Fanfiction has been praised, vilified, discussed, debated, censored, and censured by the mainstream media, by authors, and, on an individual scale, by some readers, but one thing that I’m not sure has been discussed enough is how it can affect, help, and liberate writers. Often, and sometimes especially, those who are seeking to make a living from their original work at some point in the future.
Some articles break down the rumours that plague fanfiction, the sexual safe spaces it can provide for exploration, and the subculture it has created, but not often do they talk about the safe space (relatively speaking) which it creates for writers in a professional sense.
Long before I wrote my own works seriously, I wrote fanfiction; specifically Fallout: New Vegas and Mass Effect fanfiction. My old penname is gone, along with the fictions I had attached to it, but I had two in particular which garnered enough attention, both good and bad, to make me think that I could do this professionally.
And here I am; a ghost-writer, a content writer, and an amateur author who gives advice (which I have been told is rather helpful) to others.
Victory Lap was my first novelisation, and it will forever hold a place in my heart because of how terrible it was. The structure was terrible, the pacing sloppy, and the concept played out, but people liked it. Even when they left reviews slating my choices they often told me that they enjoyed it, just that they disliked this, that, or the other. (I love this terrible fanfiction so much that I’m revamping it on Archiveofourown and Fanfiction.net under the same name as we speak).
Lean on Me was made possible by Victory Lap and all the terrible drabbles (fictions under 100 words), one-shots (short stories of one chapter), and fictions I produced after it. It became, by my standards, weirdly popular. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t fanfiction famous, as some people really are, but it gained a respectable 30,000 or so views and that was big shit for me.
Fanfiction was a training ground for me that I wouldn’t change for the world; it taught me to be creative, to listen, and it taught me discipline. Yet people look down on fanfiction writers as if this is a lesser form of the craft.
To you people, if you’re reading, I will say this; why? Do you look down on budding martial artists who stick to sparring rather than competing on a larger platform? If so, why not? The concept is the same.
Martial artists spar to gain confidence and skills because they know that their class mates and teachers will correct them with care and kindness. This is a known, safe place in which to make mistakes while your confidence is still fragile.
Fanfiction is, to my mind, the equivalent, and there are many writers who will never go beyond its borders just as there are many judo practitioners who will never compete; the line between doing something for you and doing it competitively is thin, but its there. We need to respect that.
More than this we need to acknowledge that this is not a statement about their dedication, their skill, or their passion. I know many a fanfiction writer who puts more heart, skill, and dedication into their creations than some of my proofreading clients put into their first drafts (and some of these people expect to get published. Hell, some of them are!).
Fanfiction is a place to gain experience, to make friends, to network, and even a place to unwind and find yourself. It has its place and its value; if you can’t understand that you should respect it, and if you can’t do that I would respectfully suggest that you sit down, shut up, and do something you do understand and enjoy.