I’ve read so many great fanfics in my lifetime, and I am always impressed by how many talented writers are hiding out in the fandom corners of the internet. Writers of fanfiction are extremely dedicated to the stories they are telling. They’re not in it for the money, or for the fame (although most do appreciate a comment or two on what they’re writing). Writing fanfic is one of the most fun forms of writing, and it’s actually an incredible starting point for writing original fiction too.
If you’re a fanfic writer, but you’re interested in branching out and writing some original stuff as well, I’ve put together a list of skills that will help you transition from one form of writing to another. Some of these skills are nearly impossible for writers who just jump into writing original fiction to acquire—these skills are what set fanfic writers apart and better prepare them for the business of writing.
Knowing your characters’ backgrounds.
This is something fanfic writers are extremely well-versed in. You lovethe characters you’re writing about, and there’s a good chance you have your own head canons about every aspect of their lives. Sure, some of those facts are based on the source material, but most of it comes from your own mind. You’ve thought so much about your favourite characters that you can answer any question about their lives. This skill translates so well to original fiction. Understanding your characters is how you write authentically. It makes everything genuine—their actions, their thoughts, their speech. This skill will take you far.
Completing intensive research.
Sometimes when writing fic, you unwillingly place your characters into situations that you know nothing about. Luckily, that’s what the internet is for! You want to make sure the situation you’re writing about is as accurate as possible—because someone, somewhere, is going to read your story and know what you’ve done wrong. These research instincts are excellent for original fiction too, because it’s just as important then to get everything right.
Expecting an emotional response.
Being part of a fandom is great because you know that when you post a new fic, you can expect an emotional response from your readers. And I’m pretty certain that some fanfic writers sit around and think about the perfect ways to make readers feel all the feels. Every new story, or every chapter, deliberately has something to create a reaction. Original fiction should work this way too. You want to make sure your readers have emotional responses to the characters and the plot. The sometimes overly dramatic and outlandish tropes in fanfiction might need to be taken down a notch in original fiction, but the sentiment is the same.
Some fanfiction writers work together to write stories. And beyond fanfic, some writers in fandom participate in role-play communities. These tasks require collaborating with other writers, and changing the way you approach writing to mesh well with your partner(s). Collaborating is a great skill to have—even if you’re writing original fiction entirely on your own, you will need to collaborate with many people (not just writers) in the publishing industry as your career develops.
Welcoming and analyzing feedback.
So many writers have a difficult time receiving feedback. For fanfic writers who post their work online, and allow for comments, you’re one step ahead of the game. The internet can be a cruel place, and there’s no telling whether your fic will receive positive or negative feedback. If you welcome feedback and adjust your story based on some of the better critiques, then you have a great skill in your back pocket for writing original fiction. If you decide to find an agent, or work with an editor, being able to accept criticism and integrate feedback into your revisions is an important part of the process.
Enjoying the process.
Fanfiction is all about having fun. Sometimes writers forget that writing should be enjoyable, but most fanfic writers can’t wait to sit at their desk and revisit all their favourite characters. Keeping this important fact in the back of your mind is so crucial to turning writing into more than a hobby. The fact that you turn to a creative writing outlet for funmeans that you are absolutely meant to be a writer.
Good luck to you if you’re attempting to jump from fanfic to original fiction! Let me know how the process is going in the comments—and send me some fanfic recs while you’re at it.