I recently ran a poll on Twitter asking my followers what their relationship was with fanfiction. In all honesty, I was really surprised by the result.
I’ve read fics for the past sixteen years or so – since the days of LJ prompts, ff.net’s dodgy uploads and when it took half an hour to load an animated gif. I found fanfiction after someone linked to one of their stories on a BBS board (showing my age, here), and after that I just googled for it.
I read fics for years before I started writing my own, and when I did I started with a 50k Harry Potter / LOTR crossover that I printed off and gave to a friend who read it with raised eyebrows, and gave it me straight back. It’s probably fortunate I was too chicken to post it online.
When I was at uni, I started writing properly. One friend was a very keen fic writer, and showed me how to set up my (now defunct and deleted) ff account. And I started writing, posting chapters one by one every few days.
To my absolute shock (and horror) I found it was being read. Quite a lot. I racked up 15,000 reads in less than a month. People were asking for more. I didn’t know what to say. For the first time, I felt part of a real writing community, where people wanted to help me write better, and they wanted to read my work.
This is probably when I realised why I wrote – so it could be read. Because I had stories to tell that I needed to get out of me, and to share.
The comments I received for those early fics helped me work on my craft. I learned how to pace, how to write convincing dialogue that mirrored characters in shows and books. I got heavily into AUs (Alternative Universes), and found they were essential to aid me learning to world-build and describe.
But more important was the reading. My uni course was full of dry, centuries-old texts by dead white men. Fanfic writers were, mostly, women. Young women, older women, women of colour, queer women, disabled women. I read fanfiction where the canonically cisgender-straight characters were queer. Where they were genderbent, racebent, given disabilities, put into societies more equal than ours.
It was the first time I had easy access to fiction – any fiction – where queer characters outnumbered the straight.
Fanfiction made me want to write queer characters. It made me want to represent. Fanfiction made me realise not all tropes are bad, and the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’ is not necessary.
Writing fanfiction “counts” as writing. Reading fanfiction “counts” as reading.
Read what you want. Read widely. Read fluff. Read smut. Read angst, slash, pwp, hurt-comfort, or ABO Dynamic AUs. Find yourself in fics.
Write one, if its not there.