Unsolicited Writing Advice #2

Alright folks, it’s time for the inevitable fanfiction edition!

Fanfic has a reputation for being frivolous, embarrassing, and usually just downright bad. (The reason for this is an entirely different post, but it boils down to the world of fanfic is primarily a [young] female space, and of course anything teenage girls are into isn’t “real” art. There’s not enough server space on the planet to contain my rage about this.)

Most people who know me know I write, but almost no one knows I dabble in writing fanfic. It’s just not something I bring up in “polite conversation.” But I’ve been at it here and there since I was 12 and writing truly awful Harry Potter fic.

But if I were to take up the guitar, no one would fault me for learning a few simple and well known songs once I have the chords down, no one would feel secondhand embarrassment just to learn I like making covers of popular artists’ work. In art class we copied the greats and learned from them. Just about any other skill you pick up, people understand and expect you to start with the basics, then move to emulating professionals you admire, then expand into your own style.

Fanfic is no different. It’s an amazing way for young writers (and old ones) to learn and–most importantly–get feedback from a community that’s active and responsive. Getting a few impartial people to read an original short story you wrote is like pulling teeth, but if you write fic people will flock to it, and they’ll usually give you legit critiques (especially if you ask for it.) Write enough and you’ll start to notice patterns, people praising certain aspects and critiquing others.

But fanfic is also just a really nice low-stress way to write. Feeling overwhelmed by the ultimate futility of struggling through a world that will one day be consumed by the sun? Think everything is pointless because one day even the universe will die? Why not kick back and imagine your favorite characters falling in love! Then write about it!

Go forth and obsess about the things you love, write gratuitous sex scenes and shameless self-inserts. Fix the problems Hollywood left in the movies and TV shows, bring those dead characters back to life. And don’t be ashamed–every word you write makes you a better writer.

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