There has been a lot of publicity recently about EL James scoring a three book, seven figure deal for ‘50 shades of grey’; a previously published work of fan fiction. I don’t think the fact that it used to be Twilight fanfic is a secret. I have certainly read a few articles about it recently. It was originally posted as an Edward/Bella story called ‘Master of the universe’.
I am glad for EL James although I suspect that she has unwittingly tapped into a BDSM for newbies style of thing. In any case, evidently the sale of grey ties has gone through the roof in New York; an unexpected by product of her story’s success.
I did an awful lot of reading about writing, if that makes sense, and publishing, before I decided that I needed to try this. In the publishing world of even the last ten years, if a work had been ‘pre-published’ it was the wordy equivalent of untouchable. Even a published short story that had been extended into a full novel could make the entirety of the new, longer, work defined as ‘pre-published’. I think one of the great things about e-books and e-readers is that there seems to be a resurgence of reading.
And hopefully, they will need more writers to fill those e-readers.
I really hope that publishers look to the fanfic world. I hope that EL James’ success will be a positive thing for other fanfic writers.
I have seen a few people discuss their fanfic writing in terms of a dirty secret. I saw one person say today that her friends would cope better if she was having an affair than writing fanfic. And when you add in the smutty, sexy style of writing, you have a whole new issue. My friends get the writing part, but not the non-income side of things. ‘You get how many hits a day and you don’t get paid?’ one keeps asking me.
I don’t have a significant other right now (that pretty much explains the smut writer -lmao), but I can understand how a fanfic writer’s significant other might be offended, or even jealous of their writing. If you are writing about a person who is hopeless in bed, will your lover think you are talking about them?
I know I shamelessly plunder my own history for the right reaction or insight into how a character might react or behave. I think all writers do it. I’ve often wondered how it would feel to be the person who inspired a particularly bitter or heartbreaking song. Imagine how the guy that dumped Adele feels right now?
Writers and songs reach people because their experiences resonate and good fanfic writers do that. They make their readers cry or sit at the edge of their seats, too. I have read some wonderful and brilliantly written fanfics. And quite a lot that were awful; but that’s the nature of the beast. Some, are so awful that they have become legends of their own. ‘My immortal’ for example.
I guess fanfiction works for people who want to write, but for whatever reason, cannot publish a whole completed novel. It allows you to experiment with writing; to try using visual prompts, gender swaps, to write in another style or to merge together two different genres into a whole (the crossover, as it is termed). Fanfiction allows you to post a chapter as frequently as you can produce them, a source of much frustration for readers, when that is once every four to six months, I will admit. I try to write the whole story before I post the first chapter. I have a morbid fear of having to rewrite the first chapter, because the story has veered off so wildly from where it first started, but I am a rare creature.
But writing fanfiction shouldn’t be a dirty secret; it’s the writing equivalent of a furnace. Do it properly and it will make you a stronger, better writer.
I see no difference between the writing process for fanfic or original fiction. Of course, for a fanfic you start with a premade set of characters where, in an original story, you make up your own. I write a lot of Twilight wolf fanfic, and the characters owned by Stephenie Meyer are so vaguely sketched out, that in some cases they have no surname and one or two distinguishing features… and that is it. But, by the time I have written a hundred thousand words around that character; they are more mine than hers. Unfortunately they still legally belong to her.
So I hope that EL James drags us all along with her. We’re ready, we’re writing and we’re stronger for it. We are tempered steel.