My friend is a really good writer, but she’s shy. The other day she said:
I am thinking about writing fanfic, myself, although it’s so frickin’ hard to do well and there is so much good stuff out there it’s not like they really need my contribution.
So I told her:
Honeybunch, “need” is not the point. Yes, there are much better writers than either of us producing incredible fic, but so what? The more people that pitch in, the more the fandom grows and the more fun we all have.
Think about it. If only the best of the best wrote Avengers stories we’d all be cheated out of the many stories that maybe aren’t so well-written, but ever so much fun. Right now my guilty pleasure is a series written by a 15-year-old. Her story is a self-insert. It’s rife with clichés, literary no-nos, and unintentionally funny goofs. But I love this series. It’s so naive and sweet and she’ll be so much better when she gets older. Why discourage her?
As for writing, I love how my writing flows when it “doesn’t count”. Knowing there are very few people likely to judge it harshly, or say anything if they do, is very freeing. Heck, I can even enjoy the act of writing when it doesn’t flow, when I’m writing in stupid tropes, or when what I’m producing is, at best, amateurish wish-fulfillment. Plus with fanfic I get more feedback than I ever did for any published stories. Why? Because fanfic is meant to be a dialogue, a community effort. It’s the literary equivalent of exercising on a home-made trampoline with all your friends versus jumping around in a big, bouncy castle made out of colorful rubber all by yourself (and inflated by people you don’t know).
Aside from this, fanfic improves the way I write. Posting and reading feedback lets me learn about things I missed when my schedule had no room for electives. I get to discuss pacing, character development, writing “close in” or “far away” from a given character’s perspective. I get to understand why third-person, past, omniscient was a better choice for story X and actually write a second-person present in story Y and then get my mind blown by what came out of that because it’s like nothing I ever imagined before. Plus I get to actually write instead of just thinking about writing.
Because one learns by doing, right?