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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Fan Fiction as a Stepping Stone to Publication

   
Author Topic: Fan Fiction as a Stepping Stone to Publication
Crystal Stevens
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I talked to a man who seemed to know a lot about publishing today. He said if I wanted to get published I should try writing fan fiction. Seems like someone did a fan fiction piece and some publisher like it so well he asked to author to rewrite the piece with new names and some minor changes for publication. Evidently, this led to a $250,000 contract for this unknown author to write a trilogy.

So is this reasoning sound? Is it feasible to use fan fiction as a way to get published?

This same man also said I should forget about using WotF as a means to get published. He said times have changed and that method is outdated, outmoded, and not worth the time.

So what do the rest of you think? Is he right or blowing hot air?

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babooher
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Put enough kernels in a hot pan and some are bound to pop. Personally, without seeing anything else from this unnamed man, I'd be worried about my blood pressure because of the HUGE grain of salt I just consumed with his info. OSC has endorsed WotF, Dave Farland endorses it, lots of people have given WotF the thumbs up. I think the return on investment with WotF has a much more proven track record, but that doesn't mean you can't do the fan fiction.
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JenniferHicks
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Lots of personal opinion and speculation ahead, as oppposed to actual knowledge about the publishing industry:

Fan fiction is fun to write and a great place to work on things like pacing, tone, themes, conflicts, plot, structure, etc., without worrying about creating your own characters or world. But I don't believe it's the way to develop a strong career (unless your name is E.L. James). You're probably better off developing your own mythos, which is something that will be associated with your name and your brand, as opposed to a television show or movie. Besides, you'd probably have to have a contract in hand to write the tie-in novel before you start; otherwise, you're butting up against copyright laws.

Of course there are always exceptions. Kevin J. Anderson did very well writing Star Wars novels. And a lot of established pro writers do media tie-ins. Stephen Baxter has a Doctor Who novel coming out in October that I'm interested in reading. Greg Bear has a Halo novel coming out soon.

As for me, I would love to do some media tie-ins down the road. (That's from someone who wrote fan fiction for 10 years.) But I would rather take the tried-and-true path to publication by establishing myself as a good writer with my own ideas and some professonal sales under my belt. I think that's the best way to go.

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Tiergan
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Hot Air.

My first thought upon reading the post was about that 1 percentage point of the population who survives an auto accident because they didnt have seatbelt on. Its just not the norm.

I dont know much about fan-fiction. From what I hear its a great place to learn the craft, and I suppose if you write enough, you could develop a following, which in today's ever changing industry, would help any career.

In todays age, self-publishing doenst quite have the stigma it use to, and with e-pub's becoming very normal, having any sort of following would be a plus.

I think the more traditional way has better odds though if you will. But anything is possible.

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extrinsic
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A primary intent of fan fiction publication will only fly if use permission is granted.

The drawbacks for fan fiction include it's someone else's intellectual property, the questionable reputation of the venue, and that it's copycatting and recycling what's been done before, probably recently.

Reworking a piece to avoid infringement concerns might get around the first. Getting around the second and third will mean lots of reworking too. As a stepping stone to an original end product, okay, that's one way to go and a time-honored and noble tradition.

WoTF outdated? Since when? The WoTF annual anthology enjoys the largest circulation numbers of any fantastical genre serial publication. Industry insiders follow the publication. Its prestige is still ascendent. A WoTF win, place, or show garners attention across the marketplace niche.

There is only one easy way to break out; that is, the hard way is the easy way. No shortcuts will save an iota of effort. More than likely, taking shortcuts will delay if not frustrate a calling to the point of abandonment.

There are no odds for winning the writing game. No who you know. No happy coincidences. It's work, committment, insight, determination, and blunt and frank self-assessment that will win in the end.

Writing fan fiction develops memory muscles for craft development, and to a degree voice development. The same skills develop from close reading and craft and voice analysis. In concert, reading close and applying what's learned will carry a struggling writer far, but there are still many intangibles to develop. Good that there are; those are what makes for innovative fiction.

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Foste
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Is fan fiction something you want to write or just a means to an end?

Weigh your options. Ask yourself what you want and then act accordingly.

And of course be vary of people who present opinions as facts.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Writers of the Future is one market among many. Don't focus just on it, but send your stories to other markets as well.

As long as they pay, they are worth the effort. A professional sale is a professional sale.

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Crystal Stevens
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I know very little about fan fiction except for what I've read about it here on Hatrack. I just thought the conversation I had with this Half-Price bookstore employee was interesting in what he had to say and wondered what you folks might think about it. I was telling his viewpoint that doesn't completely jive with mine. He seemed to think any kind of writing contest is a waste of time.

And Kathleen; I totally agree.

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EVOC
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quote:
Originally posted by Foste:
Is fan fiction something you want to write or just a means to an end?

That is the real question here. I've considered writing Fan Fiction myself simply because I am in love with that world. It would be fun for me and practice is Practice.

I think you have to understand that people are "discovered" in this business in many different ways and for many different reasons. Trying to model your path off of one success story will only get you lost.

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MartinV
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There are many paths that lead to the top of that mountain. Some are easier, some are faster, others are more gratifying. Just because someone said they reached the top using one route, it doesn't mean you will reach it by following the same path.

Writing fan fiction is like playing in the neighbour's sandbox. Great because you don't have to clean it up in the evening but at some point you begin to desire your own sandbox, with all the nasty chores that come with it.

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Robert Nowall
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Writing Internet Fan Fiction was a very satisfying experience for me---and an ongoing one, in that I turned out another one after a long gap earlier this year. I probably should have done it much earlier, maybe back in the fanzine-and-mimeograph era. And I felt I came out of the experience a better writer than when I went in, as well.

But as a gate to publication...well, I thought the opportunity unlikely, but would have grabbed at it if it had been presented.

I guess this was set off by the reports that the bestselling set of books, Fifty Shades of Grey---that's the title, right?---started out as fanfic for "Twilight." I guess you could say it did lead to professional publication---but from what I've gleaned about these books, I don't think they're anything like anything I'd want to write, or, possibly, read...

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Crystal Stevens
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
Writing Internet Fan Fiction was a very satisfying experience for me---and an ongoing one, in that I turned out another one after a long gap earlier this year. I probably should have done it much earlier, maybe back in the fanzine-and-mimeograph era. And I felt I came out of the experience a better writer than when I went in, as well.

But as a gate to publication...well, I thought the opportunity unlikely, but would have grabbed at it if it had been presented.

I guess this was set off by the reports that the bestselling set of books, Fifty Shades of Grey---that's the title, right?---started out as fanfic for "Twilight." I guess you could say it did lead to professional publication---but from what I've gleaned about these books, I don't think they're anything like anything I'd want to write, or, possibly, read...

AhHA! That was the one this guy brought up. I just couldn't remember the book title. That was his reason for saying I ought to write fan fiction as a way to get published.
Thanks, Robert.

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Robert Nowall
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As of today, Books One, Two and Three of this trilogy are #1, #2, and #3, and a box set of all three is #7, on the USA Today Bestseller List:

http://books.usatoday.com/list/index

...so it's likely there'll be a lot of beating the bushes for the next big thing---or at least till it emerges from somewhere else and they chase after that.

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rabirch
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Fanfiction is what first made me think that maybe I could really do this writing thing. I noticed that I was receiving a large number of comments on my work on fanfiction.net, most of them wildly enthusiastic.

So then I decided to turn my hand to original fiction. I discovered it's a lot harder. I especially miss the influx of "Wow, you're awesome!!!"--immediate response is addictive--but my goal is to become a professional writer, and practicing, workshopping, and submitting to professional publications is where I've chosen to direct my effort.

And now, when I look back at what I was posting, I'm shocked at how overwritten and sappy it was. Grammar was good, but WOW. And I had a built in plot I was working from. If I hadn't branched away from that, I'd never have discovered that plot is my biggest challenge as a writer, and that's a pretty big challenge to have.

So more practice, I say! More power to 50 Shades of Grey, but have to think that the traditional method is one more likely to get me to my end goal in the long run.

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MAP
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From what I understand, Fifty Shades of Grey started out as a Twilight fan fiction and was redone with original characters and the vampire element being removed.

It seems that it would have been a lot easier to have just started with an original story.

I see nothing wrong with writing fan fiction if that is what you love to do, and I'm sure it is a good way to learn the craft, but you can't publish it unless you change it or get permission from whoever holds the rights. So it doesn't seem like a viable path to get published.

There are a lot better paths to take, WotF being one of them. This guy doesn't know what he's talking about.

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Crystal Stevens
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And I'm very much in agreement with you, MAP, from the responses I've read here. Personally, I thought he was off base too. He had me thinking, "Huh?", which is the reason I started this thread [Smile] .
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Pyre Dynasty
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You know a better way to get a book deal, be a celebrity. They don't even have to be able to write.

It might be worthwhile to look deeper at what exactly happened with that shades of gray thing. Was an editor really trolling through fan fiction sites? Or did this person decide to change it and submit it?

Either way it seems more like a win the lottery way of getting rich than a invent something cool and sell it way.

I've always seen fan fiction as a waste of energy, that doesn't stop me from reading it and giving those people advice. The way I see it it's safe in a way your own writing isn't. Your own writing you feel the need to make it publishable, so you overthink it and psych yourself out. You can't publish fan fiction, so you can do whatever you want. Perhaps it would be a good exercise to write some fan fiction then change the details.

Of course the funny part is my only bit of success is from an author approved fan fiction.

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JenniferHicks
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyre Dynasty:
It might be worthwhile to look deeper at what exactly happened with that shades of gray thing. Was an editor really trolling through fan fiction sites? Or did this person decide to change it and submit it?

My understanding is that she originally wrote it as Twilight fan fiction, then later changed the names and took out the vampire stuff and epubed the books. They became a hit and attracted the attention of a major publisher, which bought the rights and had the trilogy in bookstores only a few weeks later.
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Nick T
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Crystal,
Your instincts are right in my opinion.
For me, the hardest thing to do in writing is create characters that resonate with your readers. Itís the most difficult part of writing for me (and one that I believe is close to the most essential part of a good story) and if Iíd started in fan fiction, I believe that any ability I had to do this would be underdeveloped. In writing fan fiction, youíve got characters that people already love. The hard work has already been done for you. I think fan fiction can help develop other aspects of your writing game, but the danger is that most essential part of writing is the most neglected in your development.
The positives of fan fiction are, of course, the ability to work at other parts of your writing ďgameĒ as well as receiving positive feedback. To me though, itís very, very difficult not to take the path of least resistance and not making that further step to developing your character creation skills.
For me, Fifty shades of Grey is an outlier and extreme one. Thereís always someone who succeeds in publishing for incredibly unlikely reasons. No one can ever predict why a best seller resonates with the public, but I definitely wouldnít take it as a template for how to succeed. To be honest, it may have opened up the market a little bit for womenís erotic fiction, but thatís it.
As for WOTF, itís just another market. Itís the one with the best prize at our stage of career, but itís not a career maker. I canít say that Iíve noticed any significant change in my career prospects because of winning. I met some really cool people, I got a lot of money in the context of short stories and I made a fool out of myself on television. It might lead to opportunities through contacts, but only if I write good stories. Itís well worth entering for writing development reasons, but itís not a golden ticket. Most contests are not worth entering (which may be the source of his prejudice) but WOTF is an exception in thatís free to enter, itís competitive, its high visibility and the prize is extremely generous.
Nick

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Brendan
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Here is the difference. Is a publisher more likely to write "former fan fiction writer" or "Writers of the Future Award Winner" on the back cover of a future novel? It may not be the most prestigeous prize, but for the genre, I suspect it is around number four. And it is one that doesn't compete with the pros.

I'd equate it to a PhD, in impact. It may not ensure you a career in the field, but it certainly puts you ahead of the myriad of Bachelors vying for the same jobs. In that way, it can be a launch pad. (Remember, even the late KDW didn't sell another story for a year after winning WOTF, but it still launched her career.) So I think WOTF's record speaks for itself.

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Robert Nowall
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quote:
For me, Fifty shades of Grey is an outlier and extreme one.
What Nick T said. It's something of a fluke.

*****

On characters and fan fiction---of course, when you write it, except in some extreme cases, you use their characters. In a way, I found that kind of liberating, having to work within the restrictions of pre-exisiting characters rather than coming up with someone new. Of course as time went on I introduced my own characters---at least one of which made such an impression in the fanfic community that others started using her without formal permission. (What could I do? It's fanfic...)

*****

I've expressed my distrust of the Writers of the Future contest elsewhere, and time is short at the moment, so I won't go into detail. (Maybe later.) I think, if submitting and winning that is what it takes for literary and / or financial success in the SF world of today, I'd just as soon not bother---or, better yet, I'll find my own way to success without them.

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wise
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When I wrote my Star Wars fan fiction novellette about what happened after TESB, I got lots of flak from my readers because they didn't agree with my interpretation of Leia. In TESB I saw her as kind of complaining and a little whiney, so that's how I wrote her. I think this can be a big problem with writing fan fiction - the characters are not your own and many other people have their own views of them and woe if you deviate from that. However, writing FF did allow me to work on pacing, plot, dialogue, and all the other elements of writing. Most of all, it gave me the confidence to say, "Hey, I CAN write!" Unfortunately, that was a long time ago and I had to psyche myself up to get back to writing. So we'll see what happens. But I loved writing FF and enjoyed editing others' work and putting it all together into a fanzine I was proud of. Can't say I am still proud of it, because I'm afraid to go back and reread what I wrote - it's probably very naive and pedantic!
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