I’m a bit of an all or nothing kind of gal. Whether it’s binging the latest must-watch series (and it’s entire back catalogue), staying up until the early hours of the morning trying to convince myself that I’ll read ‘just one more chapter’ (that is always a lie), or trying adamantly to convince my other half that, yes, as home-owning adults, we really do need a complete collection of Pokemon cards (I’m still working on that one; he’s slowly losing ground), I… tend to go at everything 110% – or not at all.
Over the past few years, I’ve been throwing myself head-first into non-fiction writing. From journalism to copywriting, staff writing to blogging, if it’s non-fiction related, chances are, I’ve been obsessing over it. What’s so wrong with that?
There’s been one big downside: it’s left me with zero motivation and energy to complete my own projects. Every spare moment has been spent thinking up new pitches for work-related blogs or magazine pitches. Sure, I’ve dabbled every now and then with the odd short story competition and poetry submission, but looking back at my creative fiction output over the past year? It’s… pretty depressing.
As 2018 drew to a close, I sat myself down, and plotted a couple of different novels. Characters, backstories, fully fleshed out plots; the works. Ever since? I haven’t been able to write a single word of either of them. I’ve tried partially drafting a separate non-fiction book proposal; great! Yet when I go to sit down in my free time… nothing comes out.
Writers block is never fun. This strange, half-block I’ve had going recently? Even less so. It’s so frustrating to sit down and spend hours having little trouble writing in the day, yet when the evening or weekend rolls around, nothing will come out.
So, I decided to go back to the drawing board and ask myself the big question: What really motivated me to get into writing in the first place? What initially sparked those first embers of passion that turned non-reader, book-hating me, into a bibliophile?
It still sounds (and feels) a bit like a dirty word. It isn’t – far from it. Today’s new generations of fanfiction writers often share their works loudly and proudly. Back when I first discovered fanfiction nearly (I can’t believe I’m writing this) two decades ago, people were still adding disclaimers that amounted to ‘Please don’t sue me, this isn’t for profit it’s just for fun please go and buy the book/vhs/dvd’.
Other than LiveJournal and MySpace accounts, dedicated fanfiction sites felt fewer and farther between. Now, writers have so many choices: Fanfiction.net, AFF, Tumblr (though that one’s up for debate), Wattpad, Quotev, Deviant Art, ArchiveOfOurOwn / AO3 (my personal favourite), not to mention the countless fandom-specific platforms out there. There has never been a better time for writers of all ages, abilities, and preferences to start sharing their work, getting feedback, and immersing themselves in widely supportive communities of readers and fellow writers.
Sure, there is always the chance that people will plagiarise your work (when isn’t there? The act of sharing our work can open us up to plagiarism no matter how hard we try to avoid or counter it), but fanfiction can offer the chance to:
Explore new styles, genres, or styles of writing
Nervous about writing first-person present-tense instead of your usual third-person past-tense style? Give it a shot in a fanfiction drabble. Always wanted to experiment with romance, but you feel more comfortable in your horror niche? Explore that curiosity through a fanfic drabble, one-shot, or short series.
Play with existing characters, archetypes, or stereotypes.
Having a spark of an idea or connecting with a prompt can be easy; if you’re struggling to write rounded, believable characters whom you feel connected to, writing using your favourite characters can help re-spark your own creativity.
It can also help you to spot any weaknesses in articulating everything you want to say or share about a character; what you may know and assume about your own character may be overlooked in your original writing, as it can be easy to overlook what we know VS what we have shown or told readers
Speaking of reviewers
Fanfiction often comes with feedback, reviews, and comments. Depending on which site you share your work on, you may get likes in the form of kudos or similar; comments or reviews offering feedback, reactions to your latest chapter, or constructive critique on how you can improve.
If you’ve ever struggled to find a beta reader, working within the fandom-community can be a good way to gain feedback without the time and commitment it can take to source and work with dedicated beta readers.
A boost in motivation
While some fandoms are more active than others, the chances are, if you are sharing fanfiction on a popular platform, people are going to read your work. Whether that’s tens or tens of thousands of people can vary significantly by site, genre, fandom (and yes, a bit of luck on some sites).
Regardless of how much traffic, likes, bookmarks, or feedback you receive, just the act of sharing it can help to motivate you to continue working when things feel tough or blocked. Throwing original works out into the ether can feel impossibly hard; throwing fanworks out there, that you’ve just written for the fun of it, not in hopes of doing more with it or working towards being published? That’s freeing in
It may not be for everyone, but I’ve got no shame in admitting: since deciding to give fanfiction another go back in early February, I have written more than double what I wrote (creatively, in my own time) throughout the entirety of 2018. I’ve felt motivated and inspired to write more fiction in three weeks, than I did across the past year. That feels pretty weird to say.
It doesn’t matter what first sparked your creativity: whether that was writing within a specific genre, only drafting by hand, or borrowing other people’s characters to make silly stories that make other people laugh or cry online; what matters is finding that push that makes you want to put pen to paper again. Once you get back into the habit of writing every day – no matter how long or short your output is – you can work back towards your bigger writing goals.