“You might want to keep your fanfiction writing to yourself. It’s sort of a curse word, you know? You don’t want to be labeled as a fanfiction writer.”
This is a message I received today. Friendly advice from someone who also wrote to tell me she loved Northland, my last novel.
Hey. Lady. First of all, mind ya neck. What I do in my spare time is none of your business. I’m stoked that you loved Northland, but you know where it all started for me? Fanfiction. Without it, there would be no Northland.
Second of all, telling an author she should keep her fanfiction to herself is like telling a chef not to advertise the fact that she cooks at home. Because the thing is, fanfiction is a hobby. We’re all entitled to those. And just because a chef makes mac and cheese at home doesn’t mean she’s gonna charge for it in a restaurant. Same applies to me; I might take a few more liberties in my fanfiction, but that doesn’t mean I’ll do the same in original fiction. I know there’s a difference between the two.
One is a part of a fandom. One is an industry.
I take my work seriously because I love it. It’s my dream job, and I’m lucky enough to be able to live off of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s research or editing or character development or marketing or formatting or sentence structure, everything I’ve learned started with fanfiction and the people I’ve gotten to know in my fandom.
My writing has changed a lot over the years, but no matter how hard you work, if you erase the beginning, you still end up with nothing.
I know there are writers who start with fanfiction and move over to original fiction way before they’re ready, hence the bad rep fanfiction has earned. But to assume we’re all like that is insulting.
If I were ashamed of writing fanfiction, it’d be like saying fuck you to every single reader who’ve encouraged me to publish in the first place. If it weren’t for them, I don’t even know what I’d be doing today.
I write what I want to read, and I will continue to do so, whether it’s original fiction or mac and cheese.