You’re probably snickering, but the F-word I’m talking about here is fanfiction. Fortunate enough to grow up with a wonderful writer in my older sister, I started writing fanfiction before I even knew there was a name for it. Not to age myself too drastically, but in those days fan communities were a lot less tightly-knit than they are now, so all that writing took place in a vacuum. There was no centralized location for quick and easy feedback, no ready stream of fellow fans to tell me if I was getting details or characterization right or wrong.
After a time I put away working in other peoples’ worlds in favor of my own characters and settings, but the separation didn’t stick. While I generally only have the focus to work in one world at a time, at this time of year the joy of original fiction always shares the spotlight with the joy of fanfiction. For five years now, I’ve participated in the Yuletide exchange for rare and small fandoms. I remember my curiosity being piqued by a bunch of odd letters popping up on LiveJournal that all started Dear Yuletide Writer… Intrigued, I went ahead and investigated. What is this small/rare fandom thing, I wanted to know? Only a collection of some fabulous stories in fandoms I loved, so I decided to join. As a contributing writer, I have to confess that the writing of these stories has brought me so much joy. It might sound trite to insist that the gift is in the giving, but that really is a huge part of it.
Don’t worry, I’m not selfless enough to say I enjoy that more than receiving stories in turn. That’s such a thrill, and I’m always amazed at the creativity that goes into these pieces. It’s a pleasure to be able to take part in the whole exchange.
To me, the value of fanfiction is two-fold. First, it lets me enjoy worlds I’ve loved to visit in ways I never imagined possible. Second, I firmly believe that writing fanfiction is a great way to hone my own writing skills. It’s both easier and a lot more difficult to create faithfully in someone else’s playground: I’ve had to remember to play by another writer’s rules and guidelines. That can be limiting. But it’s also a great exercise in melting my own writing into an existing work. In contrast, writing my own stories seems so limitless after that, so freeing. My characters are mine, their motivations are their own, and the pacing and resolution are mine to work with. It’s less daunting than it sounds! After all, I’ve had a lot of practice in a far more confined space.
Now I’m heading back to my original work. One more chapter and this novel is complete, at least on the first pass. The holidays will be over and life will continue at its usual dull roar. It seems the more I have to do, the more I’m able to do, and I like things that way.