Guest Post: How to Hone Writing Skills Through Fan Fiction

Today’s guest is the one, the only, Iscah, who will cover the benefits of writing Fan Fiction.
Take it away, Iscah!


 Fan Fiction is unauthorized stories written by fans based on their favorite shows, books, and films.

Many professional authors feel fan fiction is a waste of time, and yes, fan fiction is a violation of copyright.  However many copyright holders tolerate or encourage fan fiction, because it helps keep their fanbase engaged with the world/characters and busy between releases.  Fanlore has a partial list of various authors’ policies towards fan fiction and yes, I think you should respect their wishes.

But writing stories based on other’s work is long, proud literary tradition.  Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was based on a poem by Arthur Brooke.  Many modern, professional authors pay the bills by writing for establish franchises like Star Wars and Monk.

So this article is dedicated to tips for getting the most out of writing fan fiction for those of you hoping someday to go pro…or at least improve at your hobby.

Writing Fan Fiction is a Chance to Study a Popular Work – You know you like the world or characters you’re writing about, but stop to think why you and so many others like it.  What makes these characters interesting?  How is the plot structured that makes their struggles engaging?  What prose techniques does the author use to keep you turning pages?  Pay attention to the details and nuances of your source material.

Use Fan Fiction for Feedback – It’s much easier to get strangers to read your bad fan fiction than your great original story.  (Sad but true.)  Add a note encouraging readers to respond with their comments and suggestions, particularly in regards to your writing style.

Beta Other’s Fan Fiction to Improve Your Editing Skills – Reading and critiquing other writer’s work is a great way to train yourself to spot spelling, grammar, and logistical errors in your own.  While writing and editing are different skills, they compliment each other.  And you may discover you enjoy editing even more than writing.

Fan Fiction Betas Can Prepare You For Editors – Learning to accept and make good use of corrections and criticism is an important skill for a professional writer.  Your average beta won’t be as thorough as a professional editor, but when you’re starting out, that may be a good thing.

Use Fan Fiction to Learn Platform Building Skills – The most popular fan fiction authors tend to update regularly, finish what they start, use social media to gain new readers and keep in touch with current fans, and sometimes build websites and/or blogs to showcase their work and fan art based on it.  They may even appear as panel speakers at conventions (a volunteer role but good PR practice).  These are skills and habits that can translate well to professional work.

Use Fan Fiction to Focus on Plot and Style – Writing someone else’s characters in a believable way can be as big a challenge as writing something purely original.  However it is true in fan fiction that you’re already standing on the shoulder of the author(s) who originated the work.  Since your characters and settings are ready made, you can pay extra attention to honing your plot building and refining your writing style.  What new element can you bring to this established world?  What new territory can your explore that will engage your fellow fans?

OCs Don’t Have to Be Mary Sues – Fan fictions should rotate heavily around established characters and settings, otherwise I’d question why you tried to pass it off as fanfic and not just spin off into a $ellable original fiction.  However, smoothly interesting an OC (Original Character) or element into an established world can be a good test of writing skill.  If you do it well, readers will roll with it.  If you do it poorly they’ll gripe.  Just remember once you use an OC in a fanfic, you should expect to abandon them to that world.  If you’d like to use your OC elsewhere, best not to include them in a fan fiction.

Writing Sellable Fan Fiction With Kindle Worlds – As a general rule, you can not sell fan fiction.  However, Kindle Worlds has created a fan portal that will allow you to do so legally within certain guidelines.  I advise treading carefully and reading through all the legal.  But essentially it’s open (alternate universe) franchise writing, could be an interesting way for writers to connect with a ready fanbase.

For legal reasons, I write fan fiction under a different pen name than my original work.  I didn’t want to have to pull everything down like Cassandra Claire did once she went pro.  But it was a wonderful way for me to get five novels and a few short stories worth of experience in before releasing a novel to sell.


About Iscah

Iscah is the author of the fantasy novel Seventh Night  and the related novella The Girl With No Name. She was even kind enough to provide a Music of the Day!


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