Fan fiction is writing based on movies, TV shows, video games and other creative works that already exist. It extends or builds on the work of other successful creators – most often without their consent.
Fan fiction writers use the characters, setting, plot or other creative elements from these works to create their own work of fiction.
Writers of fan fiction typically share their work online in dedicated forums or groups for other fans of the original creative work.
Fan fiction is rarely, if ever, published in a traditional sense, and is typically read only by other fans of the original creative work.
Many people have opinions about whether fan fiction is a good or a bad thing. Regardless, it is a hugely popular medium for writing and exists for just about every creative work you can think of.
From successful book and movie franchises such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and Twilight to cartoons and video games like Pokemon and Final Fantasy – there's something for every taste.
So, whether you're a seasoned fan fiction writer or someone who is considering giving it a go, you might wonder: is writing fan fiction good practice for your writing?
Yes, it is. Any writing is good practice, but fan fiction can be a great opportunity for you to flex your creative muscles for a range of reasons.
If you're going to try it, here are some points you might like to consider.
Perfect for beginners
Fan fiction is a great gateway drug into fiction writing. It can be much less daunting to start out writing fiction this way.
You can relax knowing that a lot of the heavy lifting has been completed by someone else, and you can just get straight into the writing part.
World-building – which is complex and difficult for even the most experienced of writers – is not a problem when you're writing fan fiction, because someone has already done it for you.
It's a great opportunity to test out your writing skills without having to worry too much about how unique all the elements of your story might be. Just write and see what happens.
Writing fan fiction also gives you an opportunity to share your work with a supportive audience – something that is not always easy to find for writers just starting out.
As you are writing about characters and worlds that already have a fanbase, your writing automatically has a potential fanbase too.
An extension of fandom
The pressure is off when you write fan fiction, making it the ideal way to practise your writing. It's not a serious or stuffy form of writing, because it's created as an extension of fandom.
In short, it's done for the pure love of it.
People who read fan fiction want to spend more time in the world they love so much. They want to connect with others who share their passion.
This means you get a captive and interested audience to try out your creativity on. An audience who is already on your side and invested in your writing before they even start reading.
Writers of fan fiction can also enjoy some unique social connections, which can help you with your writing.
These writers often hang out online and in the actual world together, meaning you get the bonus of creating some lasting and meaningful writing connections.
Makes writing fun
Are you suffering from writer's block? Writing fan fiction might be the way out of it, even for seasoned writers.
It allows you to step outside your own creative bubble and into the world of other creators to get the creative boost you need.
If you're stuck with your own writing, fan fiction allows you to get out of your own head and let your creativity flow. It can help you take your writing a little less seriously and focus on what's important: the storytelling.
Remove the pressure by getting into the writing flow and having fun with your writing.
It can also help you get out of your writing funk if you create a story that differs completely from the project you're trying (and failing) to work on.
Allow your creativity to blossom without restraint, writing for the sheer joy of it rather than with a focus on publication or becoming an award-winning writer (that can wait for another day).
Study story elements from the masters
Fan fiction allows writers of all kinds to learn skills and techniques from expert creators.
The majority of fan fiction centres around works that have already seen a sizeable amount of success – and there's a reason these works draw people in and inspire them to extend on the original work.
You can learn a lot from studying the world-building, character creation and setting of other creative works – especially successful ones.
Take some time to think: how are the worlds created so they seem realistic to the audience? Why are the characters so likeable (or hateable)?
What is it that keeps people interested years after the creation of the work?
Try to recreate this level of excitement and interest in your own fan fiction writing. And then, later, you can try to use the same principles to create your own unique piece of fiction writing.
You pick how challenging it is
The best part of writing fan fiction, and the reason it can be great writing practice, is that you can choose how challenging it is.
You can borrow as many elements of the original work as you want when you write your fan fiction, and what you borrow can change each time you do it.
When you're first starting out writing fiction, fan fiction can help you start small. Extend on the original story using the same setting and characters.
As you become more confident, you can introduce your own elements to the work.
Eventually, you can write fan fiction using only minimal elements of the original work. Maybe you use one character and drop them into a completely different world.
When you're ready for the toughest challenge, you're ready to write your own masterpiece.
Creators don't always support it
One potential issue with fan fiction is breaching the copyright and trust of other creators.
While many authors and creators are flattered that people want to create fan fiction from their work, not all support its creation. It might even offend some.
Many creators are aware that fan fiction of their much-loved works exist, but they don't go looking for it. In fact, most are legally obliged not to read it at all.
Fan fiction is written for the other fans of the work, and while those fans may love what you write, you won't be able to share it widely (or for profit) due to those copyright issues.
It's not a career option
For all its worth as a valuable creative exercise, writing fan fiction is unlikely to be a direct stepping stone to writing success.
You won't find your work of this type published in anthologies, in literary magazines, or in any kind of book. It's not written for glory or profit – just for fun.
That being said, some people have drawn attention to their writing abilities through fan fiction. With an enormous fan base, you just never know who's going to be reading.
If you're writing about an ongoing series (such as a video game or TV show), perhaps all the practice you've had will mean you'll one day work on the project for real.
But if you're wanting to one day publish a book of your own, you'll eventually have to work on that too.
It doesn't mean, of course, that you can't continue to enjoy writing fan fiction for fun at the same time. It just means you can't only write fan fiction forever if you're seeking traditional publication.
Any writing is great practice for writers. Fan fiction can be a great way to explore your creativity and learn from some masters.
However, it is important to remember that you are borrowing the creative work of someone else when you write fan fiction.
The characters, settings and worlds you are writing about are not your own creations, so you need to treat the practice with respect – and not as a viable career path in and of itself.
If you're going to write fan fiction, use it as an opportunity to flex your creative muscles and to have fun.
Most of all, though, use it to share your love of other creative work and to create connections with others in the fandom you're writing about.