Why Writing Fanfiction Appeals to Me

We’ve all heard the claims. Fanfiction = bad writing. Blah blah blah. Gatekeepers want to keep readers of fanfiction from enjoying fanfiction and writers of fanfiction from enjoying writing it. For some reason.

For one, fanfiction = bad writing is a false equivalent. Just like original fiction = good writing is a false equivalent. I’ve seen excellent fanfiction and read terrible published original fiction, both traditionally and self-published. (The self-published = bad writing argument is a whole other can of worms.) Don’t get me started on how the latter fuels my writerly fury.

Just let people enjoy the thing they like. It’s not hurting anyone. In fact, writing fanfiction for me represents the ultimate form of fun writing. Is writing fanfiction low-stakes? You bet. No one is asking for your money to read it. And that gives me an opportunity to blow reader expectations out of the water. Queue the smug satisfaction.

I’ve got five solid reasons why writing fanfiction rocks. Check them out below and let them encourage you to try your hand at writing fanfiction, if you’ve haven’t already. Wink.

Low Pressure

Like I mentioned, no one demands your money to read fanfiction. In fact, that’s illegal here in the states. And while fanfiction does not always equal bad writing, it often does (and that’s okay!). Sometimes the writer’s talent shines through with great plot or characterization or tension building more than with sentence structure and punctuation. You can still be entertained.

Because readers of fanfiction come in expecting less-than-perfection, the pressure to write publication-quality writing is off. Let me tell you, as a perfectionist writer, that is a huge relief. There’s nothing more freeing than knowing I just have to write my best and my best will almost certainly be good enough for the fanfiction arena.

Pre-Made Setting/Characters

How many writers get critiqued on the lack of setting for their story? You know, when your beta readers mention your story is happening in a vacuum because you haven’t described the area around your character, or the setting of the plot overall. Sometimes you just want to focus on the interaction between your characters. But then you have to use your writing time to build settings and even worlds.

And you know what? I don’t always want to be researching and working out what currency my fantasy realm uses, because ugh, my character just needs to pay with a lot of money to show off their wealth. Let’s get on with it! I would much rather play with someone else’s setting and not have to worry about making up my own for just this one minute.

This is why I write present-day fantasy so much. The setting is right there and I already know it pretty well, given that I live in it and all.

Same thing with characters. The character someone else made may have grabbed me so completely that I want to explore more aspects of their personality. What would they do in this situation? Can I faithfully recreate the behaviors that writer imbued them with? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s find out!

Addition to Existing Narrative

Oh geez, that great show you binged is already over! That 10-book epic series just ended and there’s no more coming! But wait, someone out there made fanfiction about it. Now there’s more to read!

That’s what fanfiction does. It makes more of the stories you love. You can make more of the stories you love. It’s not that the original work is better so there can’t be fanfiction, it’s just that, with fanfiction, there’s more. Of course, you may not always like the fanfiction out there. But that’s just more incentive to add to the narrative yourself with a version you do like!

Practice

The biggest thing for me about writing fanfiction is getting to practice narrative techniques. Maybe I’m good at setup and writing beginnings, but I don’t tend to make it to the big fight scene in the middle. Or maybe I just don’t usually write fight scenes. Either way, I don’t have so much experience writing fight scenes to make them feel natural. I could practice on my own, but what weapons do I give the characters? What attitudes will they have about fighting? What strategies are they likely to employ? Here I go down a research rabbit hole, and now it’s midnight and I’ve written nothing.

With fanfiction, I already know all this information. I don’t have to lay the groundwork just to get to the thing I need to practice writing. I can jump right in and when the fight scene I’ve written is done, I can post it straight to a fanfiction site to see what readers think about it. Rinse and repeat.

Built-In Audience

Oh, how we writers grapple with collecting willing readers. Links to Facebook, to Twitter, to Tumblr, to Instagram. Hashtags and loglines and promises that the original fiction we wrote is free to read. Writer’s lifts to get more followers who might look at our feeds ever again to read what we post. Often we resort to posting in other writer groups with fingers crossed.

Yet with fanfiction, the original writers, producers, and game makers have already made something that many, many, many people love. A portion of those lovers of the original story might go looking for more of it, hungry for anything like this thing that has gripped their hearts. When you post up fanfiction, readers actively looking for more of that game or show or book will find your story. You don’t even have to beg them to read. Unless you’re writing for a very obscure story. Even then, you’ll probably get some views. More than zero.

That’s more than I can say for some of my original fiction.

Conclusion

Have I convinced you yet? If you want to try reading fanfiction, you should check out the major outlets, Archive of Our Own and Fanfiction.net. Same thing if you want to try writing fanfiction. It’s ridiculously easy.

Think you might enjoy reading the fanfiction I’ve written? If you like the weird west fantasy of Deadlands, the nuclear apocalypse of Fallout 4, or the supernatural urban world of Blood Blockade Battlefront, you can check my fanfiction out here and here.

What’s your favorite thing about writing or reading fanfiction? Got more reasons to love fanfiction than I’ve listed here? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you!


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Writing Notebooks Reveal

I have never had much use for writing magazines. When I first began writing, I went to them for instruction, guidance, the revealing of writerly secrets. I didn’t find as much of that as I wanted. Plus, the issues kept piling up in my home, not quite read all the way through, because what is focus? So I canceled my subscriptions and when more offers for magazines arrived in my mailbox, I ignored them.

One of those offers came from Poets & Writers. I had never subscribed to them nor had I submitted to them, so I’m not sure how they got my address and the knowledge that I wrote. But while sick these past couple of weeks, I ordered a digital subscription on a whim. I had long wondered what they had to offer.

Though I still did not find the revelation of secrets to writing stories loved by all, I did find a joyful celebration of writing. A loving lingering over impactful word choice, a delving into the triumphs and heartbreaks of writers, and desperate expressions of the struggles writers face. High emotion for all things writing dripped from the paragraphs, such that I felt validated as a wielder of words for the first time in a long time. Perhaps it’s all just an ego stroke in the end, but one that we writers, toiling away in obscurity and anxiety, could use once in a while.

This issue of Poets & Writers featured as its main article ‘Inside the Notebooks,’ revealing the journals, sketchbooks, and thinking boards from several prominent literary authors. These pages represented the hearts and minds of writers, often scribbled out in big, sprawling letters, on cardboard, and even across walls. Sketches thrown together with no intent to show others, portions blocked off with uneven lines. Sentences that flew up the page toward the top right corner.

The sight of that whole beautiful mess imparted to me a sense of relief. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t make pretty bullet journals with straight lines and perfect sketches. I wasn’t the only one who threw word spaghetti at the page just to see what stuck. Who let feelings out in the margins.

Maybe, all along, this was what I needed from writer magazines. A presentation of reality for writers.

So in the spirit of inside the notebooks, I figured I would do my own notebook reveal. The pictures aren’t great, some of the words misspelled, the margin thoughts messy and disjointed. But that’s the whole takeaway, isn’t it?

Not being perfect. Just being brave.


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2021: An Abundance of Caution

The way I see it, no new year has hurt us the way 2020 has hurt us. In past years, I have found myself quietly swept up in the hope of a fresh start on New Year’s Day. New writing goals to pursue, maximum output calculated down to the letter if I can just write X number of words per day… as if I were some machine, chugging away on the tracks to writing success. No room for error, like bad mental days, family emergencies, work stress, or just breaks to have fun. A piston pumping up and down, ceaseless.

Ironically, I didn’t make resolutions for the year of 2020. Not that I thought I, at last, had things figured out. But just because I had come to learn that not only would I not hit my goals for the year (I never do, as they’re always just so lofty), but that plans have a lot of opportunity to change over the course of 365 days.

Boy, was I ever right about both those things.

Nevertheless, I feel burned. Such that I may never again go into another year feeling optimistic about my prospects. Though too many press releases now have used the phrase, I find myself creeping into 2021 with an abundance of caution. Un- optimistic. Prepared for ambush from some fresh horror, some predator stalking in the ceaseless stream of the future. But I am wary prey and I fully plan to see the next attack on my very existence coming.

All this is to say, there will be no goals from me in 2021. No writing goals, no self improvement goals. Not just because 2020 has been the equivalent of an emotional abuser, traumatizing us all daily. But also because the whole experience has brought home to me more than any intellectual exercise that

none. of. that. matters.

Time will come. Perseverance of whatever that thing is that we pursue will see us through. What need have you or I for tracking and numbers and dates? For output? We need only to continue living. To keep going.

We will always keep going.

There will be new things about the blog this year. If only because I want to try some new things I may love and drop others I have not enjoyed so much. Instead of author updates, which were not much in the way of updates really, I have planned a series of short memoir topics, all centered around my journey as a writer. I will likely drop reviewing every book I read and reserve my reviews column for indie authors and publishers who reach out for the exposure. They’re the ones most deserving of the attention anyway.

Who knows what else will come our way in my microscopic corner of the internet? Certainly not me. I have no plans, after all. But I’m glad you’re along for the finding out.

As always, dear reader, I leave you with my exhortation for the coming year.

Keep going in 2021.


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Author Update: My Favorite Ways to Write

Many a writer takes to Twitter to ask other writers their favorite mediums for writing. We writers all resonate with different methods – typing, handwriting, chiseling, hieroglyphs, whatever. What works for one writer may not work for another, so we love to compare our methods with each other’s.

The choices I make depend on the whims of the muse. Does it want the texture of a pen or of keyboard keys? Are my thoughts coming fast or slow? Did I start this project in Word or on real dead tree paper? All these choices to make the muse happy.

Handwriting.

There for a long time, when I first got serious about writing, I often wrote myself into corners when typing, because I could type out garbage sentence after garbage sentence before my brain could muster any intention for the story. I soon realized I had to slow down. In an interview with Tim Ferris, Neil Gaiman talked about much the same thing. That typing allows writers to just put in everything, not forcing them to be choosy about their words the way handwriting does. Writing by hand forces me to slow down, think through what I’m writing as I’m writing it. I choose this method when I’m feeling my way forward on a story. When I don’t know where I’m going just yet, but I’m ready to start getting there.

Pilot G-2 BOLD pens do it for me. I love the way the ink slides glistening onto the paper, with broad, thick strokes. This makes for easier future reading of my spiky handwriting. But I can also wield this kind of pen in a more cavalier fashion than the delicate needs of a fountain pen. This probably has not helped my carpal tunnel.

College ruled notebooks forever. These have narrower lines than wide ruled, as the name implies. I learned in school to bring my letters all the way to the top of the line, so when I must write in wide ruled, a fraction of my ambition dies with every reach for the top of that extra distant line. I hear great things about this whole bullet journal fad, but I struggle to keep my letters on the same row without guiding lines. So, college ruled. My favorite brand: Mead. The pages have an almost extra broad feel to them than your standard 8.5 x 11. It’s roomy, and I like to spread out.

All this is to say, you now know what to buy me for Christmas. Unlike those myths you hear about writers with stacks of unused notebooks and pens, I use mine right up. Thanksssssssss.

Microsoft Word.

I started out with Microsoft Word because that’s what we had on the family computer. Though a true struggle when it comes to more than basic formatting, this program has seen me through over a decade of writing. I dislike the default settings (because all my college papers and all manuscripts are required to be submitted a different way), so when I start a new document, my brain knows it’s time to get down to business when I make the format setting changes. So when I need a kick of familiarity, I take to Microsoft Word.

I also distrust cloud sharing. Like some old fogey. So I keep backups of my files on Word in 3 different computers. Longer projects also live here.

Google Docs.

Ah, Google Docs. How I hate its file sorting system but love the ability to edit my documents on any device. I took to using Google Docs because of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign I was writing. I kept getting ideas on the go – while sitting in doctor’s offices, standing in line, sitting at the laundromat. I had little extra time at home for writing, so I would take out my phone and type new ideas straight into the master file. Now I write short projects on Google Docs, again so I can do so from any device, but also because Google Sites does not allow mobile editing.

Which brings me to my next point!

Google Sites.

I found Google Sites when I needed a place to post a homebrew Dungeons & Dragons campaign where my players could access the details, all in the same location. Google Sites was both free and simple, preventing me from getting bogged down in the small details of setup (because I will). Downside: I could not make edits on mobile. So oftentimes I would type up descriptions and details on Google Docs and then port them over to the site when I reached a PC.

Now I make a new, private site for collecting all the details of a project into one place. Kind of like Scrivener, but more user friendly. I dig having links to pages specified for each character where I can collect details, backgrounds, pictures, and research links all together. On another page, story outline. On another, notes. Plus, I can upload whatever I’ve written to get the same rush of satisfaction as uploading fanfiction to the internet, privately. Having all the details on one site makes it easy for me to flip around to get the information I need while I write.

What methods do you like to use for writing? Got a program or a trick you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you!


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Author Update: 10 Things I Love That You May Not Know About Me

How about a little positivity today? This exercise sprang from a Facebook trend that circulated during my city’s COVID-19 lockdown wherein people would post lists entitled, “10 Things People Love, but You HATE.”

The whole concept was a bummer, in both premise and execution. That was more negativity than folks needed at the time and I don’t think anyone felt better for having written or read any of them. But then a counter movement began from people who felt the same way I did. When we started to write lists of ten things we loved, I learned so much more interesting things about the people in my circle. For example, one of my college English professors enjoys weightlifting! I would never have known.

Here’s my list. I surprised myself with what made the cut for my top ten, so this was a great way even for me to learn more about me. I encourage you to try this, too!

1. Baking. Though I don’t bake often, I have tons of recipes saved to my Pinterest. Sometimes I pluck one of these out when I’m stressed or procrastinating on something I don’t want to do.

2. Coloring. You may know about this one if you follow my Instagram. I have a very basic understanding of the color wheel, but I use crayons to learn shading tricks and to make the usual an unusual color.

3. Exploring. Especially abandoned places, forgotten spaces, and far flung locations.

4. Scavenging. I’m secretly a Corvid in my heart, because I love finding old things I can still use and love. This covers my obsession with thrift stores, used book stores, and garage sales.

5. Exercising. If God hadn’t nerfed me with weak joints, I would exercise way more than I do. Right now I settle for walking, but dream of running and lifting again someday.

6. Organizing. Plans, items, schedules, topics, projects, I’ll organize them all. I get a sense of peace and well being from having things in order.

7. Listening. To music, people, silence. You can learn a lot about others and yourself if you just keep quiet.

8. Creating. Probably more obvious with all the writing, but this also encompasses drawing, building, fashion, and crafts.

9. Philosophizing. Nothing serious. Just making mental connections about the how and why of life.

10. Daydreaming. I have more in mind to write or do or try or be than I could ever manage in one lifetime. I hope I get reincarnated or existence turns out to be a videogame simulation with extra lives so I can experience it all. If not, at least it all still happened in my mind.

Got a list of things you love? Post yours in the comments below. I’d love to read more about you!


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