April 9, 2012

Fanfiction was my best teacher

First, some back story (feel free to skip):

I entered college majoring in education. Less than a semester in, I remembered I hated talking in front of people and what the heck was I thinking?! So I did what I should have in the first place and majored in creative writing (and to hell with it not being practical).

To be honest, my writing courses were... okay. I had one professor who was phenomenal. I was fortunate to have her both in my sophomore year and for my senior capstone. She told me all the hard things I needed to hear about my writing. The other classes, however... well. I wasn't terribly impressed, and my writing felt stagnant. At the time, I was also reintroducing myself to anime, and it wasn't long before I discovered fandom and fanfiction.

A year later, I was still feeling discontent about my writing. After reading a particularly well-written fanfic, I decided I wanted to try it myself. I quickly fell in love, and over the span of the next several years, I wrote over 70 pieces of fanfiction, varying in length from 100-word drabbles to full-length 100k+ word novels.

/end back story

The point is that fanfiction renewed my writing muse. There were numerous reasons why, but the biggest reason was this: quality writers.

I know, not what you were expecting, right? And also not the first thing to come to mind when seeing the word 'fanfiction.' In fact, after spending years in fandom, I know that most fanfics aren't that great.

It's true--fandom is filled with drivel. Lots and lots of it. And lots of it. AND LOTS OF IT. But if you keep looking, you will find those writers who leave you squinting through the sheer dazzle of their talent. Who can string words like a dream, whose stories will leave you a blubbering mess or in euphoria (and also questioning why on earth they're not published).

I was fortunate enough to call many of those writers my friends, and they inspired me and taught me more about storytelling than any college class ever did. Every time I felt down about my own writing, I went back into one of their stories and reread a few favorite passages. Almost instantly, I felt renewed all over again.

Through them, I learned what powerful storytelling was. I learned that dramatic moments were strongest delivered with subtlety, that the best stories were layered, and that characterization was everything. I learned that pantsing really didn't work for me, that my favorite relationships were those forged in adversity, rivalry and camaraderie, and that the most important thing about writing any story is to make the reader care.

But even the fanfics that weren't good helped me, because they taught me what not to do--although it took me a while to get there because, just like in any profession, you have to develop an eye for what's good and what's not through time and exposure.

The desire to continue improving within this setting meant I wrote a LOT of fanfiction, and through sheer practice and an evolving understanding of my writing, I got better.

Fanfiction was a VITAL part of my growth as a writer, and my fellow fanficcers were my best teachers.


I was going to write a post about why fanfiction is so beneficial to budding writers, and then I saw this in my blog feed and went "MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY!" :)

Gwen on The Benefits of Writing Fanfiction

There's also this amusing and accurate post on fanfiction by Yan at Books By Their Cover:

Rant: FanFiction

Happy Monday, everyone!


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