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Presented by State Library Victoria

My love letter to fanfiction, and some of the things it has taught me about writing

Fanfiction has… a certain reputation, let’s say.

It’s a waste of time, it’s only for people who can’t be bothered making up their own worlds of fiction, it’s a desecration of a creator’s work (I say creator here becuase fanfiction is not limited to merely books), it’s nothing more than wish fulfillment, 50 Shades of Grey.

I am not here to say it is none of those things. It is, in some respects, pure wish fulfillment, a waste of time that could be spent doing other things such as helping with chores, and it is most definitely a deviation of the original creator’s work, and we don’t even talk about 50 Shades of Grey (at least, not to me). But that doesn’t mean that fanfiction can’t teach us anything. It doesn’t mean that fanfiction is entire worthless.

For me, fanfiction was my first forey into writing. It was the first time I put my pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard as the case may be) and decided to write something. I wanted to write about magic and swords. I failed. Miserably. My first attempt at writing garnered me 100-200 word chapters with poor plotting, weak characters, and a distinct sense that something was lacking.

I gave up for a while. All I did for the next couple years was read. Fanfiction or published fiction, it didn’t matter.

Then, after a long time abstaining from writing, I got an email.

Someone had found my idea interesting enough to follow it.

Like a flood, I was given favourites and follows and reviews, though I look back now and see that they were few in number, my 14-year-old self was overwhelmed. It was a rush, like something I had never experienced before. This drove me into writing again. I wanted to feel that europhia again, and I wanted to do right by my readers – to show them that I could write, and write well, and that they hadn’t wasted their time, paying cursory attention to my pitiful writing hidden away in a dark, untouched corner of the internet.

As you can probably tell, I was not the most confident of 14-year-olds.

But I was stubborn. I devoured books at a somehow impossibly increased rate for “research”. I swept the site I used, and still use to this day (fanfiction.net), to see how people formatted their chapters, how they set up their profiles, how they interacted with their readers.

Those couple of years were the formative years of my writing.

I learned my grammar from those years, hence why my grammar is a little old and archaic at times, and I settled into a poetic writing style I still enjoy and employ today. And then I did some more writing.

After the disaster of my first piece, I decided to write forwards, in front of my self-imposed “updating schedule” as I had seen a few others do. This worked remarkably well for the most part, and I was suddenly writing longer and longer chapters, filled with more description and characterisation than ever. But I also quickly burned out. At 15, I just couldn’t keep up with the incredibly high standards I set for myself. So I ditched that idea. I read some more, did some little pieces of writing on the side, nothing serious, nothing I wanted to unleash upon the internet.

Then I began posting what I fondly call a drabble series (found on my fanfiction accounts linked below) that I titled “Nico Di Angelo and his (Mis)Fortunes at Hogwarts”. There was no pressure to post regularly, no wordcount restrictions that I imposed on myself. It was just a fun little thing I did when I had the time and inclination. To this day, it is my most cherished fic.

Fanfiction has taught me many things.

It taught me to be ashamed of writing, but it also taught me that there will always be people who hate what you do and that there will be, with equal permenance, ten people for every flamer who provides constructive criticsm and encouragement. It taught me how to write to the standard that I hold myself to today, and that even the most seemingly unapproachable of authors can be contacted with a simple email.

So fanfiction is more than wish fulfillment, atrocious grammar, and inconsistant characterisation. It is a method of trialling new ways to write and a way to enjoy writing even if you do so professionally already.

My fanfiction can be found on https://www.fanfiction.net/u/7217327/ and https://archiveofourown.org/users/Chaos_Greymistchild

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10th Jan, 19