Write it Like It’s Hot

Most of us started out in fanfic.  Even me.  It’s just that I started out in fanfic at age 6, in Portuguese.  So when they put me on a panel on your earliest writing in Denvention I had to point out to them the flaw in their reasoning.  Sure, supposing mom hasn’t burned it (she likes bonfires) there is, somewhere around the potato cellar, a composition book with my early, written in pencil and misspelled stories in which I imitated (well, I tried) Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories.  (My favorite was actually the Adventure series, but even at six I knew I wasn’t good enough to write those.) However, supposing I could get hold of it and read it, only those who understood Portuguese and grew up with Enid Blyton’s Kid-mystery series would know what I was doing.

So I read an early joke-story I wrote (and which sold) because I figured what they wanted was weird.

However, everyone else at that table read their earliest writing and it was, without exception, like my earliest writing: self insertion and fan fic.

So if you’re a beginning writer, of any age, and you feel a desperate need to do self-insertion fanfic, congratulations: You’re normal.

(Self insertion, btw, although much ballyhooed as a literary sin is not.  It all depends on how well you do it — I don’t do it at all.  I like escaping the pace behind my eyes.  But I know people who do — and many bestsellers are self-inserters. I can do a post on that later, and how to do it WELL.  Not that I do it, but I’ve been observing it a long time.)

Anyway, that’s how most of us start.  I suppose if you’re over forty, and you swear to me you’ve never done that, I MIGHT believe you.  However, if your first book, at over forty years of age wasn’t that, and was publishable, I’m going to think you’re lying and there are something like 20 manuscripts under the bed.

Which brings us to: it’s still wrong, and you can’t publish that.

I recently came across someone who didn’t know that.  He wasn’t being stupid, he simply didn’t know the inside-baseball of how pro-world-based stories work.  You see those anthologies on Monster Hunter, say, and if you’re a beginner you think “Okay, I’m still in my fanfic phase, but I could play in a favorite world.”  And you probably could.  I mean, those anthos always have one or two relative unknowns who are friends with the author and the editor or both.

But the fact is those stories, to keep the editorial work to a minimum (if you opened up a really popular world, you’d drown in submissions) are “invite only.”

Other than that, there isn’t a heck of a lot of outlet for fanfic.

Sure, if you’re as twisted as I am, and your favorite media properties are things like Pride and Prejudice and The Three Musketeers, not to mention Shakespeare, you can publish your fanfic.  But that’s only if you have the good taste of liking things that are out of copyright.

What if you, in common with most fans (which means greater audience) prefer to write in popular book series, popular movies, popular tv series.

That’s when you are in real trouble.  And don’t for the love of heaven, ever try to publish anything that has any ties to Disney.  They have a bunch of lawsuit-happy lawyers on staff, who will take you to court, even if they gain nothing for it.  What they’re actually doing is putting your head on a pike outside their castle, so other misbegotten barbarians don’t think of fanficking them.

So — what do you do?  Most likely you’ll do what most of us eventually do: you start coming up with your own material, even though at first it might really be a conglomeration of your three or four favorite movies.  That’s okay.  As long as it’s not traceable to a single franchise, and you’re sure the seams between the disparate material are neat enough, you’re not doing anything wrong, and you might be very successful.

Or you can “file the serial numbers.” It’s no big surprise that Fifty Shades of Grey started out as twilight fanfic, substituting S & M for vampires.  Which when you think about it makes sense, bringing the same power relationships to play, while eliminating the most identifiable part of the original material.

I can also do a post on that, and how to preserve what appeals in the material while avoiding being sued. But it’s a whole post, not just a few lines in this post.

Every year, when I had a hopeful (we practically ONLY had hope, though we were working on skill) young writers’ group, we entered the Strange New Worlds contest.  For those who don’t know, this was a star trek fanfic anthology.  Eventually three people in our group got into (different) anthologies.  Not a mean feat, when they MUST have gotten thousands upon thousands of submissions.

HOWEVER, there were 12 of us in the grou and we submitted to it over 5 years or so.  So there were a lot of leftover fanfics.  Usually immediately after the results were announced there was the “great brainstorming” session in which we helped ourselves shave off identifying marks, without destroying the story.

From the fact that quite a few of those stories sold to pro places like Analog and Asimov, I have to assume the filing of serial numbers was effective.

So, the bad news about fanfic is that, with very few exceptions, or if you become big enough or lucky enough one day to be invited to an anthology of JUST that fanfic, you can’t sell it as is.

The good news is that you’re not an inferior writer if you commit fanfic.  Most of us start out that way, many of us still indulge when we have that mythical “free time” thing.  (Not this year.)

Some fanfic, like Jane Austen, can be sold as is, both to publishers and Amazon, and I’ll be honest, I’ve made a tidy bit off JA fanfic.  But that’s because it’s out of copyright.

If your poison of choice isn’t, it’s not the end of the world, though.  You can still shave off the serial numbers and ride that story all the way to the top.  No matter what your opinion of Twilight is, I hear the author sleeps in a mattress stuffed with money.

So, write it like it’s hot.  And then do what you have to do to sell it.



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94 responses to “Write it Like It’s Hot

  1. Mike Houst

    “But that’s only if you have the good taste of liking things that are out of copyright.”

    Probably why I love downloading stories from Project Gutenberg.

  2. In 1964 I wrote the first time travel teen romance. No fanfic ever, and yes, I’m over 40.

    I may have it somewhere.

    • Mary

      I wrote original fantasy from the get-go Heavily derivative, but original. At least it got me started on the practice filing off serial numbers. Nowadays I frequently have to remember what I was trying to rip off, and people can’t recognize it.

      • Yeah, bad Dunsany pastiche…and well, bad early Lovecraft pastiche (when he was in his Dunsany phase) as I found Dunsany through Lovecraft.

        I guess some of it might technically be Mythos fanfic given the definition of Mythos stories today although I used no identifiable Mythos elements.

        • Mary

          All Dunsany pastiche is terrible. I certainly have reams of it that I am glad is in my handwriting — that is, looks like a chicken walked through a pool of ink and onto the page. (And a drunken chicken, at that.)

  3. paladin3001

    Good old self insertion phase, or as I remember it, public school creative writing assignments. 🙂
    Luckily I don’t think I have done any fanfic at least. Figured that I wasn’t “good” enough to pull it off. Now I am just creating my own worlds.

  4. Interesting. My first story in 1973 (I was 13) was definitely self-insertion, but not fanfic. It was an SF story written for French class. In French, no less. Let me tell you: figuring out the French vocabulary for SF terms was hard! 😉

    However, I suppose my novel Troll-magic is fanfic, since it re-tells (sort of, with twists) the Norse folk tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.”

  5. The Cat stories started as fanfic. And took on a life of their own, grew a backstory totally unrelated to the origin material, and rambled off into originality. The first, hand-written stuff has been burned, and I mean that literally. I torched it at a cook-out.

    Interesting timing, this column, because for some reason I got to thinking about how much influence Space Pirate Captain Harlock has had on my writing over the years. Matsumoto Leiji had some seriously Odd stories to tell.

  6. My first written story wasn’t fanfic. The next dozen or so absolutely were and will never see the light of day without major revisions. I like to think I’ve gotten a bit more original since.

    • My first written story wasn’t fanfic. The next few absolutely were and will never see the light of day without major revisions. I like to think I’ve gotten a bit more original since.

      (This is sort of a meta joke. My comment is fanfic of KAries’s comment. Aside from the number, her comment describes me exactly, so why should I write it again?)

  7. Luke

    Over 40, and I’ve never felt an interest in self-insertion or fanfic.

    (But the less said about the abysmal poetry the better. Fortunately, most of it has been consigned to the flames.)

  8. Free time mythical? Oh, I wish it were mythical! It’s not nearly so easy as that.

  9. I did fan-fic as a teenager, but not self-insertion.

    • I only did self-insertion as a pre-teen, but then found the joys of being someone else. 😀

      • My Oz Moomin fan fic started with a self insertion, but I didn’t really like her, because the character needed to do something I wouldn’t do, so I stuck in another girl I knew. Yes, it stunk either way. There’s a reason I’m an illustrator.

  10. aacid14

    Chainsawing out the self insertion is part of why I’m procrastinating rewriting.

    • Don’t chainsaw it out. Just make sure it’s well written.

    • Self insertion is bad? No way. Who are you writing this for? It lives in your brain, dammit! Its about you! Leave it. Make it awesome!

      • The only thing that really matters is this: does the character, “self insertion” or not, fit the story? A character that walks through the story challenges without a care does not fit the story. A character that needs to be saved by Deus Ex Machina does not fit the story. If the character does fit the story and its drama and challenges then whether or not it’s a “self insertion” really doesn’t matter.

  11. I would be interested in a column on filing off the serial numbers. I was invited to submit a proposal for a shared world; only my hyperactive brain wouldn’t be satisfied with a proposal, it proceeded to dictate a 20,000-word story over the next four days. It’s a good story; but if my proposal is rejected (or if the anthology never happens), it’s going to be difficult to file the serial numbers off this one. Any methods I can learn might turn out to be very helpful.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      So You Have A Fanfic, and Want to Make Something Salable

      You’ve got to be able to answer some questions.

      1. What are the properties you are infringing upon, and what are the elements that define them. You need this answer so that you know when you’ve satisfied your legal or artistic requirements, whichever are stricter.
      2. Which elements does your story rely on? This tells you the bones you need to keep in order to minimize surgery.
      3. Does your story rely on any element that is not established in your story? This tells you what you need to add to make sure the story is accessible without the restricted IP.
      4. What are your limits? What would kill the story dead for you?

      My poison is crossover, and in particular multicrosses. I love to cram in more borrowed elements than I can handle.

      So, sometimes I have to step back and replace fanfic elements with original elements that serve the same purpose.

      Do I want to include a bunch of military onmyouji properties for flavor, but not actually engage with any of their plot or characters? I need to fiddle with the world building to add that flavor without wasting plot or character time on something that doesn’t drive the story.

      Do I want Star Gate’s SGC, but cannot afford the additional costs of an outright Star Gate fic? I strip out the elements I need from Star Gate, refine them to the bare minimum, and brainstorm a new framework around them.

      Do I want to do an original story that is basically Delta Green as magical girls? Strip Delta Green down to psychological bones, grab the magical girl bones, grab the die grinder, and start imagining different flesh.

      Do I need to strip mine Star Gate to get a plot for a bizarre mishmash of elements? What’s the core of the plot, what’s the core of the characters?

      • Crossover is my preferred poison as well. Though I reluctantly accepted that my Firefly/Doctor Who crossover would never survive having the serial numbers filed off. Same for the Sherlock Holmes/Star Wars one.

        But that’s okay. I’m still proud of them.

        • Draven

          my favorite crossover i wrote was DS9/Highlander. 😛

          • Ooooh, that sounds intriguing. Highlander the Series, or the movies? (I’ll read anything with Methos in, lol.)

            What’s the title, and where can I find it?

            • Draven

              alas, it was posted to a BBS ages ago, and i dont think i can recover it, i wrote it on my Amiga and lost a bunch of stuff when that machine took a lightning it. lets just say Dax has some really old friends that aren’t Trill.

      • I am sure Sailor Delta is a violation of the Geneva Accords.

        Then again, StarGate is just Fringeworthy Fanfic.

  12. Christopher M. Chupik

    R M Meluch’s Merrimack series is definitely Star Trek fanfic, but also good SF in its own right.

  13. I never did the fanfic thing. I did get an early start on “filing off serial numbers” though. 😉

    And, yes, I’ve done “self insertion” as a starting point for a character more than once. I’ve generally done it in a case where what a character knows is a critical aspect and I can use “if I know this without looking it up” as a guide to what the character can reasonably know. Maybe that works, maybe that doesn’t, but it’s at least a starting point.

    Usually, before I’m done, the character has evolved in ways that makes the original conception nearly unrecognizeable, but it’s a starting point.

  14. My first “fanfic” was a whole series of “Jinx the Cat” stories that were really bad imitations of the Freddy the Pig series by Walter R. Brooks. The kids in my grade school class didn’t know anything about Freddy the Pig and thought I was doing my own stories about the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Mr. Jinks they knew from TV — and getting it wrong.
    As for “self-insertion,” I’ve been doing nothing but all these years. The first stories I can remember plotting out was a three-part series I planned to write just as soon as school let out one year. In it, my older brother and I would go to the Moon in June (sorry about the rhyme), to a habitable Venus in July, and then to a planet of the Alpha Centauri system in August. Looking back at it now, I rather like the increasing order of magnitude with each story. What really strikes me, though, is the little kid mindset. I could imagine my brother and me travelling to different planets in outer space, but I couldn’t imagine missing school to do it. School from September through May was an absolute, up there with death and taxes, no getting around it, not even a permission slip from NASA would release me, and even the greatest adventure in the history of humanity had to be crammed into summer vacation.

  15. The first novel I completed (second one I published) might be considered to have started as fanfic. There was a comic I’d been reading and really enjoying: Arak, Son of Thunder. It featured an American Indian whose nation had been exterminated. Young Arak escaped the slaughter in a canoe and was found by Viking explorers, taken back and raised among them. The comic followed his adventures with his two most regular companions: Malagigi (from the Carolingian legends) and Varda (character created for the comic–styled as the daughter of Bradamante who became a knight in her own right). After a rocky start (is there any other kind in fiction?) Varda became Arak’s love interest.

    I loved the comic right up until the end. For reasons Arak was heading east to circle the globe to get back to his people (who were not exterminated after all). They’d gotten as far as Japan when Varda because of duty had to go back to Europe and Arak had to continue on eastward across the Pacific. Bleah. We see Varda and Malagigi waving to Arak as he set’s sail in a boat. The end.*


    I hated that ending and so started The Hordes of Chanakra to “fix” it. Oh, the story very little resembled the original except that my main characters were a centuries old wizard, a woman warrior, and a stranger from a far land who is (or rather becomes) also a capable warrior. But I swore up and down I was going to give my romantic pair a happy ending, at least romantically, just because the ending of that comic honked me off.

    *During DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” the two meet briefly so we learn that Arak didn’t die at sea, but still the two never did get back together.

  16. sabrinachase

    I don’t think I ever did any fanfic. What I *did* do was take some Golden Age SF and rewrite it so one of the characters was female 😉 (I did it for the typing practice. I learned on a manual typewriter, and doing business memos was driving me up the wall. So I did a cool story instead. Being old, all the characters were male.) But I didn’t make that character me, I just changed the gender. For the lulz….

  17. The 1632 Universe is what got me thinking about writing…
    I have read most of it multiple times and “met” many new authors there that I now read.
    It is very succesful and while it isn’t exactly fanfic, its collaborative universe model is, sort of, canonized fanfic.
    For some non-1632 worlds, I’ve read some fanfic that is at least as good as later books from the source author in that series…

  18. Hmm. Is that the panel I was on with you? That was you, me, Connie Willis and Josh Palmatier. I don’t remember any fanfic, although I don’t remember what Josh read. I know Connie read one of the True Romance stories she started with. I read from one of my high school novels, “The Golden Sword.” (Later rewritten, at the ripe old age of 19, as “The Silver Sword” when I realize a sword made out of gold would be really, really heavy.) Which certainly wasn’t fanfic, although at 14 the brawny warrior with the beautiful girlfriend I suppose might count as self-insertion, or at least wish-fulfillment…

  19. I think I wrote a self-insert fanfic for a school assignment when I was 6. I didn’t do anything else fanfic related after that until I was twenty, and discovered the fanfiction forum on the sadly-now-either-defunct-or-totally-changed theforce-dot-net. Episode I had just come out, and I’d always loved Star Wars…and it was like a whole new world.

    Although I’m trying to wrench my unruly imagination into original-fic channels, I still very much enjoy reading and writing fanfiction. Some of it out there is quite good. A few gems are even better than the original material. And some are just good daft fun (a Pride & Prejudice/Doctor Who crossover I once encountered springs to mind. It was short, sweet, funny, and involved neither Lizzy nor Darcy, but Mary Bennett. Sadly, the original location I found it isn’t accessible anymore, and I haven’t re-located it anywhere else.)

    I’ve been trying for years to get my brain-twin to file the serial numbers off her very well done Star Wars story, since it mostly uses original characters anyway. 🙂

    And entirely aside from the fun of playing in someone else’s cool sandbox (not for money), I’ve found fanfic to be good writing practice.

  20. I never wrote any fanfic. But then again, I’m not a writer (shut up. Having written a book is still not “being a writer”) and I actively avoided writing until the age of 12 or so. However, I did play with stories and self-insertion in my head from the time I was small.

    Looking back, I wonder how much the handwriting aspect of it annoyed me. I cannot handwrite fast enough to keep up, and never have been able to.

  21. I’ve never written fanfic. I may have written some self-insertion pieces, or at least close to it, when I encountered my first (and only) real English teacher in high school. Those pieces are long gone, though…

    That being said, I certainly do not look down on writers of fanfic. Actually, I think it is an excellent way to develop your craft. After all, a big part of the process of becoming a successful writer is the emulation of successful writers.

    I analogize it to learning the craft of woodwork – you start by creating pieces that are just like many thousands of others (I think the most common first piece from basic wood shop used to be the slanted book holder – BTW, mine slanted in a direction that was not particularly wanted…). Get those down, and you can move on to pieces that are somewhat like many others (where I am at now, honestly, not much time or money to play with the hobby these days). Keep learning, and you might eventually be creating “completely original” pieces. Although a rabbet joint is still a rabbet joint…

  22. I tried to do fan fic, but failed. My friends and I created a ‘zine that was to be devoted entirely to fan-fic. We pompously called it the Variegated Avatar. It didn’t see a single printing, because we spent way more time working out the ‘zine than writing. Our one attempt at joint writing produced all of six sentences over two hours. Little did I know how that experience was to foreshadow my later time as a government lawyer. The government is a place where people honestly believe that you can group-write, like in a meeting with everyone sitting around a table together. I will grudgingly admit that group-editing is sometimes feasible, but only if everyone arrives with edits worked out in advance.

    I think I have a streak of anti-Mary Sue. I’m a lawyer in my day job and a person of the female persuasion, and most of my fictional lawyers are men. It’s less mortifying for some reason.

  23. I have done precisely two fanfic,both long since departed to that great bit bucket in the sky. The characters I created for one were much more realistic than trying to write with established characters that it was a wake-up call. The other was titled The Face on the Barsoom Floor, where an unnamed John Carter took a wrong turn in Albuquerque, winds up in our version of Earth, and when he makes it back to his Mars, resolves never to attempt to return to Earth again.

    I do admit to some spoofs, also gone to that great bit bucket in the sky. I don’t think Disney would have appreciated the “obituary” for Mickey Mouse that I wrote in High School. Then there’s the aforementioned Hairy Pothead, specifically Hairy Pothead, the Philosopher’s Stoned. Had a character named Doublebore. Never wrote that one, and a quick check shows someone did a Hairy Pothead, but a web search turns up something called Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone. Shrug. Guess that was a common idea.

    Did play in the 1632 world once, with new characters and a new location but all affected by events following the Ring of Fire. It wasn’t very good.

    Don’t recall writing myself into a story. Every. My first was an attempt at filing off the serial numbers, basing it on a one-strip gag from a comic strip. It was as bad as it sounds.

  24. My first stories were modeled after The Hardy Boys when I was in grade school (4th grade?) but didn’t involve them. The stuff I wrote in junior high and high school usually involved a concept from a scene I’d watched on TV and then I would write a story around that scene.

    The only fanfic I’ve attempted was Star Trek back in high school in the ’80’s, and I never felt comfortable with it. There always seemed like there was way too much I didn’t know about the world building and “technical” aspects so I felt like if someone else ever read it they’d immediately point out 40 things that are wrong and be able to point me to the particular episode to prove it. Working in the made up world of someone else just seems like too much trouble to me.

  25. So, how close a resemblance constitutes self-insertion? I don’t really consider myself a writer, but sometimes the urge to commit story does attack me. The difficulty being forcing myself to finish.

    But a lot of the characters in these resemble parts of me, while some other parts are more along the line of being closer to how I wish I were. But none are quite me, Where is the line drawn?

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      From my perspective, out of fanfic, Self Insert is a specific flavor, genre, or technique.

      The genuine examples often carry the SI tag, or are explicitly supposed to be the author.

      I’ve read a lot, I’ve seen some fairly close relatives. There are people who would consider my classification too narrow, that I’m excluding what are in their eyes obvious SI Mary Sue, or should count some of the close relatives.

      I’m very passive, and prone to lengthy political rants, so would be extremely boring to write or read SI about. Some of the stuff I’ve read has been good enough that I’ve wanted to try.

  26. All of your characters are part of you. You’ll never avoid it. And sometimes it’s extra difficult to even try. I’m a science fiction writer. Science fiction sometimes involves computers, and computers sometimes involve programmers. I’m also a programmer. How can I avoid showing that world as I know it? I can’t help it, since it’s so easy for me to visualize and explain that world. If I try not to, I end up writing things that I know are wrong.

  27. I must admit that my books contain fanfic of two or three different things. Keith Laumer’s Bolos of course, because I stole the tanks whole from him. Monster Hunter International, because zombie hunting. Probably some other stories I don’t realize I’ve boosted things from.

    But most of it stems from an incident that happened in a school cafeteria. Some retards started fighting over a card game, and it pissed me off. I began daydreaming of what it would be like if I was an immense troll. 20 years later, Rosemary Edgehill told me: “You have to finish this. Right now.”

    So I did. 🙂

  28. One minor caveat: there are some worlds where you can do fanfic for pay: Kindle Worlds. https://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Worlds/b?ie=UTF8&node=6118587011

    However, the T&C on writing in those universes is, ah, far more rigorous than most fanfic would survive. And at that level, why not file the serial numbers off and make it gloriously your own?

  29. I can honestly say I never wrote fanfic because I designed scenarios in my favorite universes instead (licensed RPGs…oh do I have a collection).

    I instead engaged in what was supposed to be part of 70s fantasy apprenticeship: Dunsay pastiche.

    I probably would have written better stuff writing Star Wars/Dragonriders mashup fan fiction.

    Actually, StarWars/Dragonriders mashup fan fiction might not be bad as long as your don’t call it Aragon or whatever that horrid movie was.

    It’s no big surprise that Fifty Shades of Grey started out as twilight fanfic, substituting S & M for vampires. Which when you think about it makes sense, bringing the same power relationships to play, while eliminating the most identifiable part of the original material.

    Actually, I think in terms of something well written the flow is the other way. I think people who do a good job of writing very disturbing vampire material have some experience in the S&M world with a focus on people on the D/s side. I noticed that in the Hollows novels due to one line and have wondered ever since about the author.

  30. Do you really think most people start with fanfic? It seems to me pastiche would be more common especially in non-sci/fantasy genres.

    And in light of that I second the file the numbers off post idea.

  31. I like the phrase ‘committed fanfic’. I’ll have to remember it, because that is what it feels like. (Er, long time lurker, first time commenter, here.)

    My first novella length piece was fanfic, published somewhere on Live Journal. I’m actually pretty proud of it, as it was my first time attempting to write a longer piece from a male perspective. I learned a lot not only about that but also story structure in general.

    Fanfic has been where I’ve learned a lot about writing, as it’s a risk-free place to experiment. I don’t think I’ve ever written a self-insert. I guess some things may have started out that way, but my reactions to events do not make for the most interesting plot developments.

    I’d like everyone at Mad Genius Club to know that you’re awesome. You’ve inspired me to try my hand at self-publishing, and you’ve backed it up with more than “you can do it” cheerleading.

  32. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I can’t remember writing fan-fic however the first fiction I put to paper was a “Star Trek” universe story as “Star Trek” should have been.

    IE It was my “version” of how Starfleet should operate.

    My main character was a “science officer” who lead away-teams while his captain stay on-board the starship. Oh, he wasn’t the “second-in-command”. Just a junior officer.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately) this was pre-computer for me and the story got lost several moves ago.

    Some of what I remember was no teleporters with the away-teams using a “lab ship” to visit planets while the main starship went elsewhere.

    The “lab ship” had quarters for the crew to live in while studying the planet and equipment to assist in studying the planet.

    It had a FTL communicator so the away-team could communicate with the main ship.

    It was also able to travel FTL so if something happened to the main ship, the away team could reach the nearest exploration base.

    • I’d read some stories written that way. Drop down to planet, stay for a few weeks to a few months, Maybe once in a while, the main ship runs into trouble, but mostly the landing party would be the focus. Yeah, I like that scenario.

  33. I don’t recall the details, but when my sister and her friend wrote self-inserts into the world of Harriet The Spy, I responded by hooking myself up with M’Ress from the animated Star Trek series. So my thing about catgirls goes back to 1973…


  34. Dan Z

    I suppose my earliest stories as a child were stories I played out with toys from various sci-fi franchises, so sort of fan-fic with lots of franchise crossovers. As I grew older I switched to drawing scenes from the stories I imagined, rather than writing them down, because at the time I felt I didn’t have the skills needed to actually write a good story. Although now that I’m thinking about it, my drawings did start off as fan-art type scenes that eventually progressed to my own creations as time went on.

    As I recall, the first story I actually wrote down was for a high school writing assignment – I guess you could call that one Beowulf fan-fic. The second story I wrote out was also for a high school writing assignment, but that one was more Classic sci-fi with the serial numbers filed off – Planetary Patrol vs. Space Pirates or something along those lines. I suspect my mother might still have those two stories neatly stored away in the attic somewhere.

    By the time I was in college any story I wrote was in a universe of my own creation with inspiration drawn from, well, just about anything I had seen or read – inspiration is everywhere, right? I also started writing my stories in notebooks so I wouldn’t lose them.

    (Full disclosure on the notebooks: I lost them, but not until after I had typed out those stories in Word and saved them electronically. Yay technology!)

  35. At the end of the day if the fan fix source material isn’t just an influence it will be a straitjacket. Trust me on this one.

  36. I suppose my question is, given the fact that there are dedicated fanfiction communities where you can publish without making money off it (Archive of Our Own is the first one that comes to mind), is it worthwhile to write fanfic without filing the serial numbers? I’ve enjoyed my time in fanfic communities, but I’m also just starting out as an indie writer, so I haven’t had time to contribute as much fanfic as I did before. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who got my start with fanfic, though!

    • Sigh. It sort of depends on how driven to make it a career you are. Fanfic is great as a hobby. But when I was breaking in, I had NO time for hobbies. All I had was time to “practice.” So, you know, the fanfic I did was Jane Austen, because it was potentially publishable. But that was me, and my neurosis and my lack of time.

      • I do want to make writing into a career — when I realized I could only write one thing at a time, it was the fanfic that I dropped to focus on writing the stuff I could sell. I keep thinking “when I break in I’ll be able to do xyz”, whether that’s fanfic or just hanging out with my friends, because day job + writing means not much time for anything else. How do you recognize when you’ve gotten to that point?

        • I don’t know. I’ll tell you if I ever get there. My day job is writing, and right now I have more projects than I can handle. I TRY to take a day off every week and half succeed. That day off is usually consumed by administrivia and “things I let slide while working.” As far as I can tell all my colleagues including way more successful ones are in the same boat.

  37. Arwen

    Heck, I’d like to write fanfic. There are characters I feel deserved better and I’m not tough enough to make writing a career.

    • Mike Houst

      Write the fanfic. Run it past a group looking for the usual criticisms and for what degree of plagiarism or copyright infringement you’d run into if published. Then, if you feel like it, edit the content enough to satisfy the demands of required originality and then toss it up for indie sales.

      Who was it who said, “Writers write. If you don’t write, you’re not a writer”?

  38. I think the closest I came to committing FanFic was a short bit of Bubblegum Crisis erotica. But is it really FANfic if you didn’t know one of the characters names and studiously avoided using it?

    Dr. Mauser started as a self-insert to flirt with another writer who has a self-insert supervillianess character, but it turned into much more than that. He kinda outgrew me.