Today, welcome guest blogger–novelist, screenwriter, literary agent, editor, and fanfiction veteran–Sarah Gorman!
In Defense of Fanfiction for Young Writers
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: writing fanfiction is an immensely creative and uplifting resource for young writers. I cannot truly express how helpful writing fanfiction, posting it online, and receiving feedback was for me in middle school, or even high school. Why? For several reasons.
1. Fanfiction is a safe place to practice
To become a traditionally published author, writers must work hard and long at their craft to get their writing and their story to a certain level—all alongside other writerly duties such as platform building, professional editing, and querying. Often, this takes some time and life experience, whereas with fanfiction, young writers can just write and see what comes of it. The focus with fanfiction is writing for fun and writing for people that love the stories you love just as much as you do. This atmosphere provides the perfect playground for young writers to get some practice and improve their writing without having their creativity bogged down by the complications that come with original fiction.
2. It’s free
When you’re in middle school, free sites like Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own are your bread and butter because you don’t have a job to pay for non-free archiving sites. Heck, even if you’re a recent-college-grad like me, “free” is great! I have loans to pay. Fanfiction is a very accessible hobby, and that makes it all the more worth trying.
3. Instant feedback and appreciation from people who understand you/what you like
When you post a new fic, you’ll get readers within the hour practically every time. Fanfiction sites are crawling with avid readers that will devour your story as soon as you post it. For young readers, this is THE BEST possible thing. It’s instant readership and instant feedback, and not only is it readers who give feedback, but it’s readers who like to read what you write. It’s one thing for you to hand a Harry Potter fanfiction to your mother, but if she normally reads historical mystery, she isn’t going to appreciate your writing as much as a die-hard Harry Potter fan on fanfiction will. (Am I speaking from experience? Maybe). Getting gushing reviews on your writing is also just the most inspiring thing for a young writer, and fanfiction might just be the reason a young writer continues to write and hone their craft. And I’m not the only writer who had this experience! “There’s an obvious benefit to writing fanfiction: instant audience and mentorship,” says writer Vanessa Willoughby. “As a young girl who initially ventured into the world of fanfiction due to an unflinching loyalty to boy bands, I can’t deny that fanfiction offers helpful tools for the unsure writer.”
4. So many readers (and most aren’t picky!)
One of the greatest things about fanfiction writing I discovered is that fanfiction readers are so very chill. Sure, there are picky readers who won’t read your story if it isn’t top tier quality, but most readers will read anything—and I mean anything. One of my most popular stories is a Batman/Harry Potter fanfiction that I wrote in 7th grade. Is it good? Far from it, and it’s so very out there. Yet, I’ve had over 100,000 readers. If that didn’t inspire me to continue writing, I don’t know what would have. As Veerle Van Steenhuyse, a fanfiction researcher, emphasized “…fan fiction studies have long focused on fan writers characterizing them as textual poachers, as rewriters, as creators of transformed universes. I emphasize that fan fiction is not just written but that it is also read.” One of the best parts of fanfiction is its readership.
Have I convinced you? Fanfiction writing is a creative force, and I highly recommend it to any young writer.
Check out these sites:
Van Steenhuyse, Veerle. “The Writing and Reading of Fan Fiction and Transformation Theory.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 13.4 (2011): <https://doi.org/10.7771/1481-4374.1691>
Willoughby, Vanessa. “Imitation Is Flattery: In Defense of Fanfiction.” BOOK RIOT, BOOK RIOT, 24 Oct. 2017, bookriot.com/2015/11/18/imitation-flattery-defense-fanfiction/.