As I mentioned yesterday in my accountability post, for the next little while I’m setting aside my work-in-progress and picking up my Final Fantasy III/VI novelization fan fiction. Now here’s the thing… There are a lot of writers (and readers) out there who think very poorly of fan fiction. They think its not “real” writing, or they associate it with a bunch of creepy, sweaty fanboys/girls sitting in a dark room, plucking out a wish fulfillment fantasy where a disturbingly perfect character who just so happens to have their exact name gets it on with Buffy or Edward Cullen, or one of the My Little Ponies (*wigged-out-shudder*). And yes, that stuff does exist, and there’s a special place for it far, far away from me, but there is also a lot of good fan fiction out there if you care to look for it, and I personally believe that fan fiction serves several very important purposes in the writing community.
1. It gives you a break and let’s you enjoy writing for a while.
Even those of us who love writing with all out heart and soul want to smash our computer against a wall and/or burn all our notebooks every now and then. Things happen (writer’s block, bad critiques, lost work that wasn’t backed up, etc) that enrage us and make us want to give up on writing forever. That’s where fan fiction can be helpful; it’s easy (because the world is already created for you), it’s fun (because you get to write your favorite characters), and it keeps you moving forward. You might even find, while writing fan fiction, that you come up with a great idea to continue that original fiction you so recently considered tossing off a cliff. Seriously, give it a try…you might find that writing a bit of fan fiction considerably lowers your writing-related stress.
2. It gives you practice and let’s you get the “bad” out.
Yes, I’ll admit it, a lot of the fan fiction out there is beyond awful. But have you ever heard that oft-repeated adage: “Practice makes perfect”? Lame, perhaps, but true. No one ever wrote a masterpiece on their very first try. With the vast, near limitless options to toy with, fan fiction offers you that ability to keep practicing and practicing and practicing, which can only help you become better. Scrawling fan fiction helps you to get down your bad writing, see that it’s bad, and then make it better. Any writing will do this, of course, but fan fiction makes it easier because instead of struggling with your one story over and over again, or constantly wracking your brain to come up with new ideas, you can just jump in someone else’s sandbox and play away.
3. You can just jump in someone else’s sandbox and play away.
Some people say that nothing worth doing is easy. I beg to differ. Yes, effort is a big deal and most things in life are going to be difficult, but sometimes, to keep ourselves from going mad, we have to find the easy out. Fan fiction is that in spades. This is a whole world that has already been created for you, with established characters who have already had tons of work put into them. All you have to do is think of something for them to be doing. That’s it. Play away. Have some fun! Explore! As children this is how we learn and grow, but as adults we forget the importance of real play. Take a page out of the book of babies and toddlers and learn via good old fun and exploration!
4. The community is extremely powerful.
There are lots of websites out there for sharing fan fiction, but the one in particular that I use is FanFiction.net. It’s a great site with a great community, and chances are if you share something there someone is going to find it, read it, and comment on it, and that is pure gold for a writer. We crave feedback, even if its not necessarily good feedback. We want to know, at the very least, that someone is reading. Fan fiction is wonderful for this because of the vast numbers of people who enjoy it. For example, years back I wrote a Harry Potter fan fiction featuring the Marauders. I finished that story years ago, and to this day I get the occasional review landing in my inbox. It might not sound like much, but a single review on a story you wrote ages ago can really mean a lot when you’re currently struggling with your current works. Community is important to keep a writer sane and moving forward, and the fan fiction community is a surprisingly strong one.
5. It keeps you writing.
When you’re a writer (or you aspire to be) actually writing is the most important thing to do. In this brave new world of writing conventions, social media, and author platforms, writers tend to forget that the real deal is putting words to paper. Fan fiction helps with this. Any kind of writing – even the creepy kind I mentioned earlier that I have a restraining order out against – is worth doing if it keeps you putting words to paper. There is no writer without the process of writing, so whatever you can write to keep that process moving forward is a good thing to write.
So now that I’ve thoroughly convinced you, what are you waiting for? Fan fiction could be just the thing you need! I know it’s what I need right now, so I’ll see you all on the other side of a new chapter of Returning Hope.