. Yet fanfiction can be a good way for new authors to dip their toes into the proverbial writing pool—and it can also be a lot of fun.
I’ve written two fanfiction stories, both of which were shorter than a full-length novel, and they were super fun to write. Though my fanfiction stories were published after my first original full-length novel, writing fanfiction has helped me in numerous ways, and that is why I’m here to tell you all the reasons why you should write fanfiction.
1. Writing Is Writing
One of the main reasons I started writing fanfiction is because I hit a wall in my professional writing. I was burned out with my series, and completely fed up with creating original characters and stories. Meanwhile, I couldn’t stop obsessing over a show I really liked, which unfortunately features a lot of bad writing. (Everyone in the community agrees, but we all still love it, so it’s best not to question why.) I knew I could do so much better if I had the chance to write the script, and I desperately wanted the show to get to the point. So I wrote a fanfiction about what I wanted to happen. It wasn’t very long, and it wasn’t amazing, but it got me out of my writing slump, and once I finished, I could focus on more important things.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
Writing fanfiction is low stakes. No one’s going to leave a bad review on your story and affect your sales, and no publisher or agent is going to send you a rejection letter. If you want to, you can even publish it anonymously, so no one will ever know it was you! Writing fanfiction is a good way of practicing the basics of storytelling, without having to worry about pesky things like world building or character development. It can help develop a good foundation for your writing, so later when you do build a world and add your own characters, you have experience writing dialogue, narration, and emotion. Most fanfiction readers are extremely eager to give feedback, positive or negative. After posting my stories, I received a lot of encouragement. Of course, I also had comments from some nitpicky readers, but all of that feedback can help you know when something you’re doing is working and when you should try something else. Feedback is the biggest key to becoming a better author, and the fanfiction community is sure great at providing it.
3. It Helps You Find Your Unique Style
You might feel compelled to write a fanfiction about a specific work, as I did. In that case, perhaps you’ve discovered the genre you want to write in! Whatever show, movie, or book is pushing you to write, it can give you a peek into to what your own style of writing will become and what kind of books you want to create. As you write characters that don’t belong to you, in a world created by someone else, you’ll start to notice the stylistic choices you make and other elements that constitute your unique writing voice. It’s easier to pick out your style of writing while creating fanfiction, because you’ll be able to compare your writing to the source material and see where they differ. As you get to know what your writing feels like, you’ll start to understand what you can and cannot do, and how to do it in a way that feels true to you.
In addition, writing fanfiction can help you find out if you’re more into writing short stories, novellas, or full-length novels. As I was writing my first fanfiction, I was pleasantly surprised to find out I actually can write a short story, something I previously thought impossible for my long-winded self.
4. It Can Help You Find a Fan Base
My fanfictions haven’t blown up the internet by any means, but I have gained a few fans from it, people who like my writing style and decided to try my books. Anything you write a fanfiction about will likely already have a huge fanbase, something most new authors don’t have access too. Since both you and those fans have the same interests, why not try to tap into that pre-existing fanbase to grow your own? It’s likely you’ll write a similar type of story as the source material you’re adapting, so some of those readers might transfer over to your original writings.
5. It’s Actually Extremely Popular
Fan fiction is everywhere in the modern world, and while the odds that you’ll grow widely successful because your fanfictions are slim, it’s possible, and it has happened before! As ridiculous as that might sound, Shakespeare, Dracula, and hey, even the Disney live-action remakes are all fanfictions! Although we might not label them as such, adapting existing material is an important tool for storytellers in this generation.
6. You Can Stand Out Easily
As I mentioned above, most fanfiction isn’t great writing. But as an actual author, you can stand out in the crowd. Even if you simply write a story with no spelling errors, you’ll already be a step above the rest. As I mentioned above, the fanbase for whatever work you’re riffing off (borrow and elaborate on) is likely to be huge, and with your quality story, they’ll be flocking to you by the hundreds. All you have to do is make sure they know you write your own stories, put a link to your website, and let the readers pour in!
7. It’s Fun!
I touched on this before, but writing fan fiction can be really fun. You don’t even have to publish it or show it to anyone. It’s a lot less stressful than creating an original story, and it’s awesome to be able to see more of the characters and world you love so much! Especially when you hated the original author’s ending. When you’re writing fanfiction, anything goes, and I mean anything. Some fanfictions are really bizarre, but that’s the beauty of it! It doesn’t have to make sense, because it’s just for fun, purely and simply.
If you’re anything like me, you want writing to be your full-time career, but if all your focus on is writing for money, you’ll eventually face creative challenges. Writing fanfiction can give you a much-needed break from creating more serious or in-depth stories. Writing something light and easy can help keep the joy of writing alive while exercising your creativity in a way that doesn’t feel like pulling teeth. It’s sort of like treating yourself to a wonderful cup of hot chocolate . . . but in story form! If for nothing else, this is a great reason to start writing fanfiction.
What do you think? Do you think you’ll try your hand at fanfiction, or is that still not your cup of tea? What do you think of authors who write fanfiction? Let me know in the comments below!
What risks are there with crossing the line with licensed characters or copyrighted material? Thanks!
Salandra wrote a follow-up post that addresses this question (tip 12)! https://mybookcave.com/authorpost/13-tips-for-writing-fanfiction/