The terrible and wonderful thing about fan-fiction is that you can play pretend with someone else’s already established world, someone else’s already established characters (with or without detailed tragic back-stories) and the best part? If you screw it up, it doesn’t matter, you can just delete the story or chapter and try again.
I rediscovered my long-lost fan-fiction account and re-read some of the garbage I had the nerve to post onto the World Wide Web. I assure you, reading through that load of tripe made me want to gouge out my own eyeballs or curl up into the fetal position (I settled for the latter).
Thankfully, while I have never created anything close to resembling the monstrosity that is “My Immortal” by Tara Gilesbie (which is either the most brilliant troll-fic ever created or the literary equivalent of September 11, either way I have never laughed so hard in my life).
However, I wouldn’t consider that an acceptable writing accomplishment (we don’t need more My Immortal fan-fics, there’s plenty of them already). When I think back on the situation, my reasons for why I left the fanfiction community were multiple:
- The 80/20 rule applies with fan-fiction, you’ve got to sift through about 80% of the terrible fan-fiction to get to the 20% of the good fan-fiction, I no longer have that much time to waste
- Constructive criticism is difficult to receive in reviews. While I often received encouraging reviews that told me my story was enjoyable, I was never given specifics of why readers were bothering to read my crap in the first place
- When I wrote fan-fiction, it was my way of writing, but being able to pretend I wasn’t a Writer. I stopped using fan-fiction as a Writer around 2009 (when I started my PWE course), where I had to stop pretending and actually become a Writer instead
- I was never going to become a published author if I kept wasting my time on projects that weren’t going to help me get published.
- I’ve been told by an author (who managed to get a book contract with a big name publisher) that the first thing the publisher asked them to do was delete their fan-fiction account.
However, for some people, fan-fiction is a hobby, a distraction to help them liven the monotony of their boring day-job. But that’s not the case for me, Writing isn’t a hobby I can put down at anytime, it something I do full-time, I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to (I suck at pretty much everything else, so not a lot of options).
I suppose it’s a good thing, being able to look back on my previous writing and cringe, that way I know have improved (somehow?) and I also have to admit, I have great difficulty in accepting compliments about my writing.
When someone tells me they like my writing or they think my story is great
“You actually read my stuff? I’m so happy you liked it :D”
“You actually read my stuff? What is wrong with you? You must be lying to spare my feelings.”
Due to crippling self-worth issues, I spend so much of my time telling myself
I assume it’s only natural and inevitable that everyone else comes to the same conclusion. I find it a lot easier for people to tell me why and how my writing’s terrible, that way I know what I’m doing wrong and therefore I can improve.
The thing is, while I feel that fan-fiction is a good starting point, a starting point is all fan-fiction can be with regards to professional writing, however it is a good way of establishing an audience or readership. The writing and editing communities available on fan-fiction are enormous and I’ve only had positive experiences beta-reading other people’s fan-fiction. I certainly wouldn’t be the Writer I am today without it.
Also, Rotunda In The West Event happening this Thursday: