I can almost hear certain writers scoff at such an absurd statement. However, I grew up in the generation where Harry Potter fan fiction was strife and created a space for fan fiction from a whole variety of places, including celebrities. In fact, a few published works were originally fan fiction (see the Fifty Shades of Grey series and The Mortal Instruments series).
But how can fan fiction be useful for new writers?
Let me give you some context.
When I first began writing, fan fiction was everywhere. From the badly written fan fiction that was obviously written by a young teen (as I was back then) to beautifully written fan fiction that had to be have been written by someone who knew how to write, fan fiction has released a whole variety of writing styles and genres. I enjoyed writing original fiction, and I did mostly keep to it, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t dabbled in fan fiction writing.
Fan fiction is perfect because it has all the elements ready made for new writers.
Fan fiction has the characters already developed. Fan fiction has the relationships between characters already established. Fan fiction has the story arcs and settings already in place. Depending what type of fan fiction you’re writing, you can alter just one of the elements, such as setting, or you can change all of it except one element.
Sure, to begin with the fan fiction might be awful. But that’s how you learn. By experimenting and researching into how to make it better. That research can include reading other fan fiction, but reading published books and looking for basic writing tips online go a long way. It’ll help you find the basic writing rules, and help you figure out how to bend/break them.
One major advantage of fan fiction is the fandom you’re writing for. Typically, when you’ve written original fiction, it’s hard to convince readers to try your book, let alone convince them to form a fandom based on it. But with fan fiction, you have the fandom behind you, and no matter how crappy it might be to begin with, someone will love it. Honestly. Then you can build up a loyal reader base and potentially advertise your original fiction to them if you ever decide to try it.
Additionally, it depends on the size of the fandom and the popularity of your ship. If your ship is a popular ship, your fan fiction might drown among the more popular ones, or it might be seen a ton because it’s a popular ship. However, if you’ve gone for an unusual ship, chances are you’re more likely to be seen because there will be hardly any fan fiction based on it, and trust me, when you’re desperate enough, you’ll read any fan fiction for that one particular ship.
But most importantly, fan fiction is the perfect place for experimentation. If you’re sick to death of societal norms, you’ll find different sexualities, genders, races, body types and any number of other things present in fan fiction. It can be inclusive in a way original fiction/the canon material isn’t. Or it can just give you a new perspective on characters, from changing their genders to their body type to their sexuality, and sometimes it makes the story/canon far more interesting.
Additionally, if you make basic writing errors, no professional is going to see it… probably. But it might turn readers off, so definitely invest in learning at least basic grammar and spelling. Learning the basic writing rules too helps, such as ‘show, don’t tell’, because it’ll help you improve as a writer.
Because you see, fan fiction isn’t technically wrong since you’re adapting the original material to fit to a story you’d like to see, or expanding on what the original material has provided by tweaking one or two elements, like what if Harry Potter’s parents survived? Simple adjustments, but adjustments all the same.
Yes, perhaps fan fiction isn’t the best medium by any means. But if it helps writers develop their writing voice/talent, I’m all for it.
What do you think about fan fiction? Do you think it’s the perfect place for new writers?