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October 20, 2010
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EDIT: If you like this journal entry, check out The Sarcastic Guide to Writing ebook www.amazon.com/The-Sarcastic-G… for exclusive content on world-building, character, and dialogue!


1. Don't write it. Seriously.  Just don't.  You are a million times better off working on your own original ideas, no matter how awful, then to attempt fanfiction.  Even the thinnest expy of fanfiction is better (but not by much.)  Fanfiction creates numerous false sensibilities about world-building, characterization, and plot; it creates false ego and confidence in the author.  Fans of whatever you happen to be writing are predisposed to love you because you're writing about Link, not because you do a good job of it.  They will love you because they "agree" with the way things should've gone, the person their hero should've ended up with, not because you're creating tension or relevant stakes.  The totem pole of professional fiction writing can be imagined thusly: literary is at the top, genre fiction is at the bottom.  Genre fiction is broken up by methods of publication: professional on top, self- publishing at the absolute bottom.  Where is fanfiction?  Underneath the ground of the totem pole, where no one ever, ever sees it or talks about it.  Are you starting to get the idea yet?  The barest, barest exception for fanfiction is writing in a template world, like the annuls of a D&D character or a werewolf in the World of Darkness.  But even that carries such a hilarious stigma you're better off not mentioning it outside of the Internetz.  If you feel like fanfiction is the only thing you can write: you need to read more.  You haven't been exposed to enough wonderful, inspiring, original literature and are in deep danger of regurgitating the exact same kind of story you're fangirling over.  (Most writers and readers of fiction are female, so nyeh.)  Eragon proves that on a near cosmic scale of pain.

2. Constantly refer to rule number one. Fanfiction can never be treated seriously. Whether by the fandom or by the author of the fanfiction, you cannot take it as serious literature. Yet a lot of people do.  Color me baffled over the kind of vitriol and death threats that spew forth over slash fics, or fix fics, or Mary-Sue fics.  Apparently everyone but the fandom has heard of the adage "It's just fanfiction."  I suppose a lot of fandoms and fanfiction serve as escapism for socially crippled folks, and to see their pure, beautiful escapes besmirched is enough for a near-psychotic episode.  Fanfiction lends itself to acceptance, way more than regular writing does.  It has a built-in creative support community, somehow, while the rest of us sadly acknowledge that writing is, indeed, the loneliest profession for a reason. Fanfiction writers timidly step up, whisper their name, and are welcomed as a brother, a sister, long-lost kin (provided you're writing in the right place.)  As long as the author of fanfiction doesn't take themselves seriously, I suppose the writing of it can kinda be okay.  But ultimately, if one wants to get serious about writing, you cannot write fanfiction.  You have to learn how to characterize without using the traits of a figure so well-known that even if you screw it up people will get their motivation.  You have to learn how to world-build, to make your rules of magic and fantasy abide by an internal logic; in fanfiction all that is already done for you.  You're playing by pre-established rules, not figuring out how to establish them and make them relevant to the plot.  (And if you take these pre-established rules and supposedly stick them together with "original characters", believe me: someone's gonna notice.)  And your plot has to consist (hopefully) of more then who goes to bed with who and why we should care.

3. Seriously, don't question it. Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments is probably the most shining example I can give of why a fanfiction background is a bad idea.  She wrote a Harry Potter fanfiction where Ron and Ginny had the hots for each other and Draco was a charming anti-hero.  Incest-fic, ho!  She got super popular, despite some plagiarism accusations (which were true).  Then she got published professionally.  First of all, her debacles in fanfiction had already given her a built-in Fan Wank/Hatedom.  Second, her story is a thinly-veiled expy of her own fanfiction.  That's right.  I dare you to read her fanfiction, then Mortal Instruments without seeing Jace as Draco.  (At the very least!  Cassandra Clare and the main character is named Clary!?)  While some parts of her published trilogy are original, too much of it is derivative, and her world-building and plot have some serious issues.  Her built-in fandom created blowback for her professional career.  And the coup de grace?  Clare has taken down all of her fanfiction.  Tried to hide her shameful past (and failed miserably, I might add, you can still find the Draco Trilogy online.)  Whether due to pressure from her marketers or because she genuinely wants to separate herself from it is anyone's guess.  (Secretly, I maintain that Clare's Internet presence is what got her published, since publishers do take the author's ability to market themselves into account when deciding whether or not to take them on.)  I firmly believe that Clare's writing talent and perception of craft were heavily tainted by her fanfiction background.  She was warped into thinking things that the average writing group would nix were acceptable.  Her perceptions grew crooked from the start.  And while she was in the same writer's group as Holly Black and Libba Bray, her fanfiction background shows painfully when put next to her compadres.  Yeah, it's possible to ghostwrite and get a career out of fanfiction; but guess what?  Your competition is those who didn't write fanfiction.


4. The Internet is not an excuse. Unfortunately, the Internet creates false comradery in a lot of its communities.  DA here is a perfect example; someone can be an awful, awful artist, but they come here for validation, friendship, and acceptance; and by and large, they get it no matter how much they might suck.  On the other hand, if you're serious about art, you go out into the real world to get some unbiased critique.  The same can't be true of fanfiction.  If you take fanfiction out into the real world, serious writers will spout Rule#1 at you.  If you happen to find any Ideal Readers for your fanfiction, odds are they're around you're age and just as inexperienced as you.  Plus, fanfiction can't be professionally published without the original creator's permission (unless it's a parody, which can walk a fine line.)  Since fanfiction has little to no professional value (except within a very slim margin of ghost-writing for a series), the only other value it can possibly have is in teaching you to write.  But wait!  Fanfiction communities don't critique like real writers.  They're already inclined to, in a word, luuuuurve your fanfiction, because it's about their favorite thing ever!  Therefore, they are willing to forgive nearly anything, from hackneyed dialogue, to dues ex machinas, to stupid, stupid ideas.  Unless you make Sonic sleep with the wrong person, then you might get savaged (which is not a viable critique of plot; or, well, anything.)  Need I invoke My Immortal for the best of fanfiction?  We're talking someone who can't even spell with that one.  Once again, the readers of your fanfiction are probably your age and, failing that, within your level of reading exposure and writing prowess.

5. See rule number two.   Fanfiction reminds me a lot of drawing in the anime style.  If you're young, and you start using it as a tool without exploring other options, sooner or later it will become a crutch.  It will trap you because your confidence extends only as far as your sense of familiarity.  There are many, many blogs out there authored by people who grew up writing fanfiction, never learned how to handle real critique, and will never have a writing career beyond their blogs.  (I suspect this is because they don't have enough confidence in their own ideas, or their own ideas are so stupid the ridicule aimed at them is well-deserved.)  They feel safe in their bubble of acceptance, and it's so much easier to stay inside where it's warm and cozy.  Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, as long as their fanfiction doesn't get all over my writing group.  The appeal of writing fanfiction lies in that all the problems of writing are solved for you; you don't struggle like the rest of us.  Which is why real writers get their hackles up when fanfiction writers bounce into the room.  You stand on the shoulders of giants and squee "Look what I wrote!" while we've spent the last five weeks banging our heads against a wall trying to get connective causation into our world-building.  We know you didn't create Wolverine or his backstory, and we know you didn't create the Sailor Moon world he's currently visiting.  Even for the most painfully shy writers looking for acceptance: I advise you not to write fanfiction.  Write something original and hide it away, rewriting again and again until you feel like maybe, just maybe, it's good enough for someone else to read.  The world of literature doesn't need any more hacks.  It needs more stories told from the heart, more truth drawn from the pain and joys of personal experience.  (Which is what any writing worth its salt is supposed to be about.)  If writing is real life, fanfiction is a playground, or an amusement park.  It's okay to go there maybe once in a while, but it's not your home.  If you live there, odds are you're some kind of carnival freak. Don't be surprised when you get treated like one.  Hose yourself off and join the rest of us. We'll be glad to see you.
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:iconarhasen:
Arhasen Aug 20, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
*Thoroughly chastened, goes off to burn fanfiction
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:iconetesian:
Meh. I agree with you for the most part, but Fanfiction was the first thing I ever wrote (or the first story I can remember writing). Back in 2nd grade, harry potter fanfic about Harry's long lost sister Harriet, who was obviously me. It was probably the most terrible thing ever not seen by human eyes. But, fan fiction has given me more confidence in my writing, and a larger understanding of developed characters. It's good practice. I have not actually WRITTEN fan fiction in years, but I still make up characters in my head. I mean... granted all the fan fiction I ever did write was still my own terrible mary-sue characters, But I wouldn't say it's all bad... just mostly.

Unfortunately the anime drawing style thing has gotten me T__T and I have been spending the last 3 years trying to get rid of it. At least my characters have noses now... OTL
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:icongrey-midnight:
Grey-Midnight Mar 4, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
"If writing is real life, fanfiction is a playground, or an amusement park. It’s okay to go there maybe once in a while, but it’s not your home. If you live there, odds are you’re some kind of carnival freak. Don’t be surprised when you get treated like one. Hose yourself off and join the rest of us. We’ll be glad to see you."

:XD: Really, I'm not sure how you manage it, but your writing always gets to me. It makes me laugh, second guess, and make me feel like I have to rewrite all of my stories.
Anyway.

Two questions:
-What do you think of Libba Bray? (I've only read Going Bovine, so I don't know her well.)
-Would you recommend Watership Down by Richard Adams as a good book to read?

I find all these "5 Tips" journals entries intriguing and helpful. I like the strong voice, too, and how you manage to pull up multiple sources and examples.
I'm only in middle school, so maybe this sounds like a bunch of junk to you … but whatever. I don't feel like putting all this typing to waste.
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:icondroemar:
I like Libbra Bray a lot. Her Rebel Angels series was fantastically done. So yes, read her.
And for the love of god, YES, READ Watership Down. I might be biased, because it's my favorite book of all time, but it's epic world-building and characterization all in one.
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:icongrey-midnight:
Grey-Midnight Mar 18, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I'll look into both of those. Thanks :)
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:icontigers-shadow:
As a person completely obsessed with a well written Alt. Universe Fanfics I have to disagree xD

Some of my favorite stories are fanfictions, but besides some shared history many of them are...completely different (in a good way) than canon, or just different enough.

There are a few things I like to think fanfiction can help me with:

-Scenes that would happen in the middle of a book. I can write a little scene and get critique and improve and learn.

-Things I never write: I have recently fallen in love with Challenges. I put way too much thought into my own stories and it is much too complicated for a little scene. With an already establish fandome you can jump right in and get to the part you need to work on. Like dialog or emotion or keeping in character.

-Actually, my last point, When writing fanfictions its easier to get feed back on how well you are keeping the character consistent.


Now....does it take a lot of WORK to find/write good fanfiction...yes, but honestly some of them make me /feel/ (laugh, cry) more than original novels. The being said the majority can be crappy and pathetic and well its like anything else on the internet, you just have to find the right section for what you want.
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:iconlexmosgrove:
lexmosgrove Dec 30, 2010
Well said. So here are my two cents.

I'm not much into fan fiction (I do read some slash, if it's well written), and I don't write any anymore (I remember writing a total of two fan fics that never proceeded far because I thought they were completely hackneyed :XD: ), because I couldn't do the setting and characters any justice anyway. That's for once because my writing sucks, and for another because I apparently lack the arrogance one needs to claim to know an author's world well enough to write supposedly realistic fiction in it (i.e. to write anything of consequence to the canon). For that matter, I barely do fan art either.

However, I don't think the act of writing fan fiction itself is a bad thing, especially since - if you do your best to actually write a decent story, not some cheap fanporn - it can be good writing practice, precisely because it takes away the responsibility to build a world and characters, and thus lets you focus on other aspects of writing (provide you care to do so). On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with writing some horrible, Sue-infested fan fic that's not to be taken seriously either, as long as you don't pretend it's anything else than horrible, Sue-infested fan fic that's not to be taken seriously (this is the same principle as with parodies). =P

As for fandom influence on stories... well. I sure am guilty of that, but to my defense, it's hard to avoid at times, and I usually catch the parts where things are getting derivative during revision. I just wish more people out there would not try to sell some obvious rip-off of their favorite novel. Or better yet, go the extra mile and learn how to steal ideas properly if they absolutely have to.

However, there's still nothing more fun than building your own world and filling it with your own stories. :D
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:iconjojoiwi:
. . * . .

First, I completely understand and support your apologize.

Second, I'll apologize if my English writing may sound clumsy in grammatic. I'm not a English native speaker.

I'm very nervous about the way I am going to reveal myself.
I'll admit, in a good or bad way that I really enjoy reading fanfictions, especially if their authors work really hard to get everything as their original creators did.


Back then, when I was 15 - 16 years old (almost 19 years old now), I was a great fan of Naughty Dog's franchise Jak and Daxter and wanted to know how their world was like.
The problem was I didn't have any resources (like a playstation or Internet) back then.
And it never became an important reason to get something like that...
Sure, there was a wish, but why make my mother loose a part of her money, just to pay for a technology, which would be replaced in a matter of time (the playstation)?
(I still bless this judgment)
Plus, there aren't many games I can appreciate.

I just had the library/school's internet (yes, the fact of wanting so desperately know what they were sounds a bit creepy.
But don't worry, I always had good grades. ^^;
We could just say that I was one of those girls who like to live in their own little world.
Seriously, because in that time I didn't have many friends I could count.
I always had a love to envelope in my characters emotions, including others made by professionals (an unnecessary line, I presume, by what I can see with fan fiction here ^^; )

I wanted to create Jak's world by reading lots of fanfictions, videos and their comments. All of it in my mind.
I even read Janet's Bord's Fairies: Encounters with the Little People.
And actually all of the things I had presumed about Jak were if not, half true. Especially in Jak II, the most admired of the trilogy where the elf boy gets to the future.
You must be asking what this has to do with Janet Bord.
Unfortunately, I only can recommend you reading the book and seeing for yourself...
Its a matter of opinions.

Sure sometimes I attended Wikipedia but I never saw its synopsis.
It was the very first time I had met FanFiction and its world.
There was nothing related to this in school and I was new with Internet.
By my experience I'll say that I had pretty luck with the fanfictions I got. Pretty, pretty luck considering how popular this game seems to be and how scary is the way girls are so affiliated with the major character.

FF.net may be known for its awkward works. But actually, when some work isn't done well, someone will note this for you in a way or another.
We can't be harsh with someone who is trying his/her first attempt at making some writing.
What I've learned from the most experienced artists here is that we must be positive. Just promote what it's good about a work piece and left what its casually wrong and tell him/her to vary.

I understand and agree that isn't constructive and fair to base our entire life upon something that wasn't created by us... but what about those who continue a legacy in some company? What is it really original in this world?

All we constantly need is love. Always love.

I completely appreciate your hard effort at making all these tips to make us get better at what we wish to become someday. You're a wonderful person :nod: and I'm dying to read the rest of your journals... ;)

...but what about DailyDeviation group which has gained a Fanart gallery for the most distinctive works out there?

And I always thought the 7th art - cinema - was a bit like fanfiction. It's in major parts an adaptation of something already created.
An example is Jurassic Park by Steven Spielberg, which suffered tremendous changes in the characters and occurrences time-line to adapt to its more action packed content, while Michael Crichton's was more like a mystery thriller.

FF.net is a fun group, true, it must have lots of awful and repetitive stuff, true...
but there are people who care about finding and reading great, well-written, balanced or original fictions, too, and care about making big collections with all of them in its communities... you must search them.
If you want, I may give you a link. :)
It all depends again in the thing you like.

Goodbye, Droemar
I hope this may have had some message...

-
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:iconwhisperpntr:
Fan fiction is definitely like fan-art and to be treated seriously you do not show a portfolio full of fan art, no matter how well drawn they are. Much like how you said that as a writer one must demonstrate an ability to world-build, dialogue, build unique plots and characters, an artist must show their ability to color, detail, shade, draw, paint and character design to enter the world of conceptual art. Showing a portfolio full of lion king? Sorry, ain't gonna cut it.

Anyways I think people got hung up with how you said real writers don't write fan-fictions and took that to mean that all fan-fic writers were terribad and should /slitwrist. Instead, they should have realized you meant professional writing though if they understood that much I can only lul in response.

Writing is a bitch and I'm not even talking about forming the cohesive and fluid reading structure needed in novels. I'm just doing a comic, world building and writing the plot and that alone has kicked my ass. That said, there are still some elements of my work that I'm proud of and that doesn't come from watching Lion King, Wolf's Rain (shivers) or other animal based stories on repeat and fanfic mode.

It comes from reading, experiencing and researching everything.
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:iconkrystle-tears:
krystle-tears Nov 7, 2010  Professional Interface Designer
Can we just go back to utterly face-smashing Simba with rocks and Dholes? I enjoyed that.
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