Why Reading and Writing Fanfiction is an Excellent Way to Grow as a Writer

Almost everyone goes through a phase of obsessing over a fandom and diving deep into the fanfiction world. Spending late nights scrolling on wattpad or ao3 till your eyes burn. Finding your favourite fanfiction writers. Gushing over tropes and alternate universes and the whole package deal. Right?

At least I did. I know a lot of people read fanfics casually but I do nothing in life casually. I’m always 100% into it. And when you can’t find the fanfics you want to read you often end up writing them. If you’ve ever read or written fanfics you don’t go out and yell about it from the rooftop. You may not hesitate to talk about it in the bookish community or on Twitter but generally people don’t hold fanfics in a good light.

But honestly reading and writing fanfics is an incredibly helpful thing to do if you’re trying to grow as a writer.

Let me start off by saying, reading or writing fanfics doesn’t have to be useful for us to still appreciate it. I don’t care if you’re writing smut or fluff with no plot, at the end of the day it’s making you and people who read it happy.

But yes, fanfics help you grow as a writer too.

Reading fanfics is like reading any story or novel. You’re looking at different worlds, characters, plots and tropes. Whether they are well written or badly written they teach you something. You learn from other writers’ weaknesses or you try and adopt their strengths. And yes, fanfic writers are writers as well. Any kind of reading is sort of necessary for you to grow as a writer, and of course fanfics count!

Writing fanfics is such a special experience altogether. One of the biggest advantages is that you don’t have to start with a blank slate. A lot of writers are scared of the blank page. Depending on what kind of fanfics you’re writing you’ll always have some sort of base. You don’t have to build a whole new world, the canon has provided that. You don’t have to make your own well-developed characters if you don’t want to. I used to be really scared of worldbuilding so I really enjoyed writing fanfics for fantasy worlds because I already had a world to build upon. But here’s the thing, there’s also space to fiddle with that world-building, the plot and the characters if you wish to. There’s just so much leeway and possibilities!

Writing fanfics is also very useful to explore characters: their arcs, emotions, fears and desires. Yes, you have a canon character but now you’re stepping into the shoes of a character written by someone else. You get to discover their motivations and desires and write them with certain character constraints which is honestly an art in itself. Very few people want to read fanfics with characters who are ‘out of character’ or just seem different from what they are canonically presented. So you learn to write with certain limitations, yet you get to push the character boundaries a bit as well.

Fanfics also allow you to write for an audience that gives you feedback and encouragement. Writing is an incredibly lonely exercise and if you’re looking to publish you don’t get a lot of feedback until your work gets published. There’s not a lot of support because people don’t get to read your work bit by bit and in different stages. You don’t even know if your work will have an audience once it gets published. But writing fanfics is so gratifying because the fandom and the community is always there to support you.

Whether they leave likes and comments of how much they appreciate your writing or funny reactions and death threats to publish the next chapter, you’re connected with them. You and your readers love this world and the characters you’re writing for and it’s immensely gratifying. Now the community can be mean and rude as well but largely I’ve seen a lot of support from fanfic readers. Not to mention that they give you ideas and suggestions and just generally fuel you on.

And last but not the least, any kind of writing is good writing practice. It’s better than sitting on your ass and staring at a blank word doc page. It’s better than not writing which is what I would have been doing for a good couple of years if I hadn’t been writing fanfics.

So go write that fanfic idea that’s been bugging you for a while. You don’t even have to post it. Your academic papers can wait a bit. Put aside that self-help book you’re reading and read some fanfics without feeling guilty. Just never put yourself down for reading or writing fanfics and let nobody judge you and tell you that you’re wasting your time with them!

Do you read fanfics obsessively like me or just once in a while?

So what are your thoughts on this topic?

Have you ever written fanfics? If yes, what did you take away from those experiences?

8 thoughts on “Why Reading and Writing Fanfiction is an Excellent Way to Grow as a Writer

  1. I found your post very interesting. It is true: the more you write, the better you get at writing.
    I use to read fanfictions on a regular basis. I first got interested in fanfiction in my teens: I like Sherlock Holmes stories but the canon ones (four novels and 56 short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle) are over way too quickly.
    As a teenager, I started writing fanfiction about another fandom I loved: Greek mythology. First came a drabble, then a few longer fanfics.
    Those fanfics grew older together with me. I’ve edited them multiple times and massively.
    I do not intend to become a professional writer and I am not actively trying to improve my writing skills but I noticed that the newest version of my fanfics is better than the previous ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your sweet comment!
      I completely get what you mean, I think that was me with Shadowhunters. What with not liking Clare’s content and the issues that came with it I found a lot of fanfics to be much more nuanced and well written and explorative of the characters in general. It was definitely strange that they did it better than the author lol. But yeah, you really don’t realise how much it helps you grow as a writer until you look back at your older fanfics 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Agree with this. Fanfic gets such a bad rap but there is so much to learn from it. Feedback is quick. And it teaches you to give the people what they want!! Fanfic writers turned authors really know how to reel you in

    Liked by 1 person

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