Writing Fanfiction vs. Original Fiction

Two weeks ago I talked about the benefits of writing fanfiction, and this week I’m going to talk about how writing fanfiction compares to writing original fiction.

​Pre-Established World vs. Creative Freedom

With fanfiction (classic fanfiction, in which you write in the existing world) you don’t have to develop a whole new world with functioning societies, cultures, wildlife, history, religions, etc. All you need is already developed to one degree or another. You may find as you’re writing that something needs shoring up or further development, which allows you a bit of space to work with, but in general you don’t have to do a lot of development because the world has already been written. Of course this also means you don’t have a lot of flexibility, which might feel constraining.

With original fiction, you create everything yourself, which means you get to totally unleash your imagination and make something totally new but it also means that you have the responsibility of creating a deep, layered, engaging world, which is kind of a tall order. With great power comes great responsibility.

There’s always going to be a trade-off either way, so you have to decide what’s more important to you of the options.

​Pre-Established Characters vs. Creative Freedom

Basically identical to above. You can work with the existing characters in a fandom (which I personally would find incredibly stressful because I’d feel like they have to be just right and I would just be terrified I’d get it wrong), who you already know, or you can create your own characters from scratch and develop their quirks and make them real and deep and flawed. Again, with great power comes great responsibility.

​Learn From the Greats or Learn From Your Own Mistakes

When you write fanfiction, you can learn what works by basically copying well-written worlds and characters, and likewise what doesn’t. When you write original fiction, the only person you have to learn from (in your own actual writing) is yourself. Obviously you learn from what you read and watch and whatnot, but when it comes to actually writing your own stories you learn from yourself through trial and error and learning from your mistakes. This applies to all parts of the writing process, from outlining to marketing.

My advice is to work with both and practice in all areas, using fanfiction as a learning tool and then turning your focus to original fiction, or working on original fiction at the same time and applying lessons from one to the other. But obviously it’s ultimately up to you what you want to try and what you think will work for you.

Have you written fanfiction? How does it compare to original fiction, for you?

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