Friday Fast Five: Why I Believe Writing Fanfiction Is Beneficial To Writers of All Genres

Thinking back, I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned it or not, but here it is – I am a staunch advocate for fanfiction. In fact, I still write it now, despite the fact that I am also working on my own original stories. In the time that I have been involved with fandom, the attitudes toward this particular genre have shifted, for the better, I would like to think. Still, if you had told my fourteen year old self, who had just begun their fanfiction writing career, that they would publicly admit that in a blog with their name attached, they would have thought you were crazy. With that being said, while I do have a number of posts that will eventually go up later this year on the topic of fanfiction itself, today I’d like to focus on the actual mechanics of writing it, and why I believe it is overall a help, rather than a hindrance to writers of all skill levels.

I come to write this post with the knowledge that I carry from having written fanfiction for over 11 years. In that time, I have roughly written at least 500,000 words, if not more. Given the sheer amount of words I have written, it would be hard not to learn a thing or two, no? In that same vein, if I were to look back and compare my first work of fanfiction against the most recently posted, I can visibly see how I have improved as a writer. I, of course, still have a long way to go. I am well aware. Every single day, I work to write better than the last. There are some who will argue that being a published author of a novel is the only way to carry any weight as a “proper” writer, but I disagree, wholeheartedly. To have strung words together, and evoke emotion in another, is to be a writer. This is not to say that I am some guru, or a person having acquired a large amount of knowledge. More so, I simply acknowledge that I have learnt enough that I can safely speak about why I believe fanfiction is beneficial to someone who is considering writing original fiction outside of fanfiction.

Now that we’ve established that, I would like to say that like with all writing advice, that mine should be taken with a grain of salt. I just have opinions, and like anyone else with some sort of platform, I state them. Not all advice works for every single person, but it can be beneficial to others. In this post, I will be pro-fanfiction. I am aware, as with everything else, that it has its own issues, too. However, for me that doesn’t detract from what one has to gain from writing and interacting with it.

Okay. We’ve gotten this far, and if you’re still with me, despite my wordy paragraphs above, then I thank you. Below, you will find a list of why I believe writing fanfic is beneficial.

  1. From writing fanfiction, I have learned how to take constructive, and even hurtful criticism. Likewise, I have learned to air my frustrations about the latter in private venues, rather than public ones. Publishing a book is like bearing a piece of your soul, from what I hear, quite like how it feels to press publish on something you’ve toiled over for hours, and possibly even weeks, months or years. Unlike with publishing a book though, the setting for giving feedback is more intimate, and you directly handle whatever you’ve been dealt, be it good or bad. That causes a writer to grow a thicker skin, and to learn that not every one can or will like your work.
  2. Writing fanfiction has taught me to dissect every choice that writers have made before me for strengths and flaws. Thinking critically about the original source material is integral to writing fanfiction. Not only do you have to hop inside the characters’ heads, but also be able to deduce where the writer erred or exceled, and how you can expand upon that in ways that does not take the realism of the world and or characters you are borrowing away from potential readers.
  3. Because I write fanfiction, I have learned how to research and be patient on a project that I would otherwise have sped through creating before. Last year, at some point, I discovered a post on Tumblr where countless fanfiction writers were discussing obscure knowledge they now held, because they had to research for their fics. Before I found that, I had no idea how universal of an experience that was. Furthermore, there have been countless times in which I wanted to plow through a story, only to realize I needed more information than what I had. Though this might seem mundane to mention, I do have a reason for it – a lot of writers have been guilty of skimping on research, when they should have spent more time exercising their ability to do so. Research makes a story stronger when used well, but without it, there will be plot holes and less believable scenes.
  4. From writing fanfiction, I learned how to market and advocate for my writing. As I prepare to work towards publishing original works, I have watched different videos and read a number of articles on the topic. In them, similar advice is employed and mirrors what I, and other fanfiction writers, do for our own work, such as cross posting to multiple sites, and when given the space, discussing with those who might be interested in reading. Of course, marketing in the world of book publishing will not be the same, but the advice is similar and does ring true in both areas.
  5. I learned how to finish novel length projects. The writing process will look different for each person. Regardless, if you have the desire to be published, then you have to first write your work. New writers find this inherently difficult because it is a bear to tackle, especially when you’re not sure what angle is best for you to come at it from. Writing, regardless of project length, it an act of perseverance. If a person cannot persevere, then nothing they write will ever be complete.

Well, there you have it. I could list a few more, because fanfiction has taught me a decent amount, but these are the few I chose to give a spotlight to because as I write my original drafts, I realize how important these lessons were. They have strengthened my skills as a writer and allowed for me to advance as I continue to learn about this craft that I love.

What do you think? Do you write fanfiction? Did I leave any out? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time,

T.J.

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Friday Fast Five: Author Tube Edition

Hi everyone!

This week I’m introducing a new type of post to my blog – Friday Fast Five. The set up is pretty simple – a list of five items, people, etc. pertaining to writing and the topic mentioned in the title.

With that being said, I’d like to direct your attention to the list below.

  1. Jenna Moreci
  2. Elliot Brooks
  3. Francina Simone
  4. Hannah Lee Kidder
  5. Alexa Donne

In no particular order, you have found my top five favorite AuthorTubers, or authors with their own channels on YouTube. Each channel is chock full of writing and publishing advice, if you’re in the market for any of that, as well as some good laughs, if you need those too. I cannot recommend each highly enough.

If you have a favorite AuthorTuber, please drop a link to their channel in the comments below, if you’d like. Self promo is okay too! I’m always looking for new writing channels to watch.

Until next time,

T.J.

The Intersection of Diversity and Willful Ignorance

Though not the only instance where something of this nature has occurred, recently on Twitter there was an author, a woman who identifies as queer, who chose to explain to people why she felt that as a writer she could take creative liberty with facts about a transgender person’s life. As is expected, I and other people reacted with shock, anger, and dismay. I cannot speak for anyone else outside of myself, however, the chain of events that led up to this cannot be placed solely on the author, though it would be easy to scapegoat that one individual. Since the incident, I’ve taken some time to reflect and cool off a bit, rather than approach the topic with my natural reaction, which is a burning fury that anyone could believe that they have the right to erase our identities.

Dr. James Barry, the aforementioned man in question, whose life will be portrayed in the upcoming title mentioned above, presented as a man, acted as one, chose to be called one, and therefore was one. To suggest that the use of female pronouns after there is evidence of him forgoing that identity, is not only distasteful but downright disrespectful to do so. It appalls me that a publishing company or author felt that this was the right course of action to take when it has been made wholly clear that were he alive today, James Barry would be downright indignant at the slight of being misgendered, regardless of the reason for it.

As for what this means for the transgender community at large, I believe it bespeaks a willingness from a publishing giant to underutilize resources to accurately portray an individual who was, in fact, the opposite of what the author they have contracted claims. That others defend her flagrant disregard in the wake of scrutiny from transgender people is also troublesome at best, and terrifying at worst, because people who would know better than someone who is not trans should be listened to, right? One would think so at least.

This whole event is only one case of many though where a writer portraying a person unlike them has taken the story into their own hands and believed that they know better than the people they write about, despite an innumerable amount of protestations to the contrary. It is disheartening that this book was deemed worthy to be published, given that it grossly misrepresents one person to benefit another group of people, while dismissing the real fears of the group that it should actually be about.

As a writer, it is the duty of each one of us who wields the powers to craft words, however good or bad they are, to do so with a respect for those who we portray. Whether our works be about people like us or those who have a life dissimilar from ours that it would take hours, months, or years, to research to become knowledgeable about, regardless, we should do so with the care that we would wish others who write about us to take, and nothing less.

With that being said, there is a petition/open letter to get Little Brown’s attention, which I will leave linked here. Please, if you have a moment to, consider signing it. Thank you!

May The Words Be With You…

It’s no coincidence that I’m making this post today, as it is after all May 4th, better known as Star Wars Day to some, or if you’re misinformed about one particular culture, the day before Cinco De Mayo, to others. As I am not the latter, I choose to identify with the former, and celebrate my spouse’s favorite fandom instead.

So, yesterday I talked about consistency, and making an effort to include writing into our everyday lives. Sometimes that can be hard to do, depending on what’s going on in your day to day activities. Still, to reach your goals, it is a must. Even if it’s only a meager couple hundred, as I’ve heard before, writing begets writing.

It’s as if the act of placing one word after the other and creating something tangible for others to see, becomes like oxygen to a flame. It breathes new life into a person’s mind, and inspires more to develop than before, when thoughts were allowed to remain more stagnant than not. I’ve noticed this in my own life, as well as others. If you’re having trouble scrounging up the barest of word counts, then here are some tips that may help igniting the catalyst of your own  imagination:

1. Keep a journal.

Everyone needs a place to spill their thoughts. While some prefer divulging their most intimate secrets onto social media, I prefer to have a place that I can explore the inner workings of my mind, without everyone and their canary chiming in. Like with Facebook, I can go look back at what I’ve written. Unlike Facebook, I don’t need to worry about my next employer or a hacker getting a hold of my private convictions.

2. Consider different points of view.

Personally, I can’t stand reading or writing in first person. It feels so constraining to me, and does not allow the reader an accurate scope of the whole story. There are a few books I have read that are exceptions, but they are rare. Most of the time, the novel merely ends up being a contrived version of what it could have been, had another point of view been utilized. This brings me to my next point.

If you’re stuck at a certain spot in your project, attempt to write from a point of view.  Even if you never include this bit into the actual completed work, at least allow yourself to see from a different perspective. Maybe, this could help you see where the plot needs to go next, or perhaps, it will help illuminate where a character needs more development. Either way, sometimes, all a person needs to move forward is a new vantage point.

3. Think of your characters as real people, rather than merely vehicles for their actions.

One thing that bothers me infinitely about certain books, is that the characters feel so contrived. Reading them is never any fun, because it seems as if their sole purpose is to keep the narrative moving. This, of course, should not be the case.

Real human beings have thoughts, ideas, fears, passions, and the list goes on. So too then, should the characters. Even though characters are not in fact real, they are meant to mimic those that are. Meaning, a writer needs to be aware of all of the qualities that their character possesses, even if one is rarely mentioned, these attributes will affect their actions at some point, in some way.

Therefore, when I’m going through my usual routines, I think about how my character would react to this or to that. I wonder, would they enjoy doing this, or would it irk them endlessly? These are the types of questions that should be answered while creating a role in a project, because it is vital to understand the character that you are trying to fabricate.

Well, that about wraps it up, for now. I hope at least one of my points will help you at some point down theΒ road.Β Good luck in your writing, today and everyday. May the force be with you.