Fanfic vs. Creative Writing: My Two Cents

Fanfiction. Original creative writing. Which one is better? Which one is considered real art?


First, background.

I considered my wee little self a writer at the tender age of eleven. Mind you, that was almost twenty years ago. But I found myself writing a sort of weird form of fanfiction that I didn’t learn to years, with things that included terms like Mary Sue and what not. Hey, I was eleven. But breaking out and just writing, to begin with, even though it was fanfic, at age eleven was the start. At fourteen and fifteen, I began to try and refine myself. I was entering high school, socially awkward, looking to define myself as a person, and at the same time found myself growing involved with my first real fandom, Farscape. I learned the basics about writing fanfic. I grew active in forums, writing, trying to get my favorite show saved by getting involved with the fan campaign. I even got a few honorable mentions with a couple of fanfic contests. It was one of many positive experiences that contributed to my experiences as a writer.

As I continued through high school and college, I started to dabble with original creative writing for the first time. My senior year in high school saw me doing a weekly open mic night where I wrote poetry, performed it, networked, and had the opportunity to be published in a local anthology. My I turned my writing efforts towards more original endeavors but still dabbled writing fanfic. At this point, I was in college and working on my BA in English where I tried to refine and hone my original writing voice even more in my academic papers.

So that the summation up to 2009. That was almost ten years ago. (Gah. I’m old).

So. 2017.  I have written quite a few pieces of original creative writing. I have written two pieces of nonfiction online. I’ve done a couple of mini academic conferences with school. But now. Hm. So much has changed. At this point in my life, I write both original creative fiction and fanfic both equally these days. These are links to where some of my original fiction is at and some of the more recent fanfic that involves The X-Files.

For my main point of my blog post.

At one point in my life, I did not consider myself a “real writer” because I wrote just fanfic. I was a teenager. However, through writing fanfic and going through the editing process, I learned the basics of grammar, passive and active voice, and the mechanics of just being a better writer. Beta readers are fantastic for this and I wish I had one when I write my X-Files fic. I had two really good betas when I wrote Farscape fics and without them, I would have been lost!

But I have been able to see both sides, written both sides. I am not going to lie, I love reading fanfic. There are some very talented and amazing writers who have written novel-length fics or even short drabbles. I was younger when I ventured first into writing fanfic, I was able to learn the basics when it came to writing. It gave me the confidence to pursue writing my own things, creating my own characters and universes, trying to sow words into something coherent. It’s taken a bit but I finally grew confident enough and participated in NaNoWriMo last year with the camp sessions and the big main event. The result? Two novellas and a novel that is a work in process. I also grew a bit more confident with venturing back into writing fanfiction just for the joy of it.

Sometimes it was easier to write and immerse myself in a universe that already existed and write just for the sake of writing because it was fun. Writing original works is more time consuming to me and a lot more labor intensive, literally. Writing my English papers were the same way. When I was in grad school the first time, I learned I needed to pick a research topic quickly at the very beginning of the semester so I could take my time over the months to research, outline, write and polish my writing and my argument. I found creative writing works very much the same way but I have difficulty keeping myself accountable. The accountability thing is always a weakness of mine, whatever I write.

I’ve heard that some don’t consider fanfic real writing. I believe, honestly and truly it is. Each discipline has its strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons. I see writing fanfic as a chance to grow as a writer, something that brings pure joy, and as a stepping stone for beginning writers. Creative writing is much more involved and consuming. While I have no kids, each piece of writing I attempt or finish is a piece of me that the world can see and judge. And trust me, I am a very insecure person.

With March going to the middle point and April coming, I decided to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo and dig out an unfinished short story I started in 2014 and finish it, likely as a novella. I have two unfinished fics that I would like to eventually finish. And then there is grad school. Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, I should be full time again in the fall back at ODU and on my way to finishing my masters degree and then I flex my research paper writing muscles for the first time in years.

Writing is writing. As long as we are doing what we love, what should it matter what is considered real writing or not?

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