In Defense of Fanfiction

I can understand the problems people have with fanfiction.

It’s derivative—that’s the point.  A lot of it is badly written, a lot of it isn’t canon—generally speaking, fanfiction is probably the main conveyor of Rule 34.  It isn’t original and it’s just this side of plagiarism\outright theft.  It’s unlicensed usage, and it doesn’t make anyone any money.

Novelizations, or serials credited to a single pseudonym, are different.*  Permission has been granted; in fact, writers are sometimes invited to write to the specifications of the producers\studios\creators\keepers o’ the canon.  The manuscripts go through an editing process.  The majority of the books are well-written—though I maintain that if a writer isn’t a fan of the original, there’s something missing.  And they make money for the writer and the owners of the original.

One is done for love and the other for money.

Me, I write fanfiction for the fun and the practice.

I watch several amazing television shows I would kill to write for, and being neither murderer nor scriptwriter,**  I write stories.  Canon-interpretations, usually, though once or twice I’ve ended a story arc my way—generally out of impatience or curiosity.  I’ve always been off, but my interpretations could have worked, if the rest of the episodes weren’t already in post-production.

And Lord, how I love me some  inside fan geek jokes!

But besides the entertainment value and the challenge of working within an established structure, it’s the instant feedback that keeps me coming back.  I post a chapter and readers react almost instantly.  A lot of readers.  If they want to read more, they put the story on alert.  If they love it, they put it in their reading lists. And many of them are gracious enough to send me reviews and comments.

One of the best things a writer can learn is the difference between what she thinks she’s written and what different readers know they’re reading.   Another is to learn how to take criticism—or leave it.  Fans are particular—not just about canon and characterization, but about plot and craft.

So are readers of original novels, of course, but an author doesn’t find out how the majority (ie, non relatives and non-industry people) are going to react to a novel, or why, until years after it’s done.  If a book doesn’t do well, getting the next one accepted for publication may be a problem .

If something isn’t working in one of my fanfics, you better believe I’ll know why almost immediately, and in time to do something about it.  If the story tanks, most readers will still give my next one a try.

Writing fanfiction, to my way of thinking, provides invaluable learning experience in a safe environment.

And my writing is improving.

So, sure, I’ve entertained the fantasy of one of the Powers that Be finding a link to my work*** and being offered the chance to submit a proposal for a Real Book™, like a waitress being offered a screen test by a Hollywood producer in a Poughkeepsie diner.

But I’m not holding my breath, and I’m not sitting on my rear, either.^  I haven’t stopped working on original projects—in fact, writing fanfiction has encouraged me to keep going with my own stuff.  Maybe  I’ll even submit that novelization proposal someday—when I do, I’ll have the experience to prove I can handle the job.

So, yeah.  I write fanfiction.

What’s it to you?


*Movie adaptions aren’t included , here.  I’m not saying it doesn’t take talent and skill to do adaptions, but I’m comparing what-if to what-if, not what-if to what-was.

**It might be lack of experience with the form . . . but I think it’s a different mindset.

*** <Cough John Rogers cough Dean Devlin  cough over 43,000 hits for this one cough e-mail me cough>

^Okay, yeah, I am, but the chair is parked in front of a keyboard, so I’m allowing the metaphor to stand.  Sit.  Whatever.


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