My teen self would have been positively mortified if someone had discovered that I wrote fan fiction during my high school and college years. As far as I knew, fan fiction was the nerdiest of the nerdy, the geekiest of the geeky, and all-around the most uncool thing that a girl could have as a hobby. It was a guilty pleasure that not even my family knew about until I was several years into it.
Now at 25 years of age I can calmly admit to the world that I did once write fan fiction. That may just be because I’m no longer standing trial in the court of coolness or the fact that fan fiction has become slightly less taboo with fan fic-inspired hits like Fifty Shades of Grey entering more mainstream pop culture.
How I Got into Fan Fiction
I found fan fiction in the 10th grade. I don’t remember how exactly I stumbled upon the phenomenon, but I do remember how it solved my writing dilemma. I knew I needed more practice writing, but didn’t have anyone around me that could commit to giving me regular feedback. Fan fiction offered me a community of writers online that were willing to do just that.
Fan fiction was first and foremost a means for me to practice the physical aspect of writing. I could day-dream characters and plots to my heart’s content, but committing myself to put those ideas on paper (or onto the keyboard?) was an entirely different matter. Through fan fiction I was able to come out of my shell and perfect the art of prose in secret.
My Experience with Fan Fiction
All together I wrote four novel-length pieces, a couple of novella-length pieces, and a handful of short stories. I received consistent, constructive feedback as I wrote those novels and had several works translated by fellow fan fic writers into Spanish and Portuguese.
The two universes that I focused on were Harry Potter and Bleach with a few others for the short stories. Looking back I probably picked those series not only because I was a die-hard fan, but also because those worlds are so extensive that they give a lot of room for potential stories.
I preferred to remain canon whenever possible. I didn’t want to sacrifice the original plot or characters just to suit my own personal desires. Some of the best compliments I received from fellow writers was how well I stayed true to the characters’ personalities. That is high praise indeed in the fan fiction world where, like anything else on the internet, quality is not always guaranteed.
Benefits of Fan Fiction
Overall, my experience writing fan fiction was extremely positive. Long-term followers would state how well my writing had improved as I went from novel to novel, demonstrating that I had achieved the goal I had set for myself, to become a better novelist.
Fan fiction gave me a writers’ community that I never would have had otherwise. Those some in my social circle were supportive of my writing aspirations, it became clear that after a while people got tired of hearing about my latest plot twist. Fellow fan fic writers never got bored.
Drawbacks of Fan Fiction
People have very passionate opinions about the ethics of fan fiction. Obviously I pro-fan fiction, but on the condition that it is done purely as a hobby without making any profit. While I disagree with authors who take a super hardline stance against any sort of fan fiction, those who claim the practice makes potential authors lazy are not entirely without merit, at least in my case.
There were times where I had no inspiration for my own stories, yet could writer page after page of fan fiction. I think this was partly because I grew accustomed to the constant feedback of fan fiction online. I had gotten so used to the positive affirmation for each chapter that I could not or would not devote myself to my own novel knowing that I would not get any sort of feedback until I finished the entire draft.
For me fan fiction served a very specific purpose, to train me in the art of fiction. Now that the training period was over, it was time to shift my focus to my own stories and characters. To continue on in fan fiction when I have my own ideas would be a disservice to myself. Fan fiction was fun and comforting when I was a little caterpillar, but now I must spread my wings and fly away.