|Kirk/Spock … fanfiction’s original slash couple?
Fanfiction, or Fanfic: A Definition
Fanfiction is fiction written (duh) by fans in a preexisting universe, with preexisting characters. I’ve said before that for many emerging writers, fanfic was their training ground. After an interesting encounter on the web, I want to expand that thought.
One of the worst things about being an author these days is putting yourself out there on the web and meeting — even talking — to other authors. (Tongue in cheek. Mostly.) In an effort to market myself (sigh) I have joined lots and lots of author groups — Facebook groups, message board groups, LiveJournal groups. Some have worked out great and I’ve learned a lot. Others — not so much. I belonged to one group for less than twenty-four hours. The moderator asked me a question and I responded, in part, by mentioning fanfic. Another participant asked what fanfic was. The moderator explained at length in multiple posts that it was (I’m paraphrasing):
- A lazy writer’s way to produce a story without doing any real (conceptual) work
- A tremendous waste of time
Let me tackle these points one by one.
Fiction runs the gamut. I have read certified bestsellers by Big Six-published authors that had all the depth, intelligence, and grownup meaning of wet Kleenex. I have read fanfic that took risks, asked serious questions, and resonated with meaning. To brand all fanfic a juvenile pursuit proves you’ve read little or none of it.
It’s true, some writers have trouble creating believable characters or situations. If they plan on crafting and selling original works, that’s a problem. If they are writing and sharing for the love of writing and sharing, how is that lazy? Think of all the TV writers who routinely submit teleplays for this drama or that sitcom. Think they keep your favorite shows afloat through pure laziness? They’re doing the same thing fanfic writers do, working within a static framework to add to a particular mythos.
“A Waste of Time”
Now here I could simply point out the obvious — if writing PURELY for the love of it is a waste of time, then everyone (like me) who sells their work is (1) mercenary, (2) an egomaniac, or (3) both. Yikes. No fun being summarily judged that way. And how can writing for the sake of writing ever be bad?
But I’ll go one further.
Lately I’ve noticed a lot of authors discussing their dependence on their editors. And my goodness, I don’t doubt it. From what I can gather, some simply type up a manuscript and send it off for that red pen. They don’t agonize over each phrase. They don’t chop out unnecessary modifiers. They don’t haul out the dictionary because they KNOW poster #3 will comment, “Um, like your fic but you used ‘torrential’ incorrectly…”
Because fanfic readers are passionate about giving feedback, a writer of fanfic learns not to post until they’ve self-edited to the best of their ability. Hell of a way to improve your craft — write for the love of it, self-edit obsessively, accept feedback. What a concept.
I am not down on selling fiction for money (clearly) and I am certainly not down on editors or copy-editors, the most wonderful people in the world! But I will say this. I read a lot. And there are some authors out there whose writing can’t hold a candle to some of the fic writers I’ve sampled. Maybe because they’re too busy not wasting their time to dare write for the pure love of it.