Thursday, 7 July 2011


Cracked-Fanfiction-storyHas anyone seen this, in the Guardian: Ten Rules for Writing Fiction (Part One)?

It made me think. If I was a best-selling author, what would be my advice? Well, I’d probably agree with several of the rules stated above, particularly Margaret Atwood’s advice:

You chose this, so don’t whine.

But there is one original thing that I would suggest:

Write fanfiction.

Yeah, I know. I can hear the tumbleweeds. But that's actually how I started out.

I always knew I wanted to write, when I was about 11 I started a work of non-fiction called Why Did Dinosaurs Die? This was going to be the definitive work, epic in its scale, the foundation for my ground-breaking thesis. Then I moved onto fiction (more dinosaurs!) But I was young, so of course, these books came to nothing. Then, when I was about 16, I discovered A little while later I posted my first story, a one-shot, and that was it - I was hooked.

I actually consider fanfiction my apprenticeship. I was using characters that already existed, creating my own tangents from stuff that had already officially happened. The pressure was off - I didn't have to do all the hard work of creating real people and real worlds, I just got to play in it.

I learnt a lot. Fanfiction is a cruel business – if you're making a character do something they wouldn't do, if the plot is boring or unbelievable, reviewers will tell you. You quickly learn about pacing, plot, rhythm and keeping people interested. Even learning to recreate a character’s voice is useful.

Soon though, you'll want to commit one of the cardinal sins of fanfiction - create an original character. Generally referred to as a Mary-Sue. I'll hold my hands up, the last thing I wrote was an OC. But my reviewers liked her. I had learnt enough that I actually managed to pull it off (I'm still quite proud of this). And that gave me the push I needed into my own original fiction.

Be warned - the move into purely original fiction is not as easy as you think. Yes, you've now got yourself into a writing habit, you've got a clearer idea about pacing, rhythm, if you're lucky you're even well on your way to finding your voice. But now there's no safety net. You can no longer rely on Steven Moffat for your plots, Joss Whedon for your characters. It's all on you now. And that can be scary. You can start by twisting some of your short fiction - turn your vampires into accountants, maybe. Lift one of your plots (maybe you’ve got Harry Potter taking Ginny Weasley on a date to the cinema) scour out everything that isn’t yours and shape it into something that is unrecognisable as fanfiction.

I actually just got cracking on stuff that came to me, but the idea from my first novel actually had a fanfiction base. I saw a made-for-TV film, thought about how I would have changed it and that was the starting point.

Try it. It might work for you. It worked for me.

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