It’s official. The fanfic writing world received an official nod from the Writer’s Digest in the November/December issue.
Here’s the article heading from page 40 of the newest edition.
Now, in all honesty, they didn’t refer to fanfiction by the term we all know and love. Instead, they talked about a writing exercise dubbed “Identity Thief” where you attempt to emulate something about another writers’ work into your own story. Maybe you’re trying their narrative style while you rewrite the big reveal in their story from the perspective of someone who’s known the secret all along and is bored by the proceedings. Maybe it’s their powers of description as you add a scene to the published work. Or maybe it’s how they write a certain character, as you write them reacting to a new set of circumstances they’ve yet to face in the world of print.
To fanfiction writers, we hear the familiar terms of scenes in alternate POV, epilogues, prologues, what ifs, missing scenes, and of course, the AU (alternate universe).
Why was this method deemed so helpful for writing your own original stories? The article focuses on comparisons to artists who go and recreate the works of the Masters to learn the techniques each used to create their most famous works.
In passing, the article mentions this technique is low stakes. The world building has been created, character backstories, etc. This makes for the perfect opportunity to focus on technique, style, and all the other intangibles that make writing the craft that it is.
Of course, the advice here was to take the lesson and then let the story rest in the archives of your written work. What makes Fanfiction Writers different is our (mildly crazy?) notion that these stories must be shared. Sometimes it’s our best foot forward, and sometimes it’s the crazy ramblings of an overtired mind, but either way, we are sharing our “exercises” with the world. And you know what? That’s an important learning tool in writing too.
Total strangers are given the opportunity to read your work, leaving feedback that ranges from one word acknowledgments to the kind that make you realize this is why you write. And of course, there’s the less positive ones as well. Published authors face this everyday in one and two star reviews on their books. You learn to accept the criticisms with grace, and the art of restraint (because this, too, is an art form). And hidden in those comments are sparks of advice that will make your next story, (original or fanwork) just a little bit better.
To all the fanfiction writers out there, take a moment and pat yourself on the back. It may not be paying work yet, but you are published. You have fans and followers. And you are participating in a traditional art of storytelling. Everything else is commentary.