I have a unique relationship with fanfiction. I’ll go for months without writing any (as I have to have a fandom I’m totally obsessed with and a great story idea – most of the time, anyway) and then write a bit, or more than a bit, and read some as well. And then I go back to ignoring fanfiction for the longest time.
See, ninety-five percent of the fanfiction out there is sludge: poorly written, poorly plotted, and poorly executed in pretty much every other way possible. When I find a good piece of fanfiction, I treasure it, but they are so hard to find and I dislike wading through all the swearing, slash shipping, and sloppy editing (or no editing) to find the gems.
With all that being said, fanfiction is tons and tons of fun and I don’t want to dissuade anyone from writing it. It’s just that I’m a writer so I get more triggered over grammatical errors and poor dialogue and all the rest than the average fanfiction reader – it’s a gift and a curse. Anyway, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks I’ve discovered whilst writing several fanfictions, as well as some pitfalls to avoid. Like all writing advice, however, this is mostly subjective and the main goal of fanfiction is to write/read fun stories and (sometimes) unbearable fluffy feels. So read this post, sure, but keep in mind that I’m only one person. And not a perfect writer either. 🙂
Fanfiction Tip #1 – The Correct Spelling
It’s ‘fanfiction’, apparently. Not ‘fan fiction’ or ‘fan-fiction’. I dunno why. Just go with it.
Fanfiction Tip #2 – Do Your Research
Fanmade wikias are your new best friend. You can check out character backstories from the Canon, find out if that one location was north or south of the hero’s secret lab, dive deep into relationships between different characters, and so much more. The wikias don’t tell you everything – and some fandoms don’t have them – but they’ve been an invaluable help to me several times.
Fanfiction Tip #3 – Don’t Write Slash Fanfiction
They are friends. In a completely PLATONIC relationship. Nothing more, nothing less.
Fanfiction Tip #4 – Show, Don’t Tell
What I mean by that is this: don’t feel the need to document in excruciating detail everything that happened to the characters before your fanfiction begins. If someone’s reading your fanfiction, they almost certainly know all that info already and it’s annoying.
Example: “Katniss Everdeen, the eighteen-year-old brunette archer who had successfully defeated the Capitol a year ago, drew the bow that Cinna had made for her, and shot the deer just like she used to when she and Gale hunted in the woods before she left for the first Hunger Games.”
Obviously, that’s an exaggeration. But not by much. A better way would be:
Example: “The deer moves into the clearing. I raise my bow and take careful aim before shooting the arrow that ends its life.”
Okay, that’s still not great. But it’s an improvement? I hope?
Fanfiction Tip #5 – Friendships are Golden
It’s not all about the romance, people. I know how awesome it is to have favorite ships. I really do. But there are great epics of alternate universe fanfictions waiting to be written! Friendship/Angst one-shots! Crossovers galore! Not every fanfiction has to be three or four chapters of romanticalness that goes nowhere. I understand the appeal, and I think it’s fine to indulge in writing and reading such fanfiction, but it doesn’t hurt to switch things up a little every now and then.
Fanfiction Tip #6 – Distance Yourself from the Characters
No self-insert characters. Please. I’m begging you. And if you must write such fanfiction, please keep it on your computer’s hard drive and not published all over fanfiction websites. By self-insert character, I mean this: you write a fanfiction centered around one of your beloved fandoms and its most beloved characters. Only, you stick yourself in there as another fictional character who interacts with your favorites, usually as a little sister or love interest. And it’s obvious. And it’s Not Fun to Read.
(There seems to be a lot of self-insert characters in fanfiction for The Outsiders. No idea why… *fantasizes about meeting the Curtises and hanging out with the gang and basking in the awesomeness and giving Johnny a million hugs because he deserves them all* Sorry. Where was I?)
I know that one of my friends has written some self-insert fanfiction, but I had to say it ’cause this is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to fanfiction. (And hers are more for crazy fun than wish fulfillment.)
Fanfiction Tip #7 – Write, Edit, Repeat
My last tip is this: treat your fanfiction like Real, Serious Writing. Because it kind of is. Even if you’re writing about someone else’s characters and using someone else’s worldbuilding and even trying to copy someone else’s writing style (#guilty), you’re still honing your craft, your writing abilities. And it’s awesome. So proofread. Get Grammerly if you have to. Edit. Send your fanfiction off to beta readers if possible (trust me, it helps so much). And when it’s about as perfect as it can be, post it online or circulate it among your family, and wait for the fangirling/boying to begin.
Bonus Fanfiction Tip – The Most Important Thing of All
Have fun! Lots of fun! Loads of fun! Dr. Seuss-esque amounts of fun! I’ve written serious fanfiction that I’ve worked on and slaved over for months. But I’ve also dashed off Angst fanfiction because I needed to vent and I changed up the ending to a classic movie (something I normally dislike when other people do it), and there’s fluffy, mostly-for-no-purpose fanfiction sitting in my files (like Sodapop giving Ponyboy a haircut, which is *heart eyes*). So even I ignore my own rules at times (except for the slash shipping one and the self-insert character one – because reasons). Fanfiction is written by fans for the fans and you really can’t go wrong with whatever you write – you’ll always have an intensely loyal audience.
Unless you don’t ship Jo and Laurie. Then you’d better hide.