Right from the get-go, I’m going to tell you this is geared more to aspiring writers rather than those who have spent more time with the craft. However, this does not mean fanfiction cannot be beneficial to more experienced writers. Writing fanfiction teaches writing skills. Specifically in creating plots and subplots.
Before I get too into how fanfiction is beneficial to its author, I should explain what fanfiction is. Fanfiction is a story based on a previously published work or another form of media. It can borrow characters and settings from the original work and often carries the same themes. The authors of fanfiction generally use it so the characters will act in a way pleasing to the author of that specific piece of fanfiction.
In recent years fanfiction has been gaining popularity and recognition. Some pieces of fanfiction are even published in a traditional sense (in print). Most fanfiction is published on websites such as Mibba and Wattpad. Personally, I don’t read fanfiction, it’s not my jam, but I have written it.
It may seem weird that I don’t care for fanfiction while having written it. When I wrote my pieces I took a bit of a different approach to than most authors of fanfiction. Instead of having the characters act out what I wanted them to do, I made up my own characters and set then in the universe, but in a different setting (I just loved the concept so much I needed to write in that universe).
Now you don’t have to do what I did to receive the benefits of writing fanfiction. Not having to come up with characters or settings allows you to focus on different skills, skills that are essential to writing an original piece.
Fanfictions take on the plot that the author of the fanfiction desires. Sometimes this is way different from the original source of inspiration. Most fanfictions have plot development and subplots. The amount of plot in a fanfiction really depends on the length of the piece, which can range from a couple thousand words to an entire novel.
Because you don’t have to worry about characters and setting you can focus on plot development. You can practice plotting (planning a plot), learn what style of planning works for you, and figure out how to write a story so it works with the plot you planed.
A lot of writers, most amateurs, will say, “My characters have a mind of their own” or “My characters do what they want”. I hate to break it to you but your characters are fictional, you should be able to find a way to get them to work with the plot so it makes sense. This may mean you have to change something at the beginning. I had to completely change one of my main characters after writing the first chapter of my book, just so it would make sense. This was because I planned my novel after the first chapter was written. If I plotted at the beginning it would have taken less time to fix my character.
You can also explore plot devices, like foreshadowing, in fanfiction.
Writing descriptions and creating settings
Even when using all the same settings and characters as the original story you will practice describing them. Many fanfictions are written just like original fiction, meaning you will set the scene and describe your characters. While you could use most of the original descriptions, people don’t by default. They write their own.
Writing descriptions and finding your style will take time and practice, making fanfiction a great learning opportunity. Primarily these descriptions will be based on what’s already in the texts (or other media), meaning you already know what it looks like and can put this into your own words. Other times you may be able to create your own settings within the world.
Time Management and Dealing with deadlines
A lot of fanfictions are posted over time, a chapter at a time. Generally, these are published on a set date, like how my blog posts go up every Monday. Because these deadlines are self-imposed by the author, they are slightly flexible and the only downside to not meeting then is disappointing readers. The writing industry is full of deadlines. Whether they’re self-imposed or external (Or like NaNo and a little bit of both) you will meet deadlines that you have to work within. That’s when time management comes in.
Meeting those deadlines takes focus and hard work. You’ll get more writing done if you need to (I’m currently on a time crunch while writing this) but it you learn to adapt and set time aside for writing you can meet all your deadlines. Work smart not hard when writing. It’s not always about word count or even getting stuff down on paper. Leave time for plotting, problem-solving, and difficult writing moments.
This was the most important for me because fan fiction was some of my first ever published work. I didn’t think I’d be a writer back then, it was just something I did. But then I started getting feedback. Despite my fan fiction being not very good (in my opinion), people on the internet really enjoyed it. I didn’t stick to the fan fiction but it still got thousands of views and a bunch of comments asking for more.
At the time I would have never considered becoming a writer, so the comments didn’t do anything for me except to make me feel accomplished. A couple months ago I went back and found my old fanfiction, and it did two things for me. One, it showed me how far I had come and just how important editing is (I repeated myself a lot) and two, people really liked it. That’s one of the moments in my life where I went “Maybe this writing thing really will work out”
Now you don’t have to write fanfiction on your way to becoming a writer. You can learn these four things and so much more from writing original fiction. You can also learn more from fanfiction but these are good examples of the skills and benefits you can get from trying fanfiction. Fanfiction is a legitimate art form just like any piece of writing. It can be difficult and fun and exciting. Fanfiction was a big thing for me when I was starting out, but not at the time, not until years later. Even then, it was teaching me how to write a good story, how to tell a story I had. And it taught me I love it.