tygermama asked: I write fanfic because it’s fun, makes me happy and it was one of the first things I ever did that was completely my own and that I got praise for. Now, I am thinking about trying to freelance but I’m very aware that professional writing is completely different from writing fanfic. The entire mindset is different, the reasons you write are different. I’ll let you know how it turns out. (also you can be more experimental with fanfic. POV, story length, etc. Stuff you couldn’t do professionally)Gail Simone
Well, it is very different. On the one hand, writing is writing is writing.
But pro writing is a different tablet, a different pen, and a different world to write in. It really is. While I do know some people who used fanfic as a stepping stone, I do feel that there are things in the fanfic mindset (not a pejorative, by the way), that could easily hold a person back as they go pro, exceptions noted and acknowledged.
I am not certain I agree about ‘experimental,’ really, for a number of reasons, but that’s a different discussion entirely.
I do like the idea of people making fanfic to make themselves and others happy, to scratch an itch, and to improve their writing. All of that seems very valid and encouraging. I don’t see why it’s considered any differently than fanart, or cosplay, really. It all seems pretty legitimate expression to me.
I couldn’t respond so I’m writing here.
I am probably going to be blowing smoke up your air shaft and I apologize, to a degree, ahead of time. I do agree that there is a difference between writing original works and writing fanfiction. I do think there is a different in writing style, possibly method, and choice.
However, I would also argue that, in many ways, writing the original book series based off a tv show (in published form such as the Dr. Who books and a number of others) as well as American Super Hero Comics are, well, they are Pro-Fanfic. I do not mean they are okay with, for, or supportive of fanfiction. In this term I mean the writers of many of our favorite super hero comics are part of a remixing culture—much like fanfiction (also see fancomics and fan art).
There are still different goals in this. There are still different methods. There are even different criteria or what things considered acceptable—or not. Rules to play and get paid in the pro arena but when it boils down to it—I consider most American Comics to be in many ways similar to fanfiction.
Because the current creators and tellers of the Superman, Spiderman, and Batman stories are (as far as I’m aware) not the original creators. There are histories there (even with reboots, erased plotlines, and re-invisions) and there are tapestries of writers who take these roots and use them in their stories. These creators help make the party-line continuation of the mythos.
But they are not the creators (in the majority of the cases) of the most iconic universes that they write in. They do not have complete freedom to take the character in every place they could imagine (unlike non-pro fanfiction writers). These are people Pro-Writing, yes, but what they write in is not their own even as they make it their own for the time they write in it.
So while I do agree, whole heartedly, that pro-writing, original writing, and fanfic require a different skillset—and sometimes writing one or another could change, effect, or cause a particular growing author to reconsider some things—I also assert that not writing in your own universe with your own characters is not so far from Fanfic. Pro-fic or not at the end of the day the book you write in is yours—but those characters are not.
Instead, you are writing in a quilt that is full of holes, that could erase what you’ve written at any time, and on paper that was never entirely your own.
And you can’t fully separate those concepts from those who write non-profit fanfic.
You absolutely can, and in fact, you absolutely must. It’s unavoidable. Honestly, I say this all the time, but one week working at Marvel or DC or on any official licensed property, you find out really, REALLY quickly that fanfic prepares you, at best, for a fraction of the skill sets you must have, that you absolutely cannot function without. It’s one thing to dance nicely, it’s another to dance professionally, even if they requite the same muscle groups.
Working in any shared universe, you find out that you aren’t just spinning plates, you are spinning plates cooperatively, on a level that is very different from even shared fanfiction. The expectations are different, the reactions are different, and you are not LIKE the person who is guarding a character, you ARE the person guarding a character. Nearly every pro working at DC or Marvel knew that others would write their characters, that’s the deal most of them made (a few exceptions and a few people who disagree, obviously). They knew they were starting a quilt others would work on, just as I knew when I created, say, Black Alice, that it was very unlikely that I would be the last one to write her. Most of us encourage it.
I understand where the IDEA of profic and fanfic being basically the same comes from, but it is a notion no one keeps if they have done both. Writing as a pro devours that idea like a kid eating ice cream.
I don’t place any innate VALUE of one over the other. There may be brilliant fanfic writers out there, a thousand times better than the people paid to write the books right now. But they are different and that realization hits you about five minutes in, really.
I am adding this in as an edit, because I again want to stress, THIS IS NOT A VALUE JUDGMENT. I am not saying pro writing is better, or superior in any way, that’s not the point I am making. I’m just saying that writing for your muse, even in a shared fanfic, for a small audience that does not include tens of thousands of readers and decades of expectations and doesn’t have to pass the vetting of the legal owners of the actual properties for approval AND editors AND critics AND publishers and other creators and the hundreds of issues of that character that came before you, it’s just a different seat at the buffet.
I have respect for people who write whether they make money at it or not, that has nothing to do with what I am saying. But the game changes very quickly and I try to get aspiring writers to divest themselves of the idea that they don’t, or it could definitely be a stumbling block.
I hope that makes sense, I mean nothing but respect.