Creating Your Own Canon: Moving from Fan Fiction to Original Fiction

My friend Kerry Freeman is having a go this week. I’m kind of in awe of Kerry half the time, this girl sold her book! She’s published! It’s all very exciting, and I’m so damn proud of her. Here, she tells us how it happened :D

For me, it started like this:

SIL: (sitting at computer, reading my latest one-shot)
Me: (biting nails)
SIL: (turns around) This is REALLY good. Why don’t you publish it?
Me: It’s fan fiction, so it’s someone else’s characters. I can’t publish it.
SIL: Then why in the world aren’t you writing something you CAN publish?

By the time I had this conversation, I’d written fan fiction for over a year. I’d completed two multi-chapter stories of my own, one multi-chapter collaboration, and a few one-shots. My life outside of work had become centered around writing about someone else’s characters, and I was convinced that I couldn’t write anything that wasn’t based on someone else’s canon. I wasn’t that creative, you see.

A few months later, I met a great group of fandom friends in Chicago to see Eclipse. Not only had I talked to these women online for a year, I’d also used them as sounding boards, betas, and collaborators for my fan fiction. The last night there, we all sat around a table at an Irish pub and talked about the movie, which quickly moved to discussing fandom and fan fiction.

When I mentioned trying to write original fiction, every one, without exception, encouraged me. They thought I could create my own characters, with their own history and quirks, and write a new story. Their encouragement gave me the confidence to really give this original fiction thing a try.

Then I did the one thing that all new writers do: I bought a crap ton of books on how to write. Every one of them told me something different. It took a while, but I finally figured something out.

You won’t find your voice or your own method in a book.

Sure, you can learn about grammar and wording and outlining and the Snowflake method. But you have to know when to put the books down and write it your way.

My time writing fan fiction was valuable in finding my voice and figuring out what works for me. I realized that I’m not a pantser. Even when it comes to writing a short story, I need to know my characters’ histories: where they came from, what they do for a living, what their hobbies are. I may never use all that information in the story, but I need to know it to know my characters.

Fan fiction also helped me find my genre. I started out writing het, and I liked it well enough. But I couldn’t write canon Bella. I had to make her tough, self-reliant. A tomboy.

Then I read my first slash. When I read Underneath and Say Something Else, I was blown away. Both stories were beautifully written, and I wanted to write like that. I also was intrigued by the different feel slash had. I found I enjoyed reading it more than het, and, when I tried my hand at writing my own slash one-shot, I found I definitely preferred writing it.

The hardest part about moving from fan fiction to original fiction is the loss of instant feedback. Every time you post a new fic chapter, you get reviews and comments from your readers. You find out quickly what works, what doesn’t, and what completely throws the reader for a loop. When you write original fiction, you generally work in a vacuum. You don’t send every chapter to a beta or post it somewhere for comments. You have to be confident that the story is going how and where you want without consistent feedback along the way.

Then again, this could be a good thing. When writing fan fiction, I often found myself wondering if I should change my vision based on what the readers seemed to want. It’s hard to stay on your path if every week people are telling you they want you to go a different way. When you write original fiction, you’re in a bubble that allows you to get what’s in your head out on the page before anyone gets a chance to sway you.

Once I put down all the writing books, I opened my head to new voices. Not Edward’s or Jacob’s. New voices of people I’d never met before. I looked at situations, every day occurrences, current events, and I tried to imagine what the people in them were thinking, why they were doing the things they were, what the small touches and glances were really communicating.

And then it happened. I saw two kids and thought, “I bet when they grow up…” Suddenly I was creating their pasts and their futures. I knew who they were going to be and who they would love. The voices I heard were new to me and were more than willing to tell me what I should write.

I was creating my own canon.

There are plenty of websites to help you write a query letter or find an agent or an editor. You’ll find lots of great people who will give you virtual hugs when you get your first rejection letter. The same people will sing from the rooftops of Twitter when you finally get a contract. You can create online critique groups of people you’ve never met in real life and who you tell your deepest, darkest fears about writing and publishing… and life in general.

But none of them can make you believe in yourself and in your own characters the way just going for it will. NaNoWriMo starts on November 1st. Make a decision that you will only write characters of your own design for one month, 50K words. Even if at the end of November you have 50K words that you never show another soul, do it. Finish it. Show yourself you can.

Who knows. Maybe, after a few months of edits, you’ll have a book someone wants to publish. I did.

KF_WhatWeDeserve_coverlg Kerry’s book was released today! It’s an m/m/m romance called What We Deserve, and you can find out more at the product page at Loose Id. Kerry’s website is here, or you can check out her blog here, and you can follow her on twitter and Goodreads.


6 responses to “Creating Your Own Canon: Moving from Fan Fiction to Original Fiction

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