Note: It’s Throwback Thursday! For this week’s episode, to fan fic or not to fan fic? In these times of AO3, it seems like a silly question, but in 2009, it was a thing. And yes, back then? It was often a gendered distaste. Despite fan fiction creating a line of best-selling Star Trek novels, despite fan fiction basically dating back to Jane Austen if not earlier (what is Northanger Abbey if not YA fan-fic?), fan fiction never got the respect it deserved. Then, that is. Now, it’s way different.
At ConDFW, David Weber, creator of the Honor Harrington series, said that aspiring writers should avoid fan fic. Now, David Weber has countless books to his name and an illustrious career as a military SF writer. I’ve sold two novels. So I know whose advice I would take. But if you want another opinion, read on. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I get his point. Fan fic is easy. All the hard work of worldbuilding has been done by someone else. Who needs a muse when you’ve got someone else doing the heavy lifting for you? But it’s also unsavory, and I’m not just talking about slash. People who write fan fic are getting away with something, even if they aren’t charging money for their work. They are taking ownership of someone else’s imagination and toil. Write too much fan fic, Weber might be saying, and you only think you are writing. It’s counterfeit. Gilt, not gold.
But I think the approach might be a good one for writers who are writing original work: Treat your novel as if it were fan fiction.
If you find it freeing to write fan fiction set in someone else’s universe, capture that feeling by pretending that’s all you are doing in your own original work. It will take the pressure off. It’s just fan fiction right? I think it was Steven Brust at Apollocon who pointed out that writing a sequel is basically writing fan fiction, it’s just your own work. I would go one better and say every novel you write is fan fiction.
Give it a try. All that can happen is you have some fun with the world and the characters you yourself have created.