Why Writing Fanfiction Can Be Beneficial
If there’s one part of my Writing Journey™ that I wish I could push to the furthest depths of my brain and leave there… it’s the fanfiction.
I’ve mentioned it a couple times before in previous posts, specifically those exchanges of really stupid dialogue with characters acting completely ridiculous with each other. *eyeroll*
[ And let’s just pretend for a minute that it actually made sense for burgers to “twist your vowels”. No, not bowels. I wrote vowels. I have no idea anymore ]
And Drama™. Emphasis on the Drama™ part, because every single exchange I wrote them having turned into either a shouting match, or a surprise dramatic twist that 0 people saw coming! (But a surprise twist that 0 people wanted!!)
[ No one actually read my fanfics, anyway. But I sure wrote Author Notes™ from time to time, encouraging all my nonexistent readers to “keep reading”]
They were also full of absolutely unrealistic details.
For one, how does one conveniently find the time (and sudden skills) to carve out two full sentences on the underside of a table? As if it was as easy as “deciding to leave a note,” like on a sticky note.
I don’t even know.
But despite however much I cringe staring back at my old writing, writing fanfiction was actually beneficial to my Writing Journey™.
My fanfiction era was a year and some fuzz, and it was a massive step forward in my writing. And despite how much I utterly despise reading over my old stories, I owe a lot to the era.
Writing fanfiction helped me get my foot in the door, and helped me strengthen my writing by a landslide compared to what I wrote beforehand.
And hey, Marissa Meyer got her feet off the ground writing fanfiction, too. So, it’s definitely not ridiculous.
So I want to talk about it. Here’s a few actual reasons writing fanfiction can be immensely beneficial to your writing skill.
#1 | Everything’s set up: you can just be creative
People tend to use the “it’s stealing” argument against writing fanfiction, the idea of using other people’s characters and settings and writing your own stories from it.
And you know, they’re right in the literal sense: you’re using someone else’s characters. But you’re not profiting from someone else’s creation. It’s just opportunity for practice.
(And it can be just as serious and is just as valid as writing an original story.)
For me, back when I was just a 12-year-old getting my foot in the writing door, having everything set up for me was really helpful. I was able to just craft stories and run with it, without the complications of setting up backstories. (Even though now I adore writing all of those things, like backstories.)
And it was absolutely awesome.
…Aside from just getting to put those characters in situations I wanted them in because I was Dissatisfied™ with the show’s plot, which was a hoard of fun.
[ *Ahem* and its cancellation *insert 12-year-old Violet flipping tables* ]
This is why I think fanfiction is a good route to write yourself down. You can be nothing but creative and put all of your heart and soul into the most exciting part: writing the story itself.
[ I’m going to pretend that I didn’t just write heart and sole instead of heart and soul… yes, heart and foot ]
At least, I think the writing of the story is the most exciting part. (Though I’m a panster who can’t plan a word of a novel beforehand, so I’m not sure where that puts me.)
But I do think this is one of the benefits. That way, you can focus on the story and putting together the right plot. It’s definitely a good plot exercise, because it’s depending all on your plot.
It’s got characters, it’s got (unless you choose not to use it) a setting, it’s got histories and pasts and relationships and enemies and all that good stuff: it’s just waiting for your plot.
(Which, for someone who feels like she completely and utterly fails at writing plot —[ha, ha, ha]— this is a really, really helpful exercise.)
[ …I should get back into writing fanfiction, honestly ]
#2 | Testing things out
Maybe I’m the only one, but I absolutely can’t change something about a story partway through writing it.
I’m talking about things like grammar, past tense and present tense and all of the facets, or POV, first second or third, etc.
And for me, what I write tends to be big long stories that drone on for about 50 years.
If my novel “sealed” is any consolation, anyway. I mean, it took me two years to write two drafts. Though, that was??? almost 300k in all? between the two drafts?? So maybe that’s a weird example?
[ what no there’s no way 300k is the right number, I’m gonna have to check that ]
But I digress.
Plus, for a long time I never even knew what kind of styles I liked.
I used to write a lot in first person, then switched to third person during the fanfiction era.
I also switched constantly between present and past tense. Some present tense descriptions sounded better, and some past ones sounded better. I was a mess in that realm.
Actually, I never knew what I preferred. But now I do, because I was able to find out.
Writing fanfiction let me: because I wrote endless small stories. I have about 55 fanfics in all, all written for the same lame pairing in that same year, some upwards of 50k words, and some less than a thousand words in all.
In writing all of those little stories, I got a feel.
I figured out what I liked, in terms of point of view. Like I said, I used to write exclusively in first person, but by the end of the fanfiction era I was writing exclusively third person.
Additionally, I figured out what tenses I liked– and for that time being, I figured out that I liked past tense.
[ The matter of whether or not I actually knew all of the differences between past and present tense during that era remains to be seen, actually ]
I suppose I could have gotten the same results having written a ton of short stories. But I’m a novel writer. I’ve even struggled, nowadays, to write little stories, because I’ve moulded myself so well into the novel mould that I don’t fit very well into the short stories mould at all anymore.
But I definitely couldn’t have learned what I liked if I hadn’t done all of those stories.
I’m not saying you’ll have the same amount of dedication as I did, or need to write 55 stories to figure out what you prefer, but the act of writing a lot of short stories (like fanfiction enables you to) gives you the room to figure out the kind of writing you want to write on a smaller timescale.
And why not? Fanfiction is plenty enjoyable. You can dictate what happens, and make your favourite characters do the things they never have in the canon.
#3 | It can help you get better at writing
This one seems perhaps a little obvious, because the act of simply writing for even just 5 minutes on a day helps your writing get a little better. Even in the tiniest way.
I definitely stand by that fact. The more you write, the better you become.
Which sounds really stupid and obvious, or just really impossible, because how do you get better if you’re doing the same thing?
That’s just it: you’re not doing the same thing. Every day that you read books, listen to people talk, and read things online is a day your writing becomes a smidge better.
Whether that’s because you picked up a word that one person used that really stuck with you, or you noticed something you definitely did not like in someone else’s writing and promised to yourself you’d never do such a thing.
The more you experience as a human, and the more you grow, even in the smallest ways, the better your writing ability grows.
And, the more you write, the better you become!
So that’s where I think fanfiction is awesome: you can more easily manufacture enthusiasm and inspiration in order to write a bunch of stories in a smaller timespan than, say, a novel.
And every time, you’ll get better and better.
You might already be passionate about a fandom, and it’s easier to get inspiration to want to see something specific happen to those characters than it is to manufacture inspiration for new, original characters drawn out of a hat.
(Which is where the fact that it’s all set-up and ready to go comes even more in handy!)
And really, the more that you write, the better you become at writing itself. I guarantee it. You’re always growing, every single day.
The growth might feel minuscule sometimes– and is much better viewable on a larger scale, like looking back at your writing from a span of years– but that doesn’t make it any less real or any less valid, or any less to feel good about.
Fanfiction lets you write (easily) little one-shots and stories quickly and fast, without having to worry about setup. And the more you pen out, which you’d already be (maybe) more excited about, the better you get.
It’s win-win, in my opinion.
I can look back on all of the fanfic I wrote and watch myself slowly get better. I was enthusiastic to write a lot, and it paid off because I made big strides from the first one-shot I wrote to the final one. And I hadn’t really felt like it then, but it’s very clear to see it now.
It paid off.
You can enjoy a fandom while at the same time
strengthening your writing
All in all, I do think fanfiction is a really good way to get better.
I remember when I wrote all my horrible fanfiction that I really had no idea how to boost myself forward with writing.
Of course, I knew I loved writing? But I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t get many ideas, and before fanfiction I didn’t really write many stories.
I was also kind of —[haha, funny]— a bit of a perfectionist.
Fanfiction boosted me up, I think. You can write something and have fun with it, and know that it doesn’t have to be serious– it doesn’t have to be perfect, and it’s fun.
And that’s what it was for me: fun, not serious, but something I could pour my heart and soul into. Instead of crying over my show getting cancelled.
You can strengthen your writing… but also have fun in a fandom. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty obsessed with fandoms. I love getting into them, and reading fanfic tends to be inevitable for me. And if you’re me, you probably read fanfic a lot.
[ *whistles* No, I don’t read fanfic every morning… that would be scary, of course I totally most definitely Do Not™ do that ever! ]
So it ended up being a pretty much win-win situation for my growth.
…Even though I cringe out of my skull when I see any given line from any of my old stories.
OR? THE PLOTS? I mean, I literally wrote a story called “All Because Of a Hand”. And that sounds like some sappy, dumb thing, right?
…but were you expecting a story about a girl who had her crush’s face tattooed right above her knuckles (INCREDIBLY DETAILED, might I add) along with an “I” and a heart tattooed on two other fingers?
I actually wish I was kidding. It gets better, too, because I’m pretty sure there’s literally a line about how she started crying and, from the guy’s perspective, thanks to her makeup “looked emo”.
The story’s plot is literally this guy watching his friend kiss her finger and being like ??what?? and watching her put a glove on over it and not understanding why is she kissing her finger every day at the same time until?? GASP! There’s drama with some popular girls (because of course, they aren’t “popular”) and wOW SUDDENLY she has passed out from the shock of all this drama and… oh my GOSH? It’s his face tattooed on her finger?
WHAT A PLOT TWIST! SHE IS IN LOVE WITH HIM!
The last line is even “All because of a hand”. I wish it wasn’t so.
My fanfiction was pretty horrible.
[ I could talk endlessly about my fanfics, let’s stop me
But despite the cringeworthy factor, I’m grateful for it. It was a pretty important part of my life, when it was my thing. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am with my writing today had I not written all of that. It was incredibly important, and even though I might pretend the folder doesn’t exist, I still keep it on my desktop.
So, what do you think of fanfiction? Have you ever thought about writing it?