Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why YOU Should Be Writing Fanfiction

Fan + Fiction = Fanfiction

A FREE Creative Writing Course: Lesson One

Ah, fanfiction. It has such a bad reputation in many circles as being the literary domain of angst-ridden teenagers who dream of shooting Bella in the face and marrying Edward themselves. And it is absolutely not a writing cred in any publishing circle and you should deny deny deny that you have ever written a page of fanfiction if an editor or agent asks.

However, I am going to tell you why you DO need to be writing fanfiction and why you should be darned proud of it.

First of all, some of the best-written, most entertaining works of fiction I have ever read have been fanfiction. Sure, there’s crap to be found, but that’s to be said of traditional publishing as well. Unless you just want to be a snob for snobbishness’s sake, let go of the quality idea and the stereotypes and embrace the real power of fanfiction.

What power? you ask.

If you are a developing writer, fanfiction can be the best, cheapest, most fulfilling creative writing course you ever took. Answer the following:

  • Do you really want to write but have no idea what?
  • Do you know what you want to write but have no idea how to turn it into a book?
  • Do you want to write but just want to have fun with it rather than selling your soul to the publishing industry?
  • Do you have a secret burning desire to put two unlikely characters from your favorite movie/book/TV show together just to see what happens?
  • Do you have a favorite book/movie/TV show that has officially ended (oh, say Firefly or Harry Potter) and you are still upset by this and want more more more?
If you answered yes to any of these, then you should absolutely be writing fanfiction.

Fanfiction has a long, stellar history (what is Shakespeare’s work but a fanfiction treatment of Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans?) and has spawned some works of serious literary merit (think Wide Sargasso Sea—Jane Eyre fanfiction). It is the purest, best form of literary criticism. Good writing induces a desire to produce more good writing, to enter into the text completely in a joint creative act.

And what better way to explore a work than to spin out a new work from it? I firmly believe that if an author wants to know what readers really think about his work, he needs to read the fanfiction.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to run a blog series here called Fanfiction Workshop. This is Lesson One—Get Over Yourself and Embrace the Concept.

Your homework is to go read some fanfiction. Two of the biggest sites are (where I am Arcole BTW) and (commonly known as AO3 where I’m waiting for my invite, along with the rest of the world). You can also find fanfiction at LiveJournal and Deviant Art.

Pick a movie/book/TV show etc. that you just freaking loved and dig around a bit in the archives on it. See how many fics are already out there. That will give you an idea of how likely you will be to get reviews on your work. Read and review while you are there. Somebody worked really hard on that piece. Give ‘em some love. It’s not like they can get a royalty check.

WARNING: Those of you who answered NO to the first three questions should be warned—fanfiction is addictive. If you are already a successful novelist with an agent/publisher and work to be doing, stay away. But if you are in the developing stages, this course can help you tremendously. Trust me.

So, what do you think? You in? Comment! It’s just like leaving a review at! Subscribe by email so you won't miss Lesson Two--Overcoming Submission Anxiety One R&R at a Time! And share so the rest of the world can start writing too!


  1. I really don't recommend as a starting point. It's literally a giant slush pile and it takes skill to figure out what's good and what's eye-burning. AO3 is MUCH better for a beginner to find the best stuff fandom has to offer.

    I can hardly afford any new book lately, so I've been haunting AO3 and loading my kindle with the good stuff. I lovelovelove the download feature.

    1. Man, to be able to download to the Kindle would be marvelous!!! I've heard really great things about AO3 as well and am looking forward to getting in and posting some of my stuff on it. I am glad to hear that others like using it!! Sometimes the sheer volume of fics on is overwhelming. Thanks so much for dropping by! I am looking forward to hearing how you like this series and hope you'll come back!

  2. I've never experimented with fanfiction. Truly, I think I'm too afraid of getting sucked in! But it certainly worked as a great starting point for E.L. James.

    1. Stay away, Sara! Stay far away! You are a multi-published author with no need to have your creativity sidetracked and my goodness fanfiction sidetracks the creativity (witness my 80,000+ word Lost fic Grace Period that has been taking place instead of my next novel). That being said, I think I am a much better, more prolific writer for having written it than I ever would have been without it. In fact, without it, all I could manage was an unfinished Regency novel from 1991. Fanfiction got me published. Period.

  3. The problem with AO3 for writers is getting an invite. I waited several months for mine (Arley, I'm trying to see if I can get a queue jump for you), and often there's not much fic in some category or another because the writers simply can't get in to post it.

    One trick for is to look at the number of reviews on a piece. If there are a lot of reviews, it's probably at least decent. This being said, "a lot" is a relative number. The larger/more popular the fandom, the more reviews constitute "a lot."

    Another trick is to find an author you like *cough*Arcole*cough* and see who or what they've tagged as "favorite author" or "favorite story." I've discovered a number of authors that I really like this way.

    Yes, it's a slush pile, and it can be intimidating, but once you get the hang of the Pit of Voles (a loving nickname for I've seen in many fandom circles) it's deal-able.

    This being said, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out one more good source, particularly for smaller and obscure fandoms -- Yuletide Treasure (which is associated with AO3). It is definitely *not* all Christmas stories and I have found some true gems by using them as a filter.

    1. You are the best!!! If you can get me a queue jump, it will help this series tremendously!! And I'm stealing your hints for my upcoming post BTW!!! I have so used all these tricks to find good stuff, especially the follow the author's favorites trick.

      When you are starting out, it's really good to read the crap too. For one thing, you learn quickly what not to do, how to lose a reader in three paragraphs. For another, it makes you be honest with yourself and learn to dish out good criticism that helps and doesn't hurt feelings.

      And I'm so beholden to you for the boost! Thank you so much! You've been such a support to me and I'm delighted you are reading and contributing so wonderfully to this series!! It means a lot, LFVoy. I mean that!!

      Now off to check out Yuletide Treasure!

    2. ...did you get the invite?

    3. I did! Now I have to decide which piece to put up. Suggestions on best fandom to hit first?

  4. " It has such a bad reputation in many circles" Hence, no one in "real life" knows I do it. Despite the fact that these people who know me would know I am not an "angst-ridden teenager" or some kind of basement dweller! I'd love to hear your further thoughts on the bad rep FF gets. Is it only just the fact that so very much of it is bad? Or is it the "Trekkie-esque" obsessed fandom factor? Or what?

    I think I've mentioned to you before that March by Geraldine Brooks is pretty much just a Little Women fanfic. And it? Won the Pulitzer Prize, so yeah. And Ian McEwan's Atonement? Briony Tallis becomes a famous novelist by fanficing her own LIFE.

    This is a very informative place. I've only stuck with due to laziness or something. I wasn't even aware of other places out there (and by invite only! Woah! Very shi-shi!) Must check it out . . .