The path to publication can be difficult for young writers just starting out, especially if they don’t personally know that many writers in real life–especially published writers.
The internet makes it easy for young writers to find writing resources, tips, and like-minded people, but when it comes to where the rubber meets the road, or, rather, the fingers meet the keyboard, it’s fanfiction that can help a young writer the most on their way to publication.
Fanfiction allows a young writer to write about a world they already know, but on their own terms. It helps them understand pre-existing universes, characters, situations, and dialogue.
The young fanfiction writer will also find other writers just like himself or herself to mingle with online, compare notes, and discuss stories and ways to improve.
Most fanfiction communities have review or comment sections or forums, like Fanfiction.net, LiveJournal, or Wattpad, where a writer can receive comments, reviews, praise, or constructive criticism. This kind of feedback can prepare a young writer for what it’s like in the professional writing world, where feedback isn’t always glowing, editors can tell a writer to write the story or article a different way because it doesn’t work as-is, or rejection occurs for one reason or another.
Fanfiction can be a valuable training ground if the writer finds the right community. Sure, there will always be “flames”, or extremely negative responses to a story that are unwarranted and unfair. But the flames are few, and those are to be taken with a grain of salt. Flames in themselves can be used in a positive way, as they can prepare a young writer for the negative emotions that may come their way, and toughen up their skin. Negative criticism can actually motivate a young writer to take a look at himself or herself and the writing, to determine if writing is what they really want to do. Should they keep going? Can they handle the negative feedback? How can they make their writing better?
It’s constructive criticism that will be most useful to them as they write their stories, and they will find it if they look hard enough and are open-minded enough to accept it. It’s here that the young writer will receive instruction on what could make the story better, how to build chapters or paragraphs, tighten dialogue, flesh out characters, etc.
Rejection hurts, and happens to almost every writer at some point, but it can help a young fanfic writer improve or look at his/her work objectively, or in a different way.
“So, the story isn’t working with Spock as a pizza delivery boy who shows up at Kirk’s roadside camper with a Vulcan pizza? Why not? Oh, because the idea throws you out of the story from the get-go? I thought anything goes in fanfic?”
This story may make it in fanfiction. A lot of fanfic sites accept anything and everything. Some are a little more discriminating than others.
But in the world of professional writing and editing, outlandish ideas are met with a polite “Sorry, your material isn’t right for us at this time,” or “It isn’t right for us as it stands. Either work it a different way and re-submit, or try a different publisher.”
If the writing continues into adulthood, and fanfic writers decide to write non-fanfic material, they will be one step ahead in the professional publication game.
There are some who would criticize fanfic writing as a waste of time, or un-original, but it can lead to unexpected success. 50 Shades of Grey was a Twilight fanfic, and the film After was based on the One Direction band.