How reading fanfiction can hurt your writing

Okay. I’m just gonna come out and say this straight. I love fanfiction. Love it.

During my last year of high school and most of college it was all I really had the time for. I was low on money and had to stop buying books. And believe it or not, even for someone who reads each book an average of 8 times, the same books can get old.

I wanted new stories, stories about characters I loved, but I didn’t have the money to spend. So I turned to fanfiction.

All the stories I read were based in the relatively same world with the same characters. I devoured every fanfic I could find, most were 80,000 words or more. It helped me keep up with reading, and I thought it was perfect. Here I was, practicing my wonderful reading skill, and working on being a better writer. I learned a lot about character development and plots. And subplots too. Really, fanfiction did teach me a lot about writing.

But it also hurt me.

NaNo 2011 came around and I wrote my butt off for it, successfully winning the competition. It wasn’t my first 50,000 word work, but it was the first one I had finished. It was an old story idea, one I’d had and been struggling to write since the age of 11. Ten years later, I finished that story.

And thus began the editing.

How interesting it was at first, that all my beta readers began pointing out one resounding flaw. For the most part, I ignored them. I wrote it off as my “style” or some such thing.

But more and more people were finding the same issue. Finally, when I got a wonderful editor at Critique My Novel to beta read my work, I gave in.

What was the issue, you might ask? It was simple really. Simple and yet oh so annoying.

POV switching. Within the span of a paragraph or even a sentence I would switch the 3rd person POV from one character to another.

Since everything I was reading was written this way, I had a hard time seeing the issue with my own writing. Even after others pointed out how confusing and jarring it was to be jostled around between characters.

Now, after that final beta read, I have taken on the long and arduous process of going back and re-writing my scenes so that they are experience by on character at a time.

And it really is a pain in the butt. And my wrists. And fingers. 🙂

So this is a warning to all you other fanfic readers and writers. Playing with someone else’s characters can teach you so much, but it is also prudent to remember that a writing style that is okay for fanfiction may not be okay for a novel.

What do you fellow writers and readers out there think? Is fanfiction good or bad? Does it help or hinder your writing?


About lvadams

I grew up in Central Florida for most of my life. I was one of those strange kids who liked to catch lizards and snakes, and brought everything home from stray kittens to baby chickens and ducks. I started writing around the age of 11 and never really stopped. I now have a Bachelor's of Science degree from Auburn University and hope to get a job working with animals. Until then I keep on writing. :)
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