Hayley Zelda ~
Fanfiction is the act of writing stories using existing characters and universes, often from movies, TV shows, and books.
Fanfiction is interesting to analyze because of its popularity and the stigma around it. It’s hard to believe fanfiction was ever considered a bad thing. After all, it’s an accessible way for newcomers to the world of reading to try their hand at writing. For famous authors, it’s an opportunity to experiment in new genres and to try out elements they might use in a future work.
Writing a fanfic is easier said than done though. To become great at it, follow the seven writing tips below:
1. Make sure you attribute and play by the rules.
Many writers wonder what prompts someone to make fanfiction in the first place. They think, “Where’s the line between adoration and theft?” It’s true that a writer should understand one’s influences, but that doesn’t mean that a fanfiction writer has to feel like he’s treading a minefield whenever he writes. The key is attribution, which goes both ways. Not only should you remember to credit the authors from whence you’ve borrowed the characters, settings, and the story’s premise, but they or their estates should be willing to credit your work.
You also should make sure to add your own creativity to the story. If you’re just re-writing an existing scene in a movie, you’re not actually creating fanfiction. You’re just plagiarizing a scene. Bring originality into your work.
Finally, do not monetize fanfiction stories. Because you are using the characters and universes—intellectual property—of somebody else, you cannot and should not monetize your fanfics.
2. Write for practice and feedback
Fanfiction is a great way to practice your writing and build your audience. Fanfiction is great because it allows you to practice writing without having to build a world, storyline, or characters from scratch. You can jump into an existing plot or use a world’s existing rules. You can try all types of scenarios and practice all types of styles without having to figure everything out on your own.
Fanfiction also allows you to connect with pre-built fanbases. Instead of having no fans, you start with a built-in fan base that already loves the fandom you’re working in. For example, if you are writing about Harry Potter, the Harry Potter fandom already has millions of people who love Harry Potter. They are actively looking for stories, making distribution much easier, allowing you to gather great feedback.
3. Know your fandom on a personal level.
Fandom is a word tossed around freely in online spaces. If you’re not into pop culture, terms such as Potterhead, Whovian, Swiftie, and Directioner seem too foreign. Instead, you may be familiar with them when described as the fandoms of Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Taylor Swift, and One Direction, respectively. In case you think you know a lot, check out a fanfiction page and see phrases you might not have heard before.
If you’re already a fan yourself but don’t have experience in fanfic writing, you need to start getting to know your fandom intimately. Learn the little jokes between members and the memorable moments the community shares. Find out the episodes that are most treasured and recalled, the rules of “shipping” / creating relationships between characters, even the history of the world the story takes place in. You need to do these so that you can immerse yourself in the fandom you’re writing for. Furthermore, these will help you write the scene or reference that the readers will remember 20 or 30 years down the line.
If you’re not from the fandom yourself, lurk around the dedicated forum threads and get close with the regulars. Then, ask them questions whose answers will help you create a quality story. Don’t just frequent the big fandom communities; visit the small ones as well. In the latter, you’re more likely to encounter fans who aren’t afraid to criticize or ask obscure questions.
4. Write engaging characters in the fandom.
Major characters, such as established protagonists and antagonists, are a prerequisite in any fanfiction. But the best fanfiction writers create memorable characters that aren’t canon.
The specifics will vary from one fandom to another, but regardless, you’ll need to figure out who will drive the plot. These characters will be in every scene of your story or on every panel of every page. Every scene you write should show readers why they should love said characters.
As you write about the characters, try to make them topics of interest first and objects of ridicule second. What factors make these fictional entities memorable and beloved? Make sure your characters push the boundaries a bit. Aside from that, they should also have distinctive senses of humor and interesting perspectives on the world. At the same time, they should face the same existential struggles that real people do.
While you’re not yet adept at lengthy fanfics, visit flash fiction sites and read a lot. Study how flash fiction often focuses on just one or a few characters.
5. Submit your work to the right websites.
The next step is to pick which websites to post your fanfic on. There are a huge number of them and it will take some delving to find the right place for you. Are you more partial to Wattpad
or Tumblr? Every community has its own house style and guidelines so it will pay to investigate each site’s particular variations. You can even submit cute love stories or one-shot fanfics. Then see how they’re received before committing to a larger project.
Once you’ve found the best fanfiction site for you, you need to focus on building a following. You want to build a base of people who seem interested in what you write. Engage with them by replying to their comments on your work or by interacting with them on fan forums. Afterwards, you may find yourself having more followers.
6. Interact with your potential readership.
Generally, social media is a place where you can connect to your reader base unhindered, but keep in mind that it is also a competitive turf. To grow your social media brand, you should be consistent, easy to target in searches, and good about giving back to your community through free advice and valuable content. Many fanfiction sites also have a way to add an author’s note or a comments section which allows you to develop a close relationship directly with your readers. If you build that relationship, this can be a great fanbase that you can transfer to future original works you create.
If you’re concerned about staying true to your reader base, you might choose to create your own online community. Many authors and brands have their own official Facebook pages and/or Telegram groups, and others open up their fanfic for fan-edits.
7.Want to publish your fanfic?
While fanfics are indeed difficult to publish because of the copyrighted materials, there are a number of popular fanfiction pieces that have become books and movies. If you’re looking to write a novel, fanfiction can definitely be a great stepping stone.
The infamous 50 Shades of Grey, for example, began as a Twilight fanfiction piece that exploded in popularity. After its success, it was then modified to remove the Twilight characters and background and turned into a book and movie.
If you have hopes to eventually publish your fanfic, make sure you go into depth with your characters and insert your own characters as much as you can to make the transition easy.
In the end, writing fanfiction provides beginners with a fun excuse to write creatively, established writers with a peaceful way of exercising their craft, and aspiring writers a clear-cut path to being published. Fanfiction can be a lot of things to many different people—but above all else, it’s fun.
Hayley Zelda is a writer and marketer at heart. She’s written on all the major writing platforms and worked with a number of self-published authors on marketing books to the YA audience.