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Transitioning from fanfic to original work

This entry is part 4 of 14 in the series My writing journey

Last week, I confessed that it was fanfiction that really brought me to writing fiction at all. And it was fanfiction that, somewhat paradoxically, brought me to my first original novel, too.

The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) 1My freshman year of college, my “honors” writing class final was to see Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on opening day. I’d never been interested in Tolkien (this is turning into a regular confessional column, isn’t it?), but who could say no to cheap tickets and an easy final?

So I saw it (and then saw it again. and again. and . . . yeah), and discovered a whole new fandom to write about. And yes, in keeping with our confessional theme, it was, of course, completely Mary Sue–based. Utterly shocking, I know.

It wasn’t very long, however, before I began to see the potential for my own story. I’d created my own culture and borrowed just one character (I’d tell you who, but . . . seriously, there are reasonable limits to everything!), and even then I was using my own characterization.

The San Diego California Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints served as the inspiration for the castle. Because of course there was a castle.

Aside from that character’s name and a few bits of Elvish, there wasn’t a whole lot of ethical debate about this fanfic. I finished the story out as perhaps a short novella length, probably, and knew what I had to do: I had to make this my own.

That entailed inventing different cultures for the characters, and, of course, constructing a language, which then bled into changing my major to Linguistics. It stuck, though I did end up adding another major and a couple minors. Writing was already changing my life.

While all that was going on, I also had to change up my class schedule for my second semester. I managed to sneak into two classes that were notoriously hard to pick up: flexibility (Stretching to fulfill my PE requirement? Yes.) and creative writing (which would eventually count toward an English minor. Double yes.).

I frequently forget this, but I did take a college-level creative writing course. Incidentally, my professor was Dene Low, now an Egdar-nominated author (and that book, Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone is so fun!). Also, I’d like to note that this makes me totally legit as a writer. Right?

Ha.

Another shot of the San Diego templeSo my erstwhile fanfic became the beginnings of my first original novel, epic fantasy as all first novels should be, even though I didn’t and still don’t read a whole lot of epic fantasy. Honestly, I don’t remember the details, but it involved a king’s youngest son (Haldan) who travels to a fabled land of superhuman/magical people with its queen (Avelath). They’re leaving their land because the planet says it’s afraid (keep in mind I had NOT yet read the rest of the Lord of the Rings trilogy). As a younger son, Haldan doesn’t have much of a future at home, so he joins Avelath on a quest to find a new home, unite three warring kingdoms and save the world.

Epic.

I brought the first bits of that novel, which still doesn’t have a title, to my first ever actual writing workshop in this creative writing class. The feedback wasn’t really that great (= useful), although even then, ten years ago, guess what? I should cut my prologue. (Totally true. Totally did it. Totally helped.)

My class schedule was very full that semester (18 credit hours), but also kind of odd in that I was done with class by noon every day, so I frequently spent afternoons working on expanding the story into a novel and IMing with my best friend, who happened to be a writing friend from high school, too.

Some things never change ;) .

But, then, some things do. When that novel fell through, I went through a long writing drought. More about that next week!

How has your writing changed over time—genre, subject matter, fanfiction vs. wholly original? Come join in the confessions! ;)

Series NavigationPicking up fiction (my confession)Droughts and making time for your writing
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10 Responses to Transitioning from fanfic to original work

  1. Rinelle Grey says:

    My first novel started out as fan fiction too. And I also am not a big Lord of the Rings fan! (Though I enjoyed the movies.) It’s amazing where fan fiction can take you. Often there is a very original story hiding in there somewhere.

    • Jordan says:

      There’s a lot of originality in fanfiction, that’s for sure! I don’t think it’s surprising that a lot of fanfiction authors move into original fiction, either.

  2. Jami Gold says:

    Oh fun! Yes, my Harry Potter fanfic was rather Mary Sue-ish as well. And about 10 years before that story, I thought about writing a Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic (which also would have been Mary Sue-ish–LOL!), but I never got past just imagining that story. :) Luckily, I *think* I outgrew that weakness.

    P.S. The link to my post has some weird html. :-/

  3. I actually started writing my original novel when I was a teenager, but life happened and I threw it away. It was only after the Twilight movies came out where I rekindled my love for writing. I wrote a fan fiction story called, The Summer of Solace, under the pen name TRCreations on a site maintained by the publisher of the series.

    Now I’m working on my original manuscript, and actually completed it. Shopping it around now.

    • Jordan says:

      So did you go back to the one you began as a teenager, or is this another original MS? Best of luck either way!

      • It is the one I began writing as a teenager. I remembered enough of it, the main characters and some of the main plot points, that I started from scratch. I must say, being in my 30s, my writing is much better than when I was 13, 14. :-)

        Thanks!

  4. deniz says:

    My writing started as fanfic too! Though it was actually about real people – two band members I thought were made for each other even if they couldn’t see it…
    Um, you have *read* Tolkien, too, right? :-)

    • Jordan says:

      LOL, some, yes. Sadly, I must admit that when I realized that staring out the window on a 12-hour drive through a barren waste was more interesting to me than reading about the same journey, I had to give up on ROTK. But it’s been ten years. Maybe it’s time to give it another shot, right?

  5. deniz says:

    There’s always time for more Tolkien! :-)
    (biased? moi?)

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