I’m just a high schooler, but I fret. A lot. More than’s healthy for me, probably. Even when I’m writing, I’m always worrying – Is this good enough? Would someone publish this? Should I just give up? Sometimes I lose the point of writing – to write, to have fun, to tell the stories I want to tell.
Two years ago, while I was waiting for the lunch period to end, I passed the time by writing a fanfic (fan fiction). For those of you who aren’t complete nerds, that means a work of fiction by a fan (slightly obvious) based on another author’s work. I’d never written a fanfic before, but I was bored, and I’d just finished reading Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters series for the millionth time. As always, the ending grated on me. I wanted to change it, and hey – I could. I was a writer, after all.
I wrote about four pages – but to be honest, it was a little notebook – and then the bell rang. For almost two years, I forgot about it. After all, it was a fanfic. It wasn’t commercially viable at all. What was the point of finishing it?
Then, on a whim, I posted it to a site to share with some other Westerfeld fans, just for the fun of it. Surprisingly, they liked it – and wanted more. “No,” I told them. “That’s all I have. It’s not like I can publish it, so I’m not writing the rest.”
But they kept asking, and eventually I started writing the story again. I still am, and as I do, I’ve realized that fanfics aren’t so useless after all.
1. The biggest thing is, they let you relax. There’s no pressure at all. You’re never going to publish this – so it doesn’t have to be a perfect, polished, beat-the-life-out-of-it copy. You can just write and have fun with it. Writing a fanfic has allowed me to remember that writing can be fun, not a chore.
2. It’s a good exercise. To do a good fanfic, you need to match the author’s style. You have to shift your writing to match the character’s voice. In a book like Midnighters, where the POV switches between five main characters, that’s a lot of different voices. It’s good practice on switching tones.
3. You can share without fear. No one’s going to steal your work. Also, at least for me, sharing a fanfic is a lot less pressure than sharing my own original work. It’s not really mine, so I feel less possessive over it. If someone doesn’t like it, it’s not as much of a big deal.
4. Like I said earlier, sometimes you don’t like the way a story went, or ended. Maybe it just ended so soon. Finally you can control what happens, and make the ending what you always imagined.
Fan fiction isn’t for everyone. But it’s a good exercise, and a fun way to stop taking writing so seriously. Try it sometime.