I love to read. Almost as much as I like to write. I read everything that comes within eyesight. This is not always a good thing, but meh, can’t help it.
As someone who loves to read, I read a lot of fan fiction. Don’t judge me. I’m impatient.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been putting together a writer’s conference just for fan fiction writers. I knew fanficcers where considered fringe writers at best and social pariahs at worst. I was not prepared for the amount of vitrol directed at these amatuer writers. They are not just social outcasts of the writing world, they are viewed as the demon hellspawn of the internet by many a pro-writer and avid reader alike.
And along came Fifty Shades of Grey, the oh-so-famous porn version of Twilight-er no wait, that version is an ‘original’ work. Now fan fiction is in the public eye like never before and the debate continues. Is it legal? No. Is it fun? Often. Is it terribly written? Mostly. Should authors sue and demand their works be banned from fanfic.net? Their call. George R. R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame wrote in his Not A Blog on Livejournal about his views on the phenomenon. You can read his post here: http://grrm.livejournal.com/151914.html
The issue has been debated to death and will rise as a zombie issue to be debated over and over. I’m not here to debate the legality or the ethics of fan fiction. Others have and much more eloquently than I ever could.
For the record, I never planned on writing fan fiction. I don’t like messing with someone else’s characters. My characters are as dear and real to me as my flesh and blood children. So I completely understand other author’s stance on fan fiction. Have I written fan fiction? Yes. I am currently writing an Avengers peice all from Loki‘s pov. Why? For one Loki is fascintating to me. (In case you hadn’t read any of my other posts, I adore the manipulative bastard.) He’s very hard for me to write. He’s a huge challenge, which I relish. He’s an incredibly complex character with an rich back story and that’s just Marvel’s version.
But, I digress.
I’m of the opinion that young writers need somewhere to start. They need mentors, someone who will offer them sound advice and helpful critiques. They get this, and more, by writing and posting their fan fiction to the various sites available for it. Of course this means there is a ton and I mean a ton, of horrible writing out there to sift through. Yet, often these amateurs feel they are not ‘creative’ enough to spawn their own universe and characters, so they decide to use someone elses. Or they find a certain character in fandom that they identify so closely with that they just have to write about them. Or there are the ones who insist they can do better than the original creator. And then you have the people who only care about writing por-er smut about their favorite pairing.
Writing is writing is writing. Whatever you want to call it. Fan fiction. Dirivitive works. Copyright infringement.
The point is, these young writers want to write and do so with a verbosity and passion that I’m sure a lot of us more experienced writers wish we could muster at times. They love their characters just as fiercely as we love ours. Yet, I know deep down the majority of them want to be original they just don’t know how. I cite the plethora of original characters (OCs) in any fandom as proof of that.
Of course it has been pointed out that one of the major failings of fanfic, legality aside, is the quality. We are all learning the hard way that digital publishing has it’s downside-quality control. This is something that any regular to fanfic.net or other fanfic site could have told you years ago. The number of barely readable works far outnumbers the truly well written ones. Trying to find a well written fic in a fandom can be worse than trying to find a normie at ComicCon. They are there, but they can be hard to spot.
Cathy Young speaks about this in her post at reason.com. (http://reason.com/archives/2007/01/30/the-fan-fiction-phenomena) “The good news about the Internet is that, in a world without gatekeepers, anyone can get published. The bad news, of course, is the same. Much fanfic is hosted on sites such as fanfiction.net, where authors can get their work online in minutes—which means that professional-quality stories coexist with barely literate fluff, and reader reviews will sometimes congratulate an author on good grammar and spelling. Even sites that prescreen fanfic and encourage authors to use beta readers and a spell checker tend to be quite lax with quality control, and only a few fan fiction archives are genuinely selective.”
This is only more true today five years later and not only about fan fiction. So with the new public eye on fan fiction what’s a writer to do? Where can the amatuer turn to for advice and education on the craft when all they’ve ever written is fan fiction? Some are too intimidated to even admit to their writing addiction. Others would never take a writing class because they don’t consider themselves ‘real’ writers.
The sites on writing that welcome or even encourage fan fiction writers are few and far between outside of fanfic.net forums. FanFic101.com is the preeminent site for writers of the genre offering writing advice and encouragement specifically for fan fiction writers. That’s why I decided to have a writer’s conference just for fan fiction writers. (fansoffiction.com) These authors write out of love, as we all do. Love for the character, love of writing, love of recognition and acclaim for our works. When it comes right down to it, the amateur and the so-called professional aren’t so different. We both love to write and should be more interested in helping each other learn the craft.
We are all writers after all.