Press Play: Tips for Making Fan Fiction Work for You
It’s becoming more common for authors to get their start by writing fan fiction. There have been many famous authors who started out writing for fandom before transitioning to original works. Chances are you’ve heard of Cassandra Claire and E. L. James, I’m not holding either up as a good examples of morally responsible writers, but they both got their start writing for particular fandoms.
They, for all their faults, might have been on to something. Something that the traditional publishers have been taking a much keener interest in over the last several years.
Now, before you take me out back and expound on the vices of following in the footsteps of plagiarists and pompous swindlers, let me explain what I mean.
First off, I do write fan fiction and have for several years now. I’m currently well into a 4 book (and growing) series for the Thief (2014 © Square Enix & Eidos Montreal) fandom. Yes, you read that right. There are currently 2 full novels, I’m working on the 3, the fourth is planned and a fifth is being discussed. These aren’t novellas either. The last fic was well over 100K. Not that I’m bragging, it just kind of happened.
So why do I spend my time writing things that I’ll never be paid for? For couple of reasons. Reasons I think you too would benefit from.
Over the last two years, I’ve written nearly quarter of a million words for fandom. That’s a lot of words. But it’s allowed me the chance to improve in areas I really struggled with. Setting for example. I was able to practice writing more immersive settings as well as complicated, multi-layer plots. And I didn’t have to wait months to get back edits. The feedback was instant. I could know quickly what was working and what wasn’t, what the readers were focusing on and what they skimmed over, what threads they were really enjoying and what things annoyed them. This kind of feedback is invaluable as an author and one of the reason I will continue to write fan fiction.
Caution: Instant gratification with comments/reviews can get addictive. Especially when you go to writing original fic. Remember to keep a balanced view and not get an ego.
Connect With Readers
Fandom is full of avid and discerning readers. They know exactly what they like and are smart, savvy, and loyal. Some of them spend hours and hours writing up their own meta, head canons and discussing various plot points. They are the kind of people who you want reading your work. People who get excited about great stories and are eager to share them. I’ve been very privileged to meet quite a few of these individuals and have formed lasting friendships with a few.
Writing fanfic has allowed me to discover a whole new audience who craves things they cannot get in mainstream media. Readers who are willing to give my original stories a chance because they are already reading and enjoying my fan fiction and are familiar with the way I write.
So how can writing for fandom help you? Is it something you’d be willing to spend time doing in order to cultivate relationships? Is it morally right/wrong to benefit from writing fanfiction?
Well … let’s see.
There are plenty of pros and cons to writing fanfiction and while I encourage it as a fun relaxing writing exercise it can get stressful if approached wrong. Yes, there is a wrong way to approach writing fan fiction. The graphic explains some of the right ways to approach fandoms.
So what are some of the pros and cons of writing fanfiction? Let’s look at them:
- More exposure to potential readers
- Practicing the craft
- Free reads that need little advertising
- Build a reader base
- Time spent writing that won’t see a monetary return*
- Shipping wars
I’m sure there might be more cons … but I can’t think of any right now. I personally find writing fan fiction immensely rewarding and fun. It’s allowed me to grow both as a writer and as a person. And no, it’s not always sunshine and roses. I have had characters stolen and been plagiarized. I’ve been flamed and told I should die because of the subject matter of a couple of my stories. But those are rare happenings and the vast majority of fans are utterly thrilled to have well written fic to read.
So don’t be afraid to give it to them. Even just a drabble here or there can get you started. Think of it as a writing exercise, like the ones you had to do in school where you had to write as if you were a character in a certain novel. That is fan fiction.
If you’re not sure where to start pick your favorite TV show, movie, video game or book and look it up on Archive of Our Own. I can almost guarantee there is something out there. AO3 has very comprehensive tags and you’re certain to find something you like and if you don’t … well there’s your opening right there. Write there. Just don’t forget to read other works and stay engaged. You’re there to make friends and meet potential readers.
*While I am not a big fan of turning fan fiction into publishable works I feel it is the right of each writer to make this decision for themselves.
Do you write fan fiction? If you do, do you have any other suggestions? Do you agree with my admonitions? Questions are welcome too. If you are curious about my fan fiction you can find it here: The Corsair and the Corsetteer.
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