I wrote fanfiction for years. By the time it was all said and done, I’d written easily over 100 stories in twelve fandoms (that I remember). It’s very easy for most people to dismiss fanfiction (if you ignore the people that reconstituted their fanfic into bestsellers and you’re not one of the authors that likes to sue fanfic writers), but I cannot deny the contribution it made to my writing.
I’ve read some of my old stuff before, by now over ten years old in some cases, and I cringe. It’s filled with a voice so passive it doesn’t have a pulse. The descriptions are like vacant lots. Some of the stories are downright drivel (those, oddly enough, tended to be my most popular ones). None of them do I read and go, “Yeah! I can redo that and sell it!” because, yeah, no.
However, they’re not at all a waste. From the very first story, it was obvious that I had a good ear for dialogue. The quality of the stories improved over time. I was pretty good with tone and pacing. I was very good at picking up the canon and the characters. That’s something I pride myself on to this day. I was once able to write a good, in canon story in a fandom for a movie I’d never seen. My friend just told me the details I needed to know. The feedback praised my ability to write the main character so well. I still preen over that little victory.
Because I was at one time pumping out several stories a month, it was like a writing bootcamp in a way. Just by the sheer volume of words I was writing, I had no choice but to get better. Stephen King said that to be a writer you had to read a lot and write a lot and at that time, I was writing A LOT. It wasn’t all good, but it was something. And the something I was getting down helped me get better whether I realized it or not.
Now, I didn’t learn everything writing fanfiction. It wasn’t until well after my constant gush of words trickled to a drip of a story every once in a while that I learned the art of revisions. It was about then that I really got the hang of my passive voice problem. It’s been the years since then that I really refined my writing process into something that almost works well.
But, I can’t help but think how far behind I’d be if I hadn’t been writing all of those stories. Fanfiction gave me an opportunity to get better with immediate feedback and the a safe place to explore, experiment, and most importantly, write.
So, feel free to write fanfiction off.
Because I’m happy I wrote it.